Bharat Ek Khoj

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Comapany Bahadur
(Episode 39)

Nehru observed that the hundred years that followed the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 saw a complicated and many-sided struggle for mastery over India. The Mughal Empire rapidly fell to pieces and their Subehdors (viceroys) and Mansabdars (governor) began to function as semi-independent rulers. The real protagonists for power in India during the 18th century were four two Indians factions-the Marathas, Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan in the south; two foreign factions- the British and the French. Nehru further observes that in Bengal, Lord Clive, with treason and forgery, won the battle of Plassey in 1757, a date that marks the unsavoury beginning of the British empire in India. This was followed by another and more decisive win at the battle of Buxar between the British and the deposed Mir Qasim in alliance with the emperor Shah Alam and the Nawab of Awadh in 1764, and all that remained of the Mughal power in northern India was shattered.

The drama unfolds with the rapid succession of Nawabs of Bengal to the now titular Raja Nanda Kumar. The successors are increasingly emasculated from their revenue-earning capacity by the company and Clive now insists on amore skewed treaty for earnings from comprehensive taxation on all items other than salt. Not satisfied, Clive invites Raza Khan, an old hand from nawab Alibardi Khan's time, to join the top echelon. Nanda Kumar is confined to the capital Murshidabad while Clive has freedom of the commercial capital Kolkata, after the company has extracted the highly-lucrative Diwani(revenue-administration) of Bengal-Bihar-Orissa.

A scheming Clive is seen enjoying Kathakj dance in typical period costume, while pressure is mounted for appointing British civilians for the junior jobs at Nawab's cost. A desperate Raza, wishing to plan for efficient revenue-machinery prevalent in Alibardi's time is pushed to the wall. Incidents of British graft in Purnea and Dinajpur mount, and the exchequer is on the brink of bankruptcy. Protestations by Raza fall on deaf ears. As Nehru records, an early consequence of the British rule in Bengal and Bihar was a terrible famine, which ravaged the two princes in 1770, killing over a third of the population of this rich, vast and densely-populated area.

Warren Hastings appears on the scene and the signed documentary by Raza is now put to forged use by virtually blackmailing him, besides physically assaulting him surreptitiously. Hasting's case against Raza is the last straw and the exalted man dies of a broken heart in 1791, looking back over this period, Nehru says, it almost seems that the British succeeded in dominating India by a succession of fortuitous circumstances and lucky flukes. With remarkably little effort, they won a great empire and enormous wealth, which helped to make them the leading power in the world.