Mir Syed Jafar Ali Khan Bahadur (c. 1691 – 5 February 1765) was a commander-in-chief or military general who reigned as the first dependent Nawab of Bengal of the British East India Company. His reign has been considered by many historians as the start of the expansion of British control of the Indian subcontinent in Indian history and a key step in the eventual British domination of vast areas of pre-partition India.

Mir Syed Jafar Ali Khan Bahadur
Mir Jafar (left) and his eldest son, Mir Miran (right).
Nawab Nazim of Bengal and Bihar
1st reign2 July 1757 – 20 October 1760
PredecessorSiraj ud-Daulah
SuccessorMir Qasim
2nd reign25 July 1763 – 5 February 1765
PredecessorMir Qasim
SuccessorNajimuddin Ali Khan
Delhi, Delhi Subah Mughal Empire
Died5 February 1765(1765-02-05) (aged 73–74)
Namak Haram Deorhi, Bengal Subah
SpouseShah Khanum (m. 1727, d. August 1779)
Munni Begum (m. 1746, d. 10 January 1813)
Rahat-un-nisa Begum (Mut'ah wife)
Babbu Begum (d. 1809)
Syed Mir Muhammad Jafar Ali Khan Bahadaur
FatherSyed Ahmed Najafi (Mirza Mirak)
ReligionShia Islam[1][2][3]

Mir Jafar served as the commander of the Bengali army under Siraj ud-Daulah, but betrayed him during the Battle of Plassey and ascended to the masnad after the British victory in 1757. Mir Jafar received military support from the East India Company until 1760, when he failed to satisfy various British demands. In 1758, Robert Clive discovered that Jafar had made a treaty with the Dutch East India Company at Chinsurah through his agent Khoja Wajid. Dutch ships of the line were also seen in the River Hooghly. Jafar's dispute with the British eventually led to the Battle of Chinsurah. British company official Henry Vansittart proposed that since Jafar was unable to cope with the difficulties, Mir Qasim, Jafar's son-in-law, should act as Deputy Subahdar. In October 1760, the company forced him to abdicate in favor of Qasim. However, the East India Company eventually overthrew Qasim as well due to disputes over trade policies. Jafar was restored as the Nawab in 1763 with the support of the company. Mir Qasim, however, refused to accept this and went to war against the company. Jafar ruled until his death on 5 February 1765 and lies buried at the Jafarganj Cemetery in Murshidabad, West Bengal.

Due to his role in helping the British colonize India, and the eventual downfall of the Mughal Empire, Mir Jafar is reviled in the Indian subcontinent as a traitor, especially among the Bengalis in both India and Bangladesh.

Early life and family edit

Mir Syed Muhammad Jafar was born in Delhi in 1691 as the second son of the seven sons and eight daughters of Syed Ahmad Najafi (Mir Mirak). They claimed descent from Hasan ibn Hasan. Jafar's paternal grandfather was Syed Husayn Tabatabaei, who migrated from Najaf in Iraq (then part of the Safavid Empire) and settled in Delhi on 24 April 1675 after being invited by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.[4] Tabatabaei married the emperor's niece and served as a Qadi in the Mughal court. Jafar's paternal aunt, Begum Sharfunnisa, was the wife of Nawab Alivardi Khan of Bengal.[5]

Subedar of the Nawab of Bengal edit

In 1747 the Maratha Empire led by Raghoji I Bhonsle, began to raid, pillage and annex the territories of Alivardi Khan, the Nawab of Bengal. During the Maratha invasion of Odisha, its subedar Mir Jafar and Ataullah the faujdar of Rajmahal completely withdrew all forces until the arrival of Alivardi Khan and the Mughal Army at the Battle of Burdwan where Raghoji I Bhonsle and his Maratha forces were completely routed. The enraged Alivardi Khan then dismissed the shamed Mir Jafar.[6]

