Bengal nawab who died fighting British turns tormentor of Hindus in BJP’s poll narrative | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Bengal nawab who died fighting British turns tormentor of Hindus in BJP’s poll narrative

Apr 03, 2024 12:16 AM IST

As BJP's Krishnanagar candidate questions the Nawab of Bengal's credentials, historians say Siraj-ud-Daulah's role as a freedom fighter is well-documented

Of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal, Nadia district’s Krishnanagar is witnessing a unique campaign in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is projecting Siraj-ud-Daulah, Bengal’s last independent Nawab, as corrupt and a tormentor of Hindus.

New Delhi, Mar 27 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi was reportedly in a telephonic conversation with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Krishanagar Lok Sabha candidate Amrita Roy, on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)(ANI) PREMIUM
New Delhi, Mar 27 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi was reportedly in a telephonic conversation with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Krishanagar Lok Sabha candidate Amrita Roy, on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)(ANI)

The saffron camp’s narrative challenges 19th and 20th-century historians whose research proves that conspirators, of whom several were Hindus, helped the East India Company defeat the 24-year-old Nawab in the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Indeed, it was this battle that marked the beginning of the British empire that lasted till Independence.

BJP has fielded Amrita Roy, a member of the erstwhile royal family of Krishnanagar that helped the British defeat Siraj-ud-Daulah. BJP has been referring to her as Rajmata (queen mother) in its campaign.

The battle was fought at Nadia district’s Palashi. Siraj-ud-Daulah, who reigned for around 15 months, was assassinated in prison days later at the instruction of Mir Jafar, his general and the leader of the conspirators whom the British placed on the throne as their tax collecting puppet, say history books school and college students have been reading for more than a century.

In Bengal, many still refer to a treacherous person as Mir Jafar, a synonym for Brutus who conspired to assassinate the Roman emperor Julius Caesar.

The BJP’s narrative has triggered strong reactions in Bengal, especially among academicians, since March 27 when the saffron camp widely circulated the audio file of a telephonic conversation Prime Minister Narendra Modi had with Amrita Roy.

Roy, who joined the BJP on March 20 with no experience in politics, has been pitted against TMC’s Mahua Moitra who won the Krishnanagar seat in 2019 but was expelled from the Lok Sabha in December last year in the bribe-for-query case that federal agencies are probing.

While talking to Modi in Hindi over the phone, Roy said: “They (TMC) are targeting me because I belong to the family of Maharaja Krishnachandra. They are saying he sided with the British. They are calling us traitors. But they are not saying how much he worked for the welfare of the people. I am saying had he not done that, our Sanatan Dharma would have been destroyed.”

“Siraj-ud-Daulah was corrupt and a tormentor. Maharaj Krishnachandra did not do anything alone. A lot of kings got together. Many people, such as Jagat Seth (a merchant and money lender) worked hard and made it successful. Had it not happened, we would not be living as Hindus today. Our language and attire would be different. We would be living under the rule of some other people,” Roy told Modi.

Although Roy was not explicit, it was apparent that by “it” and “that” she meant Siraj-ud-Daulah’s defeat in which Krishnachandra Roy played a role according to historical research that TMC is now using in its counter-campaign and mocking the BJP candidate by calling her Mir Jafar.

Krishnachandra Roy, according to researchers, was a propagator of orthodox Hindu religious practices.

Replying to the BJP candidate, Modi said: “Amrita Ji, in our childhood we read a lot about Krishnachandra Roy and his development model for Bengal. These people (TMC) are into vote bank politics. They will make a lot of baseless allegations and try to malign others by referring to incidents that happened 300 years ago. They do this to hide their crimes. When it comes to Bhagwan Ram, they ask for proof. This is a sign of their double standard. Don’t pay attention. Saving Bengal’s heritage is the challenge before you.”

The audio was circulated by the BJP’s national media cell along with audio files of the Prime Minister's conversation with five other candidates from across India, and BJP leaders in Bengal are making use of this audio file in their campaigns in the state. The file was also made available on the party's official WhatsApp group.

The audio has not been independently verified by HT.

In Nadia district, which is located along the Bangladesh border, Hindus comprise 72.15% of the population, which is among the highest in Bengal. There are 17 assembly segments of which 14 comprise two Lok Sabha constituencies, Krishnanagar and Ranaghat.

BJP won the Ranaghat seat in 2019, one of the 18 of Bengal’s 42 seats it won that year.

Of the three remaining assembly segments in Nadia, one is part of the Murshidabad Lok Sabha seat in adjoining Murshidabad district (which has Bengal’s highest Muslim population of 66.28%) that TMC won in 2019 while two falls under North 24 Parganas district’s Bongaon seat that BJP wrested.

What documented history says

The East India Company’s army was headed by Lord Clive who was described by British historian Percival Spear (1901-1982) in the book A History of India as a “kingmaker and plunderer.”

“Clive then became aware of the plots to dethrone Siraja (as Spear spelt the name). He was moved by ambition, cupidity. Forty million sterling was said to lie in the treasury of Murshidabad,” Spear wrote.

“Overnight he (Clive) found himself, as he thought, the de Bussy of wealthy Bengal and Bihar who could dispose of their riches to the company and his followers.”

Murshidabad was the capital of the Bengal Province (covering Bengal, Bihar and Odisha) when the Nawabs ruled. The British later shifted the capital to Calcutta (now called Kolkata) which remained the capital of British India from 1772 to 1911 before Delhi gained the status.

Ratnabali Chatterjee, a veteran professor of Islamic history, said some historians from India and abroad reached conflicting conclusions on the conspiracy that worked against Siraj-ud-Daula but none ever doubted his patriotism.

Chatterjee said: “Clive anticipated that some people were ready to betray Siraj-ud-Daulah and Britain supported his plans. He was the one who started draining wealth from India to England. As years passed, Siraj-ud-Daulah was recognised as a national hero. Mir Madan and Mohanlal, his trusted aides, were Hindus. Yes, there was gossip about Siraj forcefully marrying a Hindu woman but that was never substantiated.”

Shouvik Mukhopadhyay, a history professor at Calcutta University, said: “From the works of historians who researched on Siraj-ud-Daulah, it seems some people in the 18th century described him as a whimsical person and oppressor of both Hindus and Muslims. But this narrative seems to have been created by people who were eager to please the British for gains. It was a propaganda with no documentary evidence. The assessment of 19th-century historians and novelists, many of whom were Bengali Hindus, is completely different. They depicted him almost as a freedom fighter.”

Political science professor Udayan Bandopadhyay said: “It is a fact that many kings and nawabs had ostentatious lifestyles but nobody can doubt that Siraj-ud-Daulah died fighting colonial aggression and people like Mir Jafar, Umichand (a Punjabi merchant), Jagat Seth and Krishnachandra Roy helped the British establish their empire in India. Even Joseph Stalin oppressed people in Russia but he eventually stood against Germany in WW2.”

“Those who are glorifying people like Krishnachandra in independent India are insulting 200 years of struggle for freedom,” Bandopadhyay added.

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    Tanmay Chatterjee has spent more than three decades covering regional and national politics, internal security, intelligence, defence and corruption. He also plans and edits special features on subjects ranging from elections to festivals.

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