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Colonial Beginnings and the Indian Response: The Revolt of 1857–58 in Madhya Pradesh

  • David Baker (a1)
Extract

The Narmada valley and adjoining districts of Madhya Pradesh came under British administration following the defeat of Sagar and Nagpur in 1818. Known from 1820 as the Saugor and Nerbudda (Sagar and Narmada) Territories (map 1), the area was administered, variously, as an agency of the governor general or as a commissioner's division of the North Western Provinces. As officials made the area part of the British imperial and capitalist system, they met with increasing resitance from notables, smaller chiefs and malguzars. A first round of protests occurred between 1818 and 1826, though these proved no much for the new administration or the troops still in central India. A more determined agitation took place in 1842–43, to meet the same fate. In 1857–58 the traditional landowners launched a third and more coordinated revolt against British rele, but were again unable to dislodge it from the region. This essay explores the origins and nature of that revolt and it does so against the background of colonial beginnings in Madhaya Pradesh.

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1 Historians today are more familiar with the term Madhya Pradesh than with its older form, the Central Provinces. The use of the current term is also to suggest a continuous history. The region referred to here comprised in the main the area covered by modern Sagar, Damoh, Jabalpur, Mandla, Seoni, Narsimhapur, Hoshangabad and Betul.

2 Malguzars or patels were responsible for paying the land revenue of an individual mahal or village.

3 This article is a companion to a similar study of the revolt of 1842–1843, in preparation for inclusion in a volume to commemorate the late Professor R. M. Sinha of Jabalpur.

4 Hoshanganad District Office Records (DOR), 25–191, R. N. C. Hamilton to W. H. Sleeman, 24 May 1843.

5 Mandla DOR, 10, G. A. Bushby to E. Clerk, 8 Aug. 1853; Betul DOR, 147, W. C. Erskine to W. C. Western, 25 May 1854. The new deputy commissioner, Clerk was to ‘do all in…[his] power to attract labour and capital to the spot by a liberal and judicious public administration’. The eight districts had been reduced to three in Bird's reform of 1834.

6 Mandla DOR, 12, Commr to Sec. NWP Govt, 21 Dec. 1853.

7 Allahabad Post-Mutiny Records (APMR), Saugor and Nerbudda Territories (SNT), Mandla, 1858, File I, Commr to W. Muir, 29 Sept. 1858.

8 Jubbulpore Division Records, Supplementary (JDRS), Pol. Dept, 26, 1856, W. C. Erskine to C. B. Thornhill, 6 June 1856.

9 Jubbulpore DOR, 490, G. A. Bushby to M. Smith, 2 Mar. 1849.

10 JDRS, Rev. Dept, 27, 1855, A. C. Gordon to J. Thomason, 17 Aug. 1855.

11 Betul DOR, 174, W. C. Erskine to W. C. Western, 11 July 1856.

12 Muafi lands were revenue-free grants generally in return for service to the state.

13 JDRS, Rev. Dept, 14, 1856, Extract from Despatch from the Hon'ble the Court of Directors, 11 June 1856.

14 Whitcombe, E., Agrarian Conditions in Northern India, vol. 1. The United Provinces under British Rule, 1860–1900 (New Delhi, 1971), p. 303, describes ubari right as peculiar to Bundelkhand, ‘whereby a subordinate chieftain was required to pay the difference (as ubari) between an amount arbitrarily fixed by his raja and the collections of the estate assigned to him by his raja, in the case of the latter exceeding the former’.

15 Mandla DOR, unindexed, 42, H. W. Hammond to W. Muir, 30 Nov. 1855.

16 APMR, SNT, Mandla 7, 1861, Note by E. A. Reade, 15 Mar. 1856; JDRS, Rev. Dept, 17, 1856, Note by E. A. Reade, 2 May 1856.

17 Mandla DOR, unindexed, 48, 1831–1857, W. Muir to H. W. Hammond, 14 Jan. 1856; Secretariat Records in Bundle Correspondence Files (SRBCF), General, 35, 1863, CC's Memorandum, 30 July 1863.

