Mir Qasim মীরকাশেম (1760-1763 AD)

"Nasir-ul-Mulk, Etmaz-ud-Daulla, Ali Jah, Nasrut Jang (Victor of the Country, Politician of the State, of high rank, Victorious in War)" Nawab Mir Qasim, grand son of Syud Imtiaz, Subahdar of Gujrat, was put on the throne of Murshidabad by The East India Company, replacing his father-in-law Mir Jafar, on 20th October 1760. Able and ambitious, Mir Qasim was determined to assert his independence at the earliest opportunity, and he embodied the Indian reaction to the English company's exploitations. But he had mortgaged his country's fortunes for the office: the three districts of Burdwan, Midnapur and Chittagong were assigned to the company for the maintenance of their troops; the outstanding debts of Mir Jafar were to be paid. Mir Qasim had bought British patronage by the promise of a vast sum, but his predecessor's treasury had already been impoverished in the three short years of his reign as an appointee of the Company. Qasim, therefore, undertook heavy taxation to pay his debts and supported it with a severe and ruthless collection of the taxes. Defaulters were arrested and their properties forfeited. The number of tax collectors was increased. Tax inspectors were invested with vast and arbitrary powers. Heavy fines were imposed and extracted for the slightest default.
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His Reign

To please the British, Mir Qasim robbed everybody, confiscated lands, reduced Mir Jafar's purse and depleted the treasury. Suspecting Nanda Kumar of intrigue with Shah Alam's agents, the Nawab imprisoned him. He then marched against the rebellious Zamindars of Birbhum and after suppressing them, proceeded towards Patna. Mir Qasim then demanded Eyre Coote to remove the English guards from the gates of the fort of Patna and complained to Henry Vansittart at Calcutta of the insolence of Eyre Coote and Brigadier-General John Carnac, who were in consequence recalled to Calcutta.

Raja Sitaram, whose sympathies were with Mir Jafar and one of the principal dewan of the Nawab, was tried and found guilty of treason and executed in 1762. The Nawab then imprisoned Raja Ram Narain the Naib (deputy-governor) of Bihar and perpetrated other acts of cruelty at Patna. Raja Ram Narain with his family were imprisoned and their entire property confiscated. After undergoing long ordeal at Patna, Murshidabad and Mongyer, he was put to death by throwing in to the Ganges with a sand-bag fastened to his neck in August, 1763. Immediately after Raja Ram Narain was removed, Raja Rajballabh was advanced in the Deputy Governorship of Bihar. But he could not remain long in the good-book and confidence of suspicious Mir Qasim who got him removed and imprisoned with his son in June 1762. He was succeeded by Raja Naubat Roy. Raja Rajballabh's entire property and effects, even in Dacca, were confiscated. Later on he was also put to death at Mongyer in August 1763, along with Raja Ram Narain and other prisoners of distinction.

The reformation of the army and the administration of revenue next attracted his attention. Ram Kanta, the husband of Rani Bhavani (রানি ভবানি), was ousted from his Zamindari of Rajshyee, which however was returned to him at the intercession of Jagat Seth. In three years the revenue of Bengal increased to an alarming extent. Mir Qasim's administration has been described as more a pillage than a system of Government. The arrests of Mansaram, Khojah Petrus Arathoon and Hay, the strictures passed by Ellis William, the refusal of the keeper of the fort at Mongyer to admit armed European soldiers, the interception of letters at Cossimbazar and other circumstances caused great estrangement of feelings.
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Conflict with British

Despite all his compromises there was a limit below which even Qasim was not prepared to descend. By adroit diplomacy Mir Qasim both obtained his own investiture from Shah Alam II, the Mughal emperor, and induced him to leave Bihar. He next began to raise a force of disciplined troops, and to secure himself from undue interference from Calcutta he transferred his capital from the riverine Murshidabad to the hilly district of Mongyer. He was able to increase the state revenue by resuming vast amount of lakheraj (rent-free) lands, by conducting a new survey of land and increasing the rate of land tax. He then turned to the English and attempted to remove their corruption, which was harming his revenue administration. The English did not like this. They disliked the nawab's attempts to cheek the misuse of the imperial farman of 1717 by the company's servants, who demanded that their goods, whether destined for export or for internal markets, should be free of duties.

Mir Qasim's attempt to enforce discipline through his faujdars was one of the immediate causes of the company's breach with him. The nawab decided to abolish customs duties on internal trade altogether, thus giving his own subjects a concession that the English had seized by force. But the alien merchants were no longer willing to tolerate equality between themselves and the Indians. They demanded the re-imposition of duties on Indian traders. Thus, there could be no compromise between the company's servants, who were determined to assert their supremacy in Bengal, and the nawab's resolve to be master in his own house, and therefore, war was now inevitable.