Nawab of Bengal edit

Jafar and his son Miran delivering the Treaty of 1757 to William Watts

Mir Jafar was the principal general of Alivardi Khan's successor, Siraj ud-Daulah, who led the Nawab's army to victory against the British on 19 June 1756.[7] Governor Drake abandoned Fort William and fled with a small number of friends and principal persons, abandoning his compatriots to their fates.[8] In spite of having led a successful attack against the Company, Jafar found himself sidelined by Siraj in favour of his rival, Raja Manikchand. A discontent Mir Jafar found support in others who opposed Siraj's tyrannical rule, from his brothers-in-arms from the Maratha Wars, to the powerful Jagat Seths.[8] With nowhere else to turn, the plotters reached out to the Company, who had regained and strengthened their position in the region under Clive and Watson, hoping to use their military forces to their own ends. William Watts was the first to become aware of the mutterings of the disaffected nobles in Murshidabad, and sent his Armenian agent, Khwaja Petrus Aratoon, to investigate. The answer came back that Mir Jafar, in his position as the paymaster of the Bengal army, was prepared to siphon off significant amounts of money (2.5 crore rupees then, £325 million today) for help in the removal of the Nawab.[9] Watts wrote to Clive, who had himself observed that "he [Siraj] is a compound of everything that is bad, keeps company with none but his menial servants, and is universally hated and despised."[10] The military under Mir Jafar, Jagat Seths as the financiers, and Clive with the mercenary army (ignoring strict instructions from London) were ready to stage a coup against the Nawab.[11]

Mir Jafar betrayed Siraj ud-Daulah to the British in the Battle of Plassey.[12] After Siraj Ud Daulah's defeat and subsequent execution, Jafar achieved his long-pursued dream of gaining the throne, and was propped up by the East India company as a puppet Nawab. Jafar paid Rs. 17,700,000 as compensation for the attack on Calcutta to the company and traders of the city. In addition, he gave bribes to the officials of the company. Robert Clive, for example, received over two million rupees, and William Watts received over one million.[13]

Soon, however, he realized that company's expectations were boundless and tried to wriggle out from under them; this time with the help of the Dutch. However, the British defeated the Dutch at the Battle of Chinsurah in November 1759 and retaliated by forcing him to abdicate in favor of his son-in-law Mir Qasim. Qasim proved to be both able and independent-minded, although he soon came into dispute with the company over their refusal to pay taxes to Qasim. Mir Qasim formed an alliance to force the East India Company out of East India. The company soon went to war with him and his allies. The Battle of Buxar was fought on 22 October 1764 between the forces under the command of the East India Company led by Hector Munro, and the combined armies of Mir Qasim the Nawab of Bengal, Shuja-ud-Daula the Nawab of Awadh, and the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. With the defeat in Buxar, Mir Qasim was eventually overthrown. Mir Jafar managed to regain the good graces of the British; he was again installed Nawab in 1764 and held the position until his death in 1765.

Bengal War edit

The Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, reviewing the British East India Company's troops, painted in 1781.

"Some ill-designing people had turned his brain, and carried him to the eastern part of the Mughal Empire, which would be the cause of much trouble and ruin to our regimes."

Imad-ul-Mulk's letter to Mir Jafar, after the escape of the Mughal crown prince Ali Gauhar.[14]

In 1760, after gaining control over Bihar, Odisha and some parts of the Bengal, the Mughal Crown Prince Ali Gauhar and his Mughal Army of 30,000 intended to overthrow Jafar, Imad-ul-Mulk after they tried to capture or kill him by advancing towards Awadh and Patna in 1759. But the conflict soon involved the increasingly assertive East India Company. The Mughals were led by Prince Ali Gauhar, who was accompanied by Muhammad Quli Khan, Hidayat Ali, Mir Afzal and Ghulam Husain Tabatabai. Their forces were reinforced by the forces of Shuja-ud-Daula and Najib-ud-Daula. The Mughals were also joined by Jean Law and two hundred Frenchmen and waged a campaign against the British during the Seven Years' War.[15]

Although the French were eventually defeated, the conflict between the British East India Company and the Mughal Empire would continue to linger and ended in a draw, which eventually culminated during the Battle of Buxar.

Legacy edit

Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, meeting with Jafar after Plassey, by Francis Hayman.

The breakup of the centralized Mughal empire by 1750, led to creation of a large number of independent kingdoms in Northern, Central and Western India, as also North-Western India (now Pakistan) and parts of Afghanistan (all provinces of the former Mughal empire). Each of them were in conflict with their neighbor. These kingdoms bought weapons from the British and French East India companies to aid their wars. Bengal was one such kingdom. The British and French supported whichever princes ensured their trading interest. Jafar came to power with support of British East India Company. After the defeat of Sirajuddoula and later Mir Qasim the British strengthened their position in Bengal and in 1793 abolished the nizamat (referring to the Mughal suzerainty) and took complete control of the former Mughal province.[16][17]

Tomb of Mir Jafar, Jafarganj Cemetery, Murshidabad

Muhammad Iqbal, the notable poet of Indian subcontinent, condemned Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq as follows:[18][19]

جافر از بنگال، و صادق از دکن
ننگِ آدم، ننگِ دین، ننگِ وطن


Jafar of Bengal and Sadiq of the Deccan:
A stigma on humanity, on religion, and the country.

See also edit

Notes edit

  • ^ "Riyazu-s-salatin", Ghulam Husain Salim – a reference to the appointment of Mohanlal can be found here
  • ^ "Seir Muaqherin", Ghulam Husain Tabatabai – a reference to the conspiracy can be found here

References edit

  1. ^ S. A. A. Rizvi, A Socio-Intellectual History of Isna Ashari Shi'is in India, Vol. 2, pp. 45–47, Mar'ifat Publishing House, Canberra (1986).
  2. ^ K. K. Datta, Ali Vardi and His Times, ch. 4, University of Calcutta Press, (1939)
  3. ^ Andreas Rieck, The Shias of Pakistan, p. 3, Oxford University Press, (2015).
  4. ^ Mirza, Humayun (2002). From Plassey to Pakistan: The Family History of Iskander Mirza, the First President of Pakistan. University Press of America. ISBN 9780761823490.
  5. ^ Ali Khan, Syed Muhammad Reza (1975). The Murshidabad Guide: A Brief Historical Survey of Murshidabad, from 1704 to 1969. Shaykh Pear Mohammed. p. 27.
  6. ^ Jaques, Tony (2007). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: A-E. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313335372.
  7. ^ Dalrymple, William (2019). The Anarchy : The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-63557-433-3. OCLC 1119635897.
  8. ^ a b Ghulam Husain Khan, Tabatabai (2018). Translation of the Siir Mutaqharin. [Place of publication not identified]: Gale Ecco, Print Editions. ISBN 978-1-379-39818-9. OCLC 1039333564.
  9. ^ Dalrymple, William (2019). The Anarchy : The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 119–120. ISBN 978-1-63557-433-3. OCLC 1119635897.
  10. ^ Hill S (1905). Bengal In 1756-57 Vol 2.
  11. ^ Dalrymple, William (2019). The Anarchy : The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 120–. ISBN 978-1-63557-433-3. OCLC 1119635897.
  12. ^ Mohammad Shah (2012), "Mir Jafar Ali Khan", in Sirajul Islam and Ahmed A. Jamal (ed.), Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.), Asiatic Society of Bangladesh
  13. ^ Modern India by Dr. Bipin Chendra, a publication of National council of Educational Research and Training
  14. ^ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume 13. University Press. 1852. pp. 123–.
  15. ^ O'Malley, L.S.S. (1924). Bihar And Orissa District Gazetteers Patna. Concept Publishing Company. ISBN 9788172681210.
  16. ^ Ahsan, Syed Badrul (31 October 2005). "Iskandar Mirza, Ayub Khan, and October 1958". New Age. Dhaka. Archived from the original on 19 August 2007.
  17. ^ Banerjee, Ruben (31 January 1994). "Descendant of Mir Jafar fights to erase stamp of treachery from family name". India Today. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
  18. ^ "In this Issue". The Pakistan Review. Vol. 15, no. 10. Ferozsons Ltd. October 1967. p. 2.
  19. ^ Ali, Mubarak (20 May 2022). "Why Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq are vilified in Pakistan's political discourse". Dawn. Retrieved 23 January 2023.

Further reading edit

External links edit