18 Mandla DOR, unindexed, 48, 1831–1857, W. Muir to H. W. Hammond, 30 July 1863.

19 For balances see Sadar Board of Revenue (SBR), 5 Oct. 1847, 206, W. H. Sleeman to SBR, 12 Jan. 1846; JDRS, Rev. Dept, 32, 1848, G. W. Hamilton to W. H. Sleeman, 25 Nov. 1848; SBR, 27 Feb. 1852, 142, G. Chisholm to Commrs, 27 Feb. 1852; SBR, 12 Nov. 1852, 133, G. Christian to G. A. Bushby, 12 Nov. 1852; Mandla DOR, 32, W. Lowe to C. B. Thornhill, 23 Sept. 1856; Report on the Land Revenue Settlement (RLRS) Seoni, 1916–1920, p. 29.

20 For details of coercion see SBR files, 1847–1857, DOR and Central Provinces District Gazetteers (CPDG) for individual districts.

21 SBR, 9 Jan. 1846, 30, W. H. Sleeman to SBR, 28 Nov. 1845.

22 RLRS Saugor, 1867, p. 45.

23 SBR, 28 Mar. 1848, 19. W. H. Sleeman to SBR, 12 Nov. 1847.

24 JDRS, Rev Dept, 44, 1856, W. C. Erskine to SBR, 1 Sept. 1856; JDRS, Pol. Dept., 46, 1856, C. B. Thornhill to W. H. Lowe, 24 Oct. 1856.

25 SBR, 28 Mar. 1848, 19, W. H. Sleeman to SBR, 12 Nov.11 1847.

26 Narsinghpur DOR, 1, 1855, Ternan, A. H. to W. C. Erskine, 11 Jan. 1855; Hoshangabad DOR, 41–20, DC to W. C. Erskine, 27 May 1856; RLRS Hoshangabad, 1865, p. 141.

27 RLRS Betul, 1866, p. 93.

28 For details of transfers in the districts, see RLRS Saugor, 1867, p. 94; JDRS, Rev. Dept, 32, 1848, G. W. Hamilton to W. H. Sleemans, 25 Nov. 1848; JDRS, Pol. Dept, 46, 1856,Thornhill, C. B. to W. H. Lowe, 24 Oct. 1856; RLRS Mandla, 1869, p. 25; Mandla DOR, 32, W. Lowe to C. B. Thornhill, 23 Sept. 1856; JDRS, Rev. Dept, 35, 1855, Wood, J. C. to W. C. Erskine, 15 Aug. 1855; RLRS Betul, 1894–99, p. 60.

29 JDRS, Judicial Dept, 24, 1850, G. A. Bushby to W. H.Elliott, 15 Aug. 1850.

30 Papers of SirChitnavis, G. M., 1917–1923, File 20, p. 5, quoting H. Crosthwaite.

31 JDRS, Rev. Dept, 20, 1852, A. Skene to G. A. Bushby, 20 Sept. 1852.

32 RLRS Damoh, 1866, pp. 74–5.

33 JDRS, Pol. Dept, 46, 1856, C. B. Thornhill to W. H. Lowe, 24 Oct. 1856; Resolution on the Revenue Administration of CP (LRA Resn), 1889–90, Annexure A, p. 3.

34 JDRS, Rev. Dept, 24, 1856, B. Hawes to W. C. Erskine, 29 May 1856; APMR, SNT, Mandla, 5, 1853–1860, G. F. S. Browne to A. H. Cocks, 4 May 1859.

35 Betul DOR, 121, W. H. Sleeman to J. K. Spence, 18 June 1846; Narsinghpur DOR, 6, 1848, A. H. Ternan to G. A. Bushby, 3 Aug. 1859.

36 The material in this paragraph is drawn from SBR, 31 Jan. 1845, 5, W. H. Elliott to SBR, 18 April 1843, and W. H. Sleeman to Major Macadam, 1 May 1843; SBR, 13 July 1849, 81, W. Muir to G. A. Bushbys, 13 July 1849.

37 JDRS, Rev. Dept, 24, Minute by F. H. R. Robinson, Mandla, 21 Mar. 1848. For the poverty and dept of cultivators in other districts, see JDRS, Rev. Dept, 34, B. to W. C. Erskines, 19 Jan. 1853; and A. Skene to W. C. Erskine, 7 Mar. 1844; Selections from Correspondence Relating to the Revenues of the Land Revenue Settlements in the Saugor and Nerbudda Territories, 1850–62, W. C. Erskine to SBR, 7 July 1856.

