On this fateful day in 1765, Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II signed away India to the British by signing the treaty of Allahabad, thereby, unwittingly inaugurating the dawn of 2 centuries of British rule in India. With the swoosh of a pen, the British, aided undoubtedly by their military might, became lawful rulers of vast parts of India. The two decades that followed 1750 ushered in an era of emasculation of India and the triumph of the British, with far reaching consequences for India and the world. By 1800s, India would be secured as the crown jewel of the British empire and all native rulers be reduced to mere pawns in the political chessboard of the British.
An Era of Wars:
Following Aurangzeb’s death, the Marathas rose from the Deccan like a storm and in a matter of few decades, spread themselves across the country- From Attock to Cuttack, as the saying goes. The Mughal emperor continued to rule at Delhi but that was only in name,the real power lay with the Marathas. In 1761, the Marathas under Sadashiv Bhau faced Ahmed Shah Abdali in Panipat. As fate would have it, the Marathas were routed in the third battle of Panipat and fled in complete disarray. For nearly 10 years hereafter, Marathas, reeling under the defeat, would play no major role in national politics.
Europeans, notably Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British had gained access to trade in India in the late 1600s. The Portuguese were mostly confined to Goa and the west coast, the Dutch had several factories in the West and East but held no major territories, the French were active in the South and parts of the East, which is where their interests conflicted with the British. By 1750s the British were a minor military power in India.
In 1757, the British and the Nawab of Bengal- Siraj ud-daulah came into conflict on Siraj’s preference for the French over the British. 23 year old Siraj-Ud-Daulah (known as Sir Roger Dollar to the British) was ferocious in temperament but weak in understanding the nuances of politics. When the British refused to pay heed to his order of constructing fortifications without his approval, he besieged Calcutta and imprisoned the British, some of whom died in the squalid conditions. Continuing their mischief, the British now attacked the French colony at Chandernagore. Soon, the British re-captured Calcutta. Infuriated, Siraj-ud-Daula made a stand at Plassey. Betrayed by the Quisling Mir Jafar who had been bought over by the British, the Battle of Plassey resulted in an emphatic British victory.
In line with the seven years’ war, fought globally between the French and the British, the British vanquished the French and by 1760s had elbowed the French out of the South. Following the defeat of the French in India, the British had become the only foreign power with a pan India presence (Bombay, Madras, Calcutta- all belonged to the British). Noteworthy is the growth of British military power in this period. In 1750, the East India Company had some 3000 soldiers. Making use of the chaos that persisted in the subcontinent, the British dug in their heels and by 1760, they had grown to 26000 soldiers. By late 1770s, the British would have more than 67000 soldiers at their command.
Alarmed at the growing British power in Bengal and Bihar, the Nawab of Bengal, Mir Qasim, Nawab of Awadh, Shuja ud-Daulah and the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II, tried to forge a common front. In 1764, the British found themselves facing the combined armies of the Nawab of Bengal, Mir Qasim, Nawab of Awadh, Shuja ud-Daulah and the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II at Buxar. However, riven by dissensions, the Indian party failed to bury their differences. They were decisively defeated by the British in spite of the Indians’ numerical military superiority. A death blow was delivered to the tottering Mughal empire, a blow from which it would henceforth never recover.
Woe befalls India:
On 12th August 1765, the British forced the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II to sign the Treaty of Allahabad. The Mughal Emperor signed away the right to collect taxes (Diwani rights) from Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the British. In the East of India, the rule of the British was now paramount. The Mughal emperor was paid a fixed sum for maintaining his court at Allahabad. The Nawab of Awadh was also reduced to the status of a dependent of the British. Additionally, the defeat of Marathas at Panipat, combined with the decisive British victories at Plassey and Buxar meant that there was no strong opposition to challenge the British might in the country.
In another 10 years, the Marathas would rise again and challenge the British. It would take the British several decades to finally quell the Maratha menace and re-establish their primacy in the subcontinent. In a century from the Battle of Plassey, the British would be rocked by mass rebellion, culminating in the great revolt of 1857, which ended the rule of the East India Company and marked the advent of direct British rule in India.
The treaty of Allahabad finds scarce mention in history books. In reality, much like the battles that preceded it, the treaty would have far reaching repercussions for India. The treaty was in a way, the first formal step towards the enslavement of India by the British. Aided by willing collaborators and Quislings, the British would soon proceed to rob and loot India and reduce her to a state of penury that India had never seen in the previous centuries. In a matter of 2 centuries, India’s share of the world income would tumble from 23% in 1700 to 4% in 1952. In fact, may of the troubles that India finds herself grappling with are the result of Colonial exploitation which ravaged India like never before.
More than anything else, the history of treaty of Allahabad tells us that India has to fend for itself in the world to survive. Internal differences, howsoever serious, must be set aside for the cause of the nation. Today, as in 1700s, India has ample enemies, waiting for it to founder and stumble and they shall turn India’s plight to their advantage. Beware my countrymen, history teaches us to never make the same mistake twice!