Siraj-ud-Daula was the last independent Nawab of Bengal who succeeded Alivadi Khan to the throne. He was born in 1733 and died on July 23, 1757. The end of his reign marks the end of the independent rule in India and beginning of the company’s rule that continued unabated over the next two hundred years. His father, Zain-ud-Din was the ruler of Bihar and his mother Amina Begum was the youngest daughter of Alivardi Khan. Alivardi Khan had no male heir to succeed him after his death. Therefore, he adopted Siraj-ud-Daula and was brought up like an heir to the throne. He was provided all the necessary training essential for a ruler of a state. He was very beloved one of Alivardi Khan. He was nominated as the Crown prince in 1752 and declared that he was to succeed Alivardi as the next Nawab of Bengal. But this declaration caused fissures in the family and many of the family members turned against him especially his aunt Ghaseti Begum, Mir Jafar and Shaukat Jung.
Alivardi Khan died in 1756 and he was succeeded by Siraj-ud-Daula as the new Nawab of Bengal. At that time he was just 23 years old. Though incompetent to manage the state affairs but he was very energetic and enthusiastic. He tried to take the reins of administration in his hands and appointed his favourites to all important posts. He was a handsome and a good looking young man but at the same time was quite suspicious and skeptical about the people surrounding him. He trusted only the few people. Moreover, he was very harsh tempered that produced some disastrous results. Instead of the subject people revering and loving the young Nawab developed a fear in their hearts. He used to ridicule his nobles. Besides, he adopted a very stern approach towards his opponents. He dispossessed Ghaseti Begum of her wealth because that was a source of concern for him. He replaced Mir Jafar with Mir Mardan to the post of Bakhshi. He also suppressed Shaukat Ali as well.
He was a true follower of his grandfather who never provided a maneuvering space to the Europeans so that they could pose a threat to his rule. The situation in south India was in his sight where the colonial powers out of their own rivalry had started a war there by using their proxies. Siraj-ud-Daula continued the same policy. He forbade both the French and the British to stop construction of the additional fortifications being built in anticipation of a war. However, these orders were not liked by the British who refused to abide by them. This infuriated the Nawab who reacted sharply by capturing Calcutta. He also took over the Fort William. The captives were placed in a small room for a night where most of them died of suffocation. The incident came to be known as the Black Hole incident.
The Black Hole and loss of Calcutta made the council at Madras to react. They sent an expeditionary force under the command of Sir Robert Clive who recaptured Calcutta and restored the council there. But at the same time he realized that the young Nawab could be threat to the interests of the company and the only way to protect the interest of the company was to replace him with a docile one. So he hacked a conspiracy with the estranged nobles to get rid of Siraj-ud-Daula. After having made all the necessary preparation, he sent a note to the Nawab alleging a violation of the treaty of Alinagar by providing refuge to the French in his territory. All the circumstances prepared the road to the battle of Plassey. In the battle though the Nawab fought bravely and was not far away from a victory, the sudden death of Mir Mardan turned the victories march into a defeat. Mir Jafar betrayed him and the Nawab was killed in the end. This led to the establishment of the company’s over lordship in Bengal marking the establishment of the British Empire in India.
Siraj-ud-Daula is revered as a hero as he stood against the British and refused to kowtow before them that even cost him his life. But there is another angle to view the truth. The Nawab was playing in the hands of the French against the British and if the British were defeated in the battle of Plassey, there would be French rule in India. Then the same hero and sovour of the nation might have been regarded as a villain in our textbooks.