The Islamist-Indic mercantile collusion during Muslim rule in current Uttar Pradesh
- In article
- 12:59 PM, Apr 24, 2017
- Shanmukh, Saswati Sarkar, Aparna, Dikgaj and Kirtivardhan Dave
In the previous articles, we described the socio-religious basis and organisation of the collaborating Indic mercantile groups with the Islamist invaders , the means by which the Islamist invaders and the Indic mercantile groups reached a mutually beneficial pact of collusion , on the horrifyingly bad condition of the peasants, craftsmen and artisans, who were squeezed for the last paisa they possessed, by both the Islamist rulers and officials and the Indic merchants , the involvement of the Indic merchants in the procurement, enslavement, transportation and sale of Indics to distant regions, under the patronage from the Islamist invaders , and the ruthless religious exploitation of the under-privileged Indics and the resistance forces by the Islamist invaders , strengthened by the financial backing provided by the Indic merchants. Previously, we demonstrated that not only were the Indic merchants largely exempted from economic exploitation  and religious persecution, even by the most brutal and fanatic of the Islamist invaders and even while their co-religionists were persecuted brutally during Islamist rule , but also that they materially prospered  and were granted religious freedom  during the Muslim rule. Subsequently, in the current set of articles, we focus on the nuances of collusion of Indic merchants with Islamist invaders in different regions. In , we dwelt on the mercantile collusion with Islamist invaders in Gujarat; and in , we narrated the collusion of the Indic merchants with the Islamists in Bengal. In this article, we detail the case of the current Uttar Pradesh – then divided into Agra, Rohilkhand and Awadh (refer to the map below).
Illustration 1: A map showing the regions of 1)Rohilkhand (more accurately, lands ruled by Rohillas and their allies in the mid 18th century), 2) Awadh as it existed before Buxar, and 3) the province of Agra. The northern regions of Rohilkhand and Awadh (marked in green) were targets of agricultural expansion under Mughals and Islamic colonisation of the region occurred in the 16th-18th centuries. Consequently, they have a higher Islamic population, both due to conversion of the poorer peasants and Islamic colonisation. We have shown the Muslim population percentages in 2011 census in these regions.
We first trace a very brief history of the three regions in the Mughal (and pre-Mughal) era. Katehr (Rohlkhand) was a stronghold of the rebels and the Delhi sultanate repeatedly massacred the Hindu rebels of the region pp. 20-25, . Both Shankhdher and RC Majumdar point out that the region was utterly devastated by Firuz Shah Tughluq who took 23,000 slaves as `vengeance for the revolt of Kharku.’ p. 96, . Further, Katehr and Awadh threw their lot in with the revolt of Hemu, but after the defeat of Hemu at Panipat, were subjugated by the Mughals p. 51,  and went under the reign of a combination of Rajput and Muslim overlords. In Rohilkhand (Katehr), a new Muslim community emerged during the Mughal rule, the Rohillas. They consisted of Pathan families ``who had fallen on hard times, converted Hindus, and soldier adventurers from the north-western mountains.’’ p. 120, . Bayly has written, `` Rohillas were an invading warrior 'slave caste' with an established urban form of life which responded to their need for protection as much as to a predilection for towns. ...They were in the process of developing a tribal identity which expressed real or fictive kinship and newly forged marriage alliances. Like other Afghans, they were full of the pride of ancestry, tracing their genealogies back to Abraham’’ p. 120,  During the Mughal rule, the Rohillas had been settled in the region, after their service as Mughal mercenaries. They had been granted lands to cultivate and govern, and they took large areas along the Terai [Rohilkhand and Northern Awadh] or foothills of the Himalayas under the plough p. 225, . To quote , ``In return for these services [as mercenaries for the Mughals], some of them [Rohillas] held large tracts of land as ijaradars or zamindars. Others had settled more to the south as they were invited by the Mughal authorities to counterbalance local Rajput disaffections. Sometimes they were even encouraged to replace the local peasants with their own tribesmen from Roh.’’
