Today, we are so fortunate to enjoy freedom everywhere, freedom to express our thoughts, freedom to go to any part of the world, freedom to live our life in our own terms. Yes, we should feel lucky that we are living in the 21st century. But what if you are captured and dragged into slavery? What if each and every action of yours is in order and you have to follow it without asking any questions? What if your life is not yours and you are just a puppet who dances on the tunes of your master? You don’t even want to imagine this nonsense.
India, once known as the Golden Bird (Sone Ki Chidiya), was the same puppet for around 200 years from 1757-1947. East India Company took over India in 1757 and ruled till 1858 and during this period they won almost every battle they came across. It was on June 28, 1858 when rule of East India Company was transferred into the hands of Queen Victoria.
But how East India Company has managed to take over India? To know why India was enslaved in the first place and how it all started, we had to turn some pages back to peek in the history and we found this.
Mirza Muhammad Siraj-ud-Daulah, who is also known as the last independent Nawab of Bengal, became Nawab in 1756. He succeeded his grandfather Alivardi Khan to become Nawab at the age of 23 years after his death in 1756 at the age of 80. Siraj-ud-Daulah received several titles including “Mansur-ul-Mulk” (Victory of the Country), “Siraj-ud” (Light of the State) and “Hybut Jung” (Horror in War).
His nomination to the Nawabship has sparked jealousy of his maternal aunt Mehar-un-Nisa (Ghaseti Begum), Mir Jafar who was the paymaster of the Army, Raja Rajballah and Shaukat Jang (Siraj’s cousin). Ghaseti Begum, who was known for her wealth, was against the decision and opposed it. Facing serious opposition from her, Siraj-ud-Daulah seized her wealth and kept her in confinement. He also made several changes in higher positions giving them to his favourites which also included appointment of Bakshi as Paymaster of the Army in place of Mir Jafar, which infuriated Mir and sparked enmity in him over Siraj-ud-Daulah.
Siraj-ud-Daulah was already against the British East India Company for various reasons including the unauthorised fortification of the Fort William, a fort built by the East Indian Company, illegal private trade of dastaks, a permit which exempts European traders from paying customs or transition duties on their private trade, by the company, and giving shelter to some of the officers of Siraj-ud-Daulah.
When British authorities in 1756 began repairs to the fortification of Fort William, Siraj-ud-Daulah attacked and captured Fort William, considering this as a threat to his authority. It is believed that around 64-69 British people were imprisoned in a cell. Due to some confusion in the command, they were kept in the cell unintentionally for the whole night which resulted in the death of at most 43 people. This episode is also known as the “Black Hole of Calcutta.”
At the same time, Mir Jafar, Omichund, a Sikh merchant and several other officers were planning a conspiracy against Siraj-ud-Daulah and have included Robert Clive, first British administrator of Bengal and also known as one of the creators of the British Power in India, into it. A treaty has been signed between the British and Mir Jafar to make him the Nawab of Bengal and in return Mir agreed to support British in the battle against Siraj-ud-Daulah and give large sum of money as compensation.
After Siraj-ud-Daulah captured Fort William and Calcutta, East India Company sent troops from Madras to recapture the fort and he met the British army at Plassey for the battle. Later, grieved over the death of Mir Madan, one of his dearest companion in battles, Siraj-ud-Daulah called Mir Jafar for help, who advised him to retreat for the day. Siraj-ud-Daulah did the blunder by commanding his army to stop the war. Taking the advantage, Robert Clive attacked the soldiers of Nawab when they were returning to their camps. Betrayed by the conspiracy by Mir Jafer, Siraj-ud-Daulah lost the battle of Plassey and fled away. Later he was arrested by the army of Mir Jafer and finally executed on July 2, 1757.
Mir Jaffer became the Nawab of Bengal with the support of British East India Company and this was the start of British rule in India and considered as the turning point in the history of India.
Mir Jaffer ruled till 1760 but soon he failed to satisfy the constant demand of money by the East India Company as a result of which, he was removed from the throne and his son-in-law Mir Qasim was made the ruler. Mir Qasim tried to become an independent ruler and planned to force East India Company out of his sovereignty, but this independent approach cost him his place. East India Company defeated Mir Qasim and his army in the Battle of Buxar in 1764. After the defeat, Mir Jafer was again restored as the Nawab by the East India Company. More than a Nawab, he was a puppet of British company.
Slowly the reign of the East India Company spread in Northern India and the whole country became their slave, as there was no one left to stand between them and their dominance.
Even today, Syed Mohammed Rezza Ali Khan, descendant of Mir Jafar, has to face harsh remarks of him being a traitor and trying hard to remove the marks of treachery from the family name.
By the time India managed to break the slavery chains, the country was already battered, bruised and left wounded.
To your surprise, even today, almost 36 million people in this world are living as slaves, according to an Australian-based rights organisation Walk free Foundation. The organisation has reached to this estimate on the basis of debt bondage, forced labour, human trafficking, forced marriage and sale of children. Among these 36 million slaves, 14 million are from India, which is the largest compared to other countries such as Haiti, Qatar, Mauritania, Uzbekistan where modern-day slavery is most common.