There was a commercial exploitation. The violence and strong-arm methods used by the Company servants agents undermined the whole structure of the society. Tension rose, with English complaints of deliberate obstruction and Indian complaints of English agents violence and extortion. It was now a case of the private-trader majority against the Nawab. Mir Qasim wanted to settle the question of inland trade by negotiation with the Company. Governor Vansittart and Warren Hastings, a member of the council, came to Mongyer for this purpose. It was agreed that the English trader would pay nine percent duty on the prime cost of commodities and that the Nawab alone would issue the dastaks for the company and would be the final authority for the settlement of all trade disputes. The majority of memebers of the Calcutta Council, however, rejected this agreement. Consequently, the Nawab abolished all inland duties for all merchants, foreigh or indigenous, to give an equal treatment to all but this step was regarded by the Company as an attack on the preferential treatment, enjoyed by them till then. Conflict was inevitable : all that was needed was a flash-point and some justification. The flash-point was provided by the attempt of Ellis William, the Company's chief at Patna, to seize the city on the news of the approach of Mir Qasim's new troops. The plot was foiled and Ellis William surrendered with 170 Europeans and 1200 Indians. A few days later Amyatt Peter (a company servant who was chief of Patna in 1759), returning from a last mission to Mir Qasim was waylaid at Murshidabad and killed. The Nawabs troops surrounded Cossimbazar and Mir Qasim wrote a taunting letter to the Calcutta Council demanding reparation for the damage caused by the English. On the 7th July, 1763 AD war was declared against Mir Qasim, and his deposition was announced.
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End of Reign

A regular campaign ensued during the summer of 1763, and on 10th June 1763 Major Thomas Adams (d. 1764) with a force of 1000 Europeans and 4000 Sepoys headed up country. The nawab's new army was defeated in pitched battles at Katwa on the 19th of June 1763. On the 24th the English, having routed the troops of the Nawab that were posted at Moti Jheel took Murshidabad. On the 2nd of August another battle was fought at a place called Giria, near Suti (a town in the Province of Bengal thirty miles N.N.W. from Murshidabad) where Mir Qasim's army was again literally defeated. The whole of the troop fled for refuge to a strong entrenchment at Udaynala near Rajmahal. During all these engagements Mir Qasim was at Mongyer; but he now resolved to join the army at Udaynala.

The fighting was the most severe the English had yet experienced in Bengal. Mir Qasim was no soldier and never led his troops. But he was a man of strong passions as well as of resolution. As the Company's troops advanced, his frustrations and resentments exploded with a burst of mindless vindictiveness. On his march from Mongyer to Patna he executed Gorgin Khan (গুরগিন খাঁ), his Armenian commander-in-chief and shortly after the two heads of the Jagat Seth banking family (Madhab Rai Jagat Seth and Raja Swaroop Chand) were beheaded. While Mongyer was still besieged he executed his fifty-six English prisoners including Ellis William and the councillors Lushington and Hay, on October 5, 1763. Patna fell on 6th November, and Mir Qasim escaped into Oudh. Mir Qasim with the help of his treasure obtained support of  Shuja-ud-Daulla the nawab wazir of Oudh (Ayodhya) and the emperor Shah Alam II. On 23rd May 1764 AD the battle of Bauxer was fought. It was bitterly contested, the English suffering 847 casualties of about 7000 men engaged. But the battle was decisive. Shah Alam II came over the Company's side and asked for terms, while Shuja-ud-Daulla refused further fighting and retired to the west. On 23rd October 1764, Major Hector Munro (1726-Dec 27, 1805) led Company forces of 900 Europeans, 5000 Sepoys and 900 Indian Cavalry to Victory at Buxar over Shuja-ud-Daulla of Oudh (Ayodhya). Later in February 1765 Company forces captured Allahabad forcing Shuja-ud-Daulla to Lucknow and then to Rohilla region. Mir Qasim disappeared into obscurity. He then visited Allahabad, Gwalior and Delhi and then, deserted by his friends and attendants, he died like a pauper from dropsy, at Kotwal, near Delhi, 8th May 1777 AD, and his funeral was performed with the proceeds of the sale of a pair of Shawls, the only property left by him.

The Massacre of October 5, 1763

On October 5th, having surrounded the building in which the prisoners were interned, Mir Quasim sent for the three leading civilians of the party - Ellis, Hay, and Lushington. No sooner had they approached than they and the party accompanying them were attacked and killed, their mutilated bodies afterwards being cast into an adjacent well. Subsequently, a body of sepoys, under Walter Reinhardt Sombre's (afterwards the husband of the famous Begum Samru) orders, mounted the roof of the house and poured down a deadly fire upon the unfortunate prisoners who were in the yard below. Some who escaped the murderous volleys took refuge in an inner chamber, where they desperately defended themselves against the parties of sepoys sent against them. The sepoys, struck by the heroism shown, sought to be excused from proceeding further with the massacre. But Sombre would accept nothing short of a full tale of slaughtered victims, and by energetically exercising his authority, ultimately achieved his vile purpose. So complete was the holocaust that even Mr. Ellis's infant child was murdered by Sombre's directions. Altogether, fifty-six civil and military officers and over one hundred European soldiers perished on the occasion.
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Family Tree :: Najafi Dynasty

Mir Qasim was the son of Mir Razi Khan, and grandson of Nawab Mir Imtiaz Khan Bahadur, who was Subahdar of Gujarat. He married Nawab Fatima Begum Sahiba daughter of Mir Jafar and Shah Khanum, and had four sons.
  1. Mirza Ghulam Uraiz Ja'afari
  2. Mirza Muhammad Baqir ul-Husain
  3. Nawab Muhammad Aziz Khan Bahadur
  4. Nawab Badr ud-din Ali Khan Bahadur

Page Updated : September 25, 2012 06:49 pm