As the Mughal Empire weakened, the three regions fell under different kingdoms. In the 18th century, Awadh fell under a practically independent sultanate, with capital at Lucknow, and founded under a capable soldier named Saadat Khan. Surya Narain Singh points out that like all Muslim governments of the country, the Nawabi administration of Awadh and Allahabad under Saadat Khan and his successor, Safdar Jang, was a military occupation of the land. p. 7, . In the south west, Agra and its adjoining areas saw successful Jat revolt in the region against Aurangzeb and his successors and this ensured that it was the Hindu Jats and the Marathas that ruled the land (but squabbling with each other), once Mughal control was ended (we do not trace the fate of the region after it fell under the Hindus). In the North West, in Rohilkhand (which, by the way, includes the upper Doab), the Rohilla Afghan rulers seized power.
The Muslim aristocracies of all three regions remained in communication with their counterparts in Central Asia and Iran through the northern trade routes. The Nawabs of Awadh were in touch with the Shahs of Iran, who were fellow Shias p. 156, . To quote Bayly, ``Nishapur in Iran, for instance, was the producer of some of the finest red dyes which were used wherever the high Indo-Persian style of life survived. But Nishapur was also the hometown of some of the most prestigious of North India's political leaders, including the founder of the dynasty of Awadh’’ p. 156, . From their cousins in the mountains of Afghanistan and Northwest Frontier Province, the Rohillas sought help, and settlers’ p. 156, . The Punjabi traders linked Mughal north India with the Central Asian Khanates p. 458, .
All three regions were heavily agrarian, with the bulk of their revenues coming from agricultural lands. Beyond the collection of taxes, the well being of the peasants or the improvement of agriculture, arts and crafts did not exercise the minds of the rulers of any of these. As to the religious demography of the common populace, for Rohilkhand, the only contemporary guess we have is that the total population was about one million Hindus and 200,000 Muslims in the 1770s p. 89, . The higher Muslim population of the region owed to the depopulation of Katehr during the Delhi sultanate era, when Katehr’s resistance was brutally extinguished by repeated barbarities and the settlement of a large number of Afghans in the region during the Mughal regime. To quote Bayly, ``In Rohilkhand the new Muslim military gentry dug themselves into agrarian society by coercion or force of arms. Farther east, indigenous Sayyid families shielded themselves behind the revenue-farmers or the chakladar - a new tier in the revenue hierarchy which was more amenable to local influence. Between 1780 and 1830 men from the small towns of Western Awadh such as Bilgram, Sandi and Sandila dominated the office of chakladar. Their relatives acquired land-rights more easily; and their own salaries and perquisites were ploughed back into purchases and building in the environs of their native places.’’ p. 352, 
To illustrate the patterns of dependencies and colonisation of Rohilkhand, Bayly considers the case of Amroha, (northern old Moradabad District, now called Jyotiba Phule Nagar district and about 80 miles NE of Delhi, in the heart of Islamic parts of Rohilkhand). Bayly states, ``… here, from before 1500, a military and service gentry of Sayyid families had been establishing itself through the patronage of complaisance of the Mughal and later Rohilla Afghan conquerors of the tract. Service under the Mughals had secured revenue-free grants of land.’’ p. 41-42, . The area had been depopulated, as has been mentioned earlier, by the atrocities of the Delhi sultanate, and there was great scope for colonisation of the land. Consequently, the Sayyids, Rohillas and other Muslim mercenaries were settled there. However, the Sayyids were not content to be simple mercenaries, being paid by rents from the village. They attempted a total takeover, as Bayly points out, ``But the Sayyids' aim was to be more than simple revenue assignees. They resolved to 'assume absolute possession of the villages... divested the headmen of all authority and assumed to themselves the direct management'. Since the headman families retained social influence which was useful to the Sayyids, they were given a share in the produce and retained as a body of pensioners-cum-managers at the pleasure of their new masters. Village management appears to have led on to direct control of village resources, grain and stock.’’ p. 41,  Bayly has continued to trace the rise of the Sayyids in North India: ``From the end of Akbar's reign onward Sayyid Muslim families rapidly gained land-rights all over Awadh and also throughout the Doab. In the later eighteenth century, they probably held the proprietary rights in two-thirds of the Awadh villages... from time to time, there were cases where the Sayyid families physically expelled earlier controllers and their tenants, especially when these were competitors also in the skills of literacy and public office. But the Muslims generally held the great advantage of monopolizing the revenue and registration offices of Kazi and Kanungo (chief revenue surveyor) in the small towns from which they expanded. The Rajput communities, who were themselves often descendants of clients of earlier Muslim lords, were divided and fragmented in this part of North India... It proved easy for the Muslim clerical and military families to manipulate property deeds to their advantage’’ p. 351, 