38 This paragraph is taken from JDRS, Agric. Dept, 26, 1848, G. W. Hamilton, Report on Wheat in the districts of Saugor and Damoh, 28 June 1848; APMR, SNT, Mandla, 7, 1861, Note on Mandla by E. A. Reade, 15 March 1856; SBR, 18 Sept. 1840, 130, C. Fraser to SBR, 28 Aug. 1840; CPDG, Narsinghpur, p. 89; RLRS Hoshangabad, 1865, pp. 92–3.

39 Forsyth, J., The Highlands of Central India (London, 1871), p. 16.

40 APMR, SNT, Jubbulpore, 67, 1859–1860, Sec Rev. Bd to Sec. Govt NWP, 24 Feb. 1860.

41 Ibid. The conservator was Lieut. Lord, the ‘superintendent of the Great Deccan Road’.

42 Bates, C., ‘Land Tenure and Tenurial Reform in Central India’, unpublished seminar paper, Nov. 1981, p. 6.

43 Nagpur Secretariat and Residency Records (NRSR), Rev. 10, 1855, Dept. Surveyor General to W. H. Muir, 3 Nov. 1854.

44 RLRS Hoshangabad, 1865, p. 144.

45 Narsinghpur DOR, 5, 1848, Sleeman, W. H. to H. M. Elliott, 29 Aug. 1848.

46 Jubbulpore DOR, 552, W. E. Baker to W. H. Muir, 13 Feb. 1855.

47 Whitcombe, , Agrarian Conditions in Northern India, p. 182. The principal assistant at Nargaon was J. P. Stratton.

48 Jubbulpore DOR, 552, G. V. Winscom, Report on the Saugor–Jubbulpore and other Roads, 23 Sept. 1853; Wake, W. G., ‘The Relations between Transportation Improvements and Agricultural Changes in Madhya Pradesh, India, 1854–1954,’ unpublished PhD thesis, UCLA 1961, pp. 15, 160; McEldowney, P. F., ‘Colonial Administration and Social Developments in Middle India, the Central Provinces, 1861–1921’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Virginia, 1980, p. 398.

49 CPDG, Jubbulpore, p. 233.

50 JDRS, Agric. Dept, 16, 1855, A. C. Gordon to W. C. Erskine, 28 Mar. 1855.

51 SBR, 31 Oct. 1851, 55, A. H. Ternan to C. Grant, 8 June 1850.

52 FP, 115, 20 June 1851, A. G. Bushby to Sirs H. Elliott, 13 May 1851.

53 SRBCF, Financial, 1, 1863, W. Biss to Sec. CC, 17 July 1863. The exchange rate in 1855 was 100 Company rupees to 117 Nagpur rupees.

54 SRBCF, Financial, 2, 1857, C. B. Thornhill to W. H.Lowe, nd, May 1857.

55 Wake, , pp. 103–4.

56 For events of the revolt see Mishra, D. P. et al. , The History of Freedom Movement in Madhya Pradesh (Nagpur, 1956); and Madhya Pradesh District Gazatteers (MPDG) and CPDG for individual districts.

57 CPDG, Jubbulpore, p. 66.

58 Foreign, 559–73, 30 Oct. 1857, Secret A, encl. W. C. Western to Commr, 5 July 1857.

59 JDRS, Rev. Dept, 29, 1847, W. H. Sleeman to SBR, 27 Nov. 1847; Mandla DOR, 28, H. F. Waddington to Commr, 19 June 1856.

60 C. Bates, ‘Anthropologists, Administrators and the Irrationality of Tribal Society in the Former Central Provinces of India’, unpublished seminar paper, Cambridge, 1981, pp. 19–20; JDRS, Rev. Dept, 24, 1856, Minute by F. H. Robinson, 21 Mar. 1848.

61 NRSR, Rev. 20, 1864, J. K. Spence to H. MacKenzie, 4 April 1864. The Nagpur government had taken as revenue Rs 1,700 in Nagpur currency. In 1819–1820 the Company administration raised this to Rs 2,825, also in Nagpur currency. From 1826–1829 the revenue rose to Rs 4,000. Between 1830–1839 the administration switched to Company currency, levying a revenue of Rs 3,400. By 1850 this had been raised to Rs 4,700.

62 NRSR, Rev. 50, 1864, II (1857), Encl. in J. H. Morris to Sec. CC, 4 Aug. 1864.

63 Mandla DOR, 65, H. F. Waddington to Commr, 3 Aug. 1858.

64 W. C. Erskine, Narrative of Events attending the Outbreak of Disturbances and the Restoration of Authority in the Saugor and Nerbudda Territories in 1857–1858, W. C. Erskine to W. Muir, 10 Aug. 1858. Lodhi chiefs supporting the revolt in Damoh, included Raja Gangadhar of Bangarh, Raja Devi Singh of Singrampur, Raja Tej Singh of Abhana and Thakur Kishore Singh of Hindoria.

65 MPFM, p. 75.

66 NRSR, Rev. 17, 1859, F. A. Fenton to A. H. Cocks, 3 Dec. 1859.

67 Foreign Political (FP), Foreign Consultation (FC), 13 Jan. 1832, 68, F. C. Smith to Sec. Pol. Dept GOI, 14 Dec. 1831.

68 CPDG, Saugor, , p. 28.

69 Chaudhuri, S. B., Civil Rebellion in the Indian Mutinies, 1857–1859, Calcutta, 1957, p. 227; MPDG, Sagar, , p. 70.

70 APMR, SNT, Jubbulpore 24, 1860–1863, encl. in A. H. Cocks to W. Lowe, 17 Jan. 1860.

71 MPFM, p. 104.

72 Ibid. p. 76.

73 Erskine, W. C. Erskine to W. H. Muir, 10 Aug. 1856, p. 10.

74 MPDG, Hoshangbad, p. 65.

75 Chandhuri, , Civil Rebellion, p. 227.

76 Sinha, R. M., Eighteen Fifty-Seven in Jabalpur District (Jabalpur, 1957), quoting E. Clerk to W. C. Erskine, 17 July 1857.

77 For Dept, 559–73, 30 Oct. 1857, Secret A, E. Clerk to W. C.Erskine, 17 July 1857.

78 Damoh DOR, 15–76, W. C. Erskine to W. C. Hamilton, 19 Aug. 1858.

79 Srivastava, K. L., The Revolt of 1857 in Central India (Bombay, 1966), p. 91.

80 MPDG, Sagar, p. 71.

81 Mandla DOR, 65, H. F. Waddington to Commr, 3 Aug. 1858. The material in this paragraph is largely drawn from this source.

83 Damoh DOR, 15–41, Weekly Sentences, 12 June 1858.

84 Mandla DOR, 46, Captain von Meyern to G. Plowden, 6 Jan. 1858.

85 Sil, J. N., History of the CP and Berar (Calcutta, 1917), p. 138.

86 RLRS Hoshangabad, 1865, pp. 54–6.

87 MPFM, p. 197.

88 Ibid., p. 96.

89 NRSR, Rev. 23, 1860, G. Couper to W. H. Lowe, 9 July 1859.

90 Betul DOR, 194, W. C. Erskine to Supts of all districts, 13 01 1858.

91 APMR, SNT, Jubbulpore 24, 1860–1863, W. C. Hamilton to A. H. Cocks, 31 May 1859.

92 APMR, SNT, Jubbulpore 24, 1860–1863, F. A. Fenton to A. H. Cocks, 13 July 1863.

93 MPFM, fn, p. 103.

94 APMR, SNT, Saugor 10, 1859–1861, G. F. S. Browne to A. H. Cocks, 18 Dec. 1859.

95 APMR, SNT, Jubbulpore 24, 1860–1863, W. C. Hamilton to A. H. Cocks, 31 May 1859.

96 APMR, SNT, Mandla, 1858–1861, File I, Commr to W. Muir, 29 Sept. 1858.

97 NRSR, Rev., 89, 1863, W. Nembhard to R. F. Snow, 29 Sept. 1863.

98 MPFM, p. 90.

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