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Battle of Plassey

The battle of Plassey was the most important and decisive battle fought between the British east India Company and Nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-Daula that took place on June 23, 1757. The battle marks the inception of the English rule in India. The company’s forces under the command of Robert Clive won a landslide victory over young Nawab’s forces establishing a permanent sway over Bengal that expanded over entire Indian sub-continent in next hundred years. It was preceded by Nawab’s taking possession of Calcutta in 1756 and the notorious Black Hole incident. The battle was fought during the Seven Years War and was a mirror image of the European colonial rivalry that was manifested in French sending help to Nawab against the company. Whatever, the numerical superiority of the Bengali forces fell short of the well organized and better equipped company’s forces. The company’s position was further succored by the hacked conspiracies with the nobility. Ultimate result was the execution of Siraj-ud-Daula and installation of Mir Jafar as puppet Nawab.

 

Alivardi khan having made Bengal an independent state in 1741 adopted the policy of strict neutrality towards the Europeans, both English and French. He did not want to play in their hands as they had been using their proxies in the southern India to grind their axes. But the friction between the company and the Nawab was always there over the collection of duties and the level of freedom in trade enjoyed by the company. Alivardi khan died in 1756 and was succeeded by his 19 year old adopted grandson Siraj-ud-Daula. The young Nawab was quite suspicious of the Europeans. That is why he ordered both French and the English to stop adding additional fortifications. The British refused to abide by the orders that led Siraj-ud-Daula to occupy the British factory at Cossimbazar and also Calcutta. There also took place the incident of Black Hole that stirred the British consciousness. The council at Madras sent an expeditionary force under Robert Clive to restore Calcutta that was recaptured on January 2, 1757.

 

Clive desired to dislodge Nawab and replace him with a puppet because only then the English interests could be secured; Nawab’s position was quite vulnerable owing to the prevalent politics of conspiracies and intrigues at the court. His commander in chief Mir Jafar was not happy with him. One of his aunts Ghaseti Begum was also looking for opportunity to get rid of him. Clive found the environment conducive, so conspired with the estranged nobility. He concluded an agreement with Mir Jafar promising him the post of Nawab to him in return for his help against Siraj-ud-Daula. He was a brother in law of Alivardi khan. Other people who were involved in the conspiracy were Rai Durlab, Nawab’s treasurer and Jagatseth, the richest banker of Bengal. Omichand was the person who brokered this deal. Mir Jafar promised 175 lacs rupees and also physical support to Robert Clive.

 

Having made all these arrangements, Clive sent a letter to the Nawab alleging violation of the terms of the treaty of Alinagar by providing refuge to the French. He also declared his intention to march on Murshidabad, the capital of Bengal. The declaration of war was made on June 14. Nawab had also become aware of the conspiracy. He, therefore, attacked on Mir Jafar’s palace and obtained his vow not to join the English camp in the battlefield. He then ordered the army to move towards Plassey that reached there on June 21 after some delay. The British also reached Plassey with 32000 soldiers to encounter the huge army of Nawab comprising of 50000 men. Mir Jafar who was commanding 16000 men remained altogether detached and did n. French had also sent a small contingent of artillerymen but the French artillery proved useless before the English artillery. Despite all these adverse conditions Nawab fought bravely and was slowly inching towards victory when the sudden death of Mir Mardan reversed the trend. It proved fatal for his campaign. Mir Jafar also withdrew from his camp. Upon this Siraj-ud-Daula acting upon the advice of Rai Durlabh retreated to Murshidabad. But he was caught on the way by Miran, the son of Mir Jafar who executed him. After this, Clive in accordance with the previous agreement offered the throne of Bengal to Mir Jafar. He pleased the company by paying a sum of 50 lac rupees alongwith ceding to it 24 Parganas. The war and the associated results sealed the French fate from Bengal. It proved to be a decisive battle marking the initiation of British rule in India from next 2 centuries.

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