The takeover by the Sayyids was so total that, Bayly remarks, ``In the mid-nineteenth century, revenue officers were still inveighing against the old batai system under which the Sayyid landlords of the tract appropriated all 'save a bare subsistence' from the cultivators, and invited to the villages for several months a year with bullock teams, armed retainers and weighmen to secure the best portion of the crop.’’ pp. 41-42, . Citing early British reports, Bayly points out that the reports ``refer to the ploughman (hali) system, in which a large proportion of the Hindu cultivators had been reduced to direct dependence on the Rohilla conquerors of the tract. The ploughmen were housed, clothed and even fed on a daily basis by the families of their patrons who also provided them with the seed, tools and animals with which to cultivate. The patronage connection was so strong that when the Rohilla gentry were driven out of the southern part of their territory by the forces of the Nawab of Awadh and the East India Company in 1774, a very large number of cultivating families 'retired with them', leaving a chronic shortage of agricultural labour in the area. The dependant cultivators here retained few of the features of the free family farm. They were more like personal servants on the land of their warrior masters - and the key unit of agriculture seems to have been the 'great household' of the gentry.’’ pp. 41-42, . The complete takeover of the region by the Sayyids and the Afghans, including their ability to expel earlier occupants of the lands and the tenants, and the reduction of the local Hindu peasantry to bondsmen working for their Islamic overlords constituted major reasons for the conversion of the Hindu peasants to Islam. The thorough colonisation also explains the higher Muslim population, both due to Muslim immigration and local conversion.
In Awadh, the population was predominantly Hindu, with a sprinkling of Muslims. p. 263, . However, in northern Awadh (today’s old Bahraich and old Gonda districts), where land reclamation occurred on a grand scale, the same pattern of colonisation and conversion explained in the previous paragraph recurs, especially centred around the old Pathan and Sayyid estates of Nanpara (in Bahraich) and Utraula (in old Gonda). As Bayly remarks, from the end of Akbar's reign onward Sayyid Muslim families rapidly gained land-rights all over Awadh and also throughout the Doab. In the later eighteenth century, they probably held the proprietary rights in two-thirds of the Awadh villages... from time to time, there were cases where the Sayyid families physically expelled earlier controllers and their tenants, especially when these were competitors also in the skills of literacy and public office. But the Muslims generally held the great advantage of monopolizing the revenue and registration offices of Kazi and Kanungo (chief revenue surveyor) in the small towns from which they expanded. . The Rajput communities, who were themselves often descendants of clients of earlier Muslim lords, were divided and fragmented in this part of North India... It proved easy for the Muslim clerical and military families to manipulate property deeds to their advantage. p. 351, . The region of Agra, both during and after the Mughal period, was almost completely Hindu, with barely any Muslims, outside towns.
As for the traders, we learn from Bayly, ``Most of the merchant magnates of our area (central North India) were either men of the Khatri caste originally from the Punjab, Agarwals whose traditional home was reputedly further east, or tough Oswal and Maheshwari families who had been drifting out of the dry lands of Rajasthan for many generations. There were also a few powerful families of Gujerati trading people of Brahmin and mercantile caste in the towns of our area. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, their forebears had dominated India's foreign trade and many of its internal routes also. But their star was definitely on the wane as the Mughal empire, which had provided protection for their ventures fragmented into smaller kingdoms’’ p. 31, . Since the regions under consideration were heavily agricultural, the profits of the merchants came directly from fleecing the peasants.
In this article, in Section A, we shall trace the general tax administration of the various regimes and the peasant oppression that was part of these regimes, in Section B, we shall review the bonhomie between the merchants and the Islamist regimes of the regions, and in Section C, we shall analyse the mechanisms by which the merchants, together with the Islamist overlords, fleeced the peasants, and finally, in Section D, we shall contrast the state of the peasants and the merchants in the region.
Section A: Tax Administration
In Awadh, landowners paid more than 1/3 of their total produce in one form or another to court favourites and nazims in charge of collecting the revenue. There was no permanent ownership of the lands, and every ownership had to be confirmed by the Nawabi court. The large land holders had to fight to have their rights to their land recognised for their children. p. lxii,  and these required humongous amounts of corruption to be achieved. The government just collected the rent and ensured protection from internal disturbances and external raids. p. 7, . There was no department of public works in Awadh during the Nawabi days. p. 120, . Works of irrigation and public benefit were rarely ever embarked upon by the Nawabs.
The Rajputs were the most important social order in the Nawabi administration since they controlled all lands virtually. pp. 8-9, . Consequently, they were the social order on which the entire administration of Awadh depended. Depredations, harsh taxations and other illegal exactions were common to the high landlords. Neither Saadat Khan, nor Safdar Jang carried out any reforms ``in the much-abused revenue administration and took no measures to purify the corrupt services and to protect the downtrodden peasantry from the illegal exactions, internal disturbances and external raids.’’ p. 44, . In addition, the pernicious system of grant of jagirs to soldiers and pious men of Islam continued during the reign of Safdar Jang, as during that of Saadat Khan. p. 45, , increasing the tax load on the rest of the people.
It is important to mention that tax farming was rife in Awadh, with every district yielding a total harvest of 3 lakhs was sold (to tax farmers), in addition to the actual fees, for a year for at least 50,000 rupees. pp. lxvii-lxviii, . District taxes were farmed out to contractors – often speculators and businessmen – who were extremely ruthless in collection of revenue as they had no investment in the land or people, only in maximising short term returns. p. 65, . This led to often widespread destruction of the property, depopulation of the districts, and reduction of the value of the land itself.
The revenue assessors and collectors were notoriously corrupt. Maharaja Balkishen, an important official of the tax department in Awadh in the 19th century, was notoriously corrupt, taking at least a large portion of what was submitted by the contractors. p. lxix, . It was customary for amils and nazims to intrigue with landlords to dispossess their neighbours, in return for bribes to the Nawabi officials and the court. Nepotism, based on caste and religion, often influenced nazims and contractors to intrigue to dispossess some landholders. For instance, the amil of Nawabgunge and Sidhore, Aga Ahmud, helped a land holder, Ghoolam Huzrut, seize the lands of the neighbours. p. 2, . It was also customary for the nazims to take more than the assessed rates. Hakeem Mehndee took 12.5% more than the assessed rate in Bahraetch and his successor, Hadee Alee took 25% more than the assessed rate. p. 55, . Contractors and nazims were exceptionally brutal and used to taking peasant women and children as slaves and selling them, within and beyond Awadh. pp. 64-84, . A large number of depredations on the peasantry were perpetrated by the Nazim of Bharaetch, his landlord ally, Ghoolam Imam, and his partner, Ghoolam Huzrut. pp. 29-30, .
In the Benares region, for instance, agrarian dependence amounted to slavery in several areas. Bayly points out that in the 1780s all over the Aguari Barhar and the Bijaigarh tracts, where the rich arable bordered the uncultivated forests and waste lands, ``the ploughmen and labourers were all of that class called Laks, that is bondsmen or slaves, liable to be sold as other slaves, and with seemingly this single distinction in their favour, that their castes are not affected by their bondage.’’ pp. 39-40,  this pattern persisted into recent times, as Bayly points out, ``when lakis or ploughmen remained a kind of near-hereditary personal servant for land-owning families in the area.’’ pp. 39-40, . Similarly, Bayly notes that in Benares ``it was the concurrence of the 1784 - 8 scarcities with the enhanced revenue demands of the Raja and his agents which reduced many of the regional specialist cultivators to a lower status.’’ p. 48,  Bayly points out that ``In poorer areas a veritable serfdom developed with elites controlling the labour time and resources of the peasant family. In the savak ('pupil') system of northern Awadh (an area which was being rapidly cleared) the patron-landlords who provided advances to the peasant families rewarded them with as little as one-sixth of the crop and also monopolized the labor of the husbandmen's wives and children for a large part of the year. Most commentators believe that this system arose from the reduction of families of free peasants to the status of bondsman durine periods of famine, or political disturbance, and it appears to have been consolidated after 1750. A different method of providing tied labor was used to the south-east where Buchanan reported in 1811 that there existed a bar on members of lower castes becoming self-cultivating (khudakasht) proprietors of arable land. This custom had the effect, of course, of maintaining a large body of landless families for use as hired labour in the fields’’ pp. 43-44, 
In Rohilkhand, the patterns of land revenue collection and dependencies were different. One important point is the expansion of cultivation in the Rohilkhand (and adjoining) northern Awadh areas in the Mughal times. Already previous to Rohilla rule, large areas along the Terai [Rohilkhand and Northern Awadh] or foothills of the Himalayas had been taken under the plough p. 225, . This is confirmed by Shireen Moosvi , who points out that the fraction of land cultivated in the region between the Ganga and the Ghaghra was greatly expanded between 1600 and 1900 p. 90, . Irfan Habib points out that the few areas where land reclamation appears to have taken place on a rather large scale in Mughal times in the eastern portions of Deltaic Bengal, and parts of the Terai. In Bengal, land reclamation followed Shaista Khan’s successful invasion of Arakan, and in the Terai, the most successful land reclamations were in the mahals of Kant and Gola. p. 373, . Land reclamation for agriculture invariably led to colonisation of the reclaimed lands by the Mughal nobility (most often Muslims), who as zamindars, often converted local peasants to Islam. It is perhaps for this reason that the local peasantry converted to Islam in both eastern Bengal and northern Rohilkhand and Awadh and both regions have a high Muslim population today, as may be seen in the map.
It is evident that during the initial years of Rohilla rule, the existing power structure in the area was altered. According to Brodkin, the Rohillas did not merely superimpose themselves on the indigenous organizational structure but fully destroyed that structure, changing the tax administration patterns completely. To achieve total control over the revenue administration, almost every landholder, no matter how petty, who was considered to be a potential source of difficulty and who could be a focal-point of anti-Rohilla activity, was uprooted and either killed or forced to flee across the Ganges by Ali Muhammad. As every public office was filled with ``Ali Muhammad's own men, he accomplished a complete obliteration of existing vested interests’’ p. 676, . This total `Rohillisation’ of the administration by Ali Muhammad is confirmed by Hamilton who writes, ``… and that he might not be incommoded by the incursions of the petty Rajahs, who held tracts along the foot of the Cummow hills, he rooted out all those from whom he had any apprehensions, and drove them to the other side of the Ganges, without any regard to their prior right in those lands, which had been the seats of their ancestors for many centuries … the Rohilla chief, however, did not stop here; he conducted himself towards all the Hindus of any rank or consequence in Rohilcund (the only name by which Kuttaher was afterwards distinguished) with a cruel and unjustifiable severity. He deprived such as were Zimeendars of their lands, and the public officers of their employments, and filled the places thus vacated with his creatures; so that in the space of a few months, the country was put completely under a Patan government’’ p. 86, 
Section B: The Indic Mercantile power in North India during the Muslim regime
In the previous articles , , and , we had covered the mercantile collusion with the Mughals till the days of Aurangzeb and the influence they wielded with the imperial court. In this article, we shall cover the mercantile collusion with the later Mughals, the Nawabs of Awadh and the Rohilla rulers of Rohilkhand. As Bayly points out, ``… the mercantile elite that underpinned the finances of the Mughal nobility and the eighteenth-century revenue farmers were drawn from many different backgrounds, some from 'traditional' commercial castes (Agarwals, Oswals, Mahishyas); some from groupings like the Khatttris which provided both administrators and commercial magnates, some even men from Brahmin and other backgrounds not traditionally associated with commerce.’’ p. 483, . The thrust of the evidence indicates that an 'Islamic-Vaishya synthesis' existed during the Mughal regime p. 488, . This arrangement would continue in Awadh and Rohilkhand too.
As we pointed out in ,  and , merchants from Rajasthan had established themselves as financiers and jewellers in the Mughal capitals and moved alongside Mughal notables and governors. p. 155, . Trade from Delhi to Bengal had seen a great growth during the reign of Aurangzeb. p. 155, . Oswal Jains, mostly from Rajasthan, were jewellers to the courts of Delhi, Farrukhabad and Lucknow p. 448, . Despite being a miniscule minority, the Jains sect had a major impact on town and commercial life. They constituted a mere 3-5 per cent in the towns of Western North India, falling to <1% in the east. p. 141, . Yet we learn from Bayly that, ``Tod's Jain clerk estimated that Jain businessmen commanded half of the total commercial wealth which circulated between Rajasthan and the Bay of Bengal.’’ p. 141, . Bayly points out that, ``The great Jagat Seth family (a family of Oswal Jains) had linked its fortunes to the Mughal governors (later Nawabs) of Bengal, but one branch of the family had remained in Delhi to provide financial services at the feeling heart of the empire.... the firm opened a branch at Allahabad when the Emperor established himself there in 1767.’’ p. 155, .
Apart from the merchants from Rajasthan, Nanakpanthis, who adhered to an earlier non-military form of Sikhism, named after Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion, constituted an urban and mercantile group. As Bayly remarks, ``Between 1500 and 1700, the Khattri merchant families of this [Nanakpanthi] persuasion had scattered down the Ganges valley as far as Murshidabad and Calcutta’’ p. 140, . This group also wielded considerable influence among the kingdoms of the upper Ganga valley. Bayly also notes that ``large mohullas and whole communities of moneylenders and purveyors grew up around the exiled Jahandar Shah in Benares and the exiled High Steward of the Empire in Lucknow.’’ p. 123, . In the heyday of the Mughals, the Guajarati traders had dominated the trade between Murshidabad and Surat, controlling the entire trade on land across the Gangetic valley. Even after 1707, the Guajarati traders, according to Bayly, ``headed the general council of the traders of Benaras and, until quite late, a Gujerati family was regarded as nagarseth or chief merchant of the city. Gujerati families were also prominent in the great Vaishnavite centre of Muttra, and in the nearby imperial city of Agra where Arjunji Nathji and associated firms kept the cross-country trade route open doing the bad years of the 1750s and 1760s.’’ p. 161, . The Gosain ascetic order commanded significant military power ``which they sold to other magnates such as the Nawab of Awadh, and used to protect their own trade routes and revenue grants" p. 142, .
Both Bayly and Sleeman mention the covert and subtly exercised power of merchant bodies that imposed limitations on what 18th century rulers of the Gangetic valley were permitted to do. As Bayly remarks, the control exercised by the powerful merchant families and bodies ``allowed commerce to achieve a more privileged position in regard to the military aristocracy.’’ p. 172, . Contemporary European observers were aware that the bankers exercised a delicate political influence on the rulers. So strongly had the power of the banking fraternity of Bengal and Hyderabad impressed itself on the mind of Law de Lorriston, ex-Governor General of French India, that he saw them in 1777 as a key group in any future alliance of the French and Indian States against the English East India Company. De Lauriston wrote, ``These are the people to whom the nawabs and the rajas always have recourse; whom they consult willingly about all civil, military and political operations, because to some extent all these matters enter into the sphere of the sarkars (bankers) because of the good or evil which such an operation could bring to the country. They appear without pretension at the darbars, but they exercise great influence there; one word of a renowned banker will carry more weight than the most eloquent speech of another, whomsoever he be, because this word holds fast to a chain which extends everywhere..." p. 172, . According to Bayly, ``De Lauriston's most telling point was that it was the men of commerce in eastern India who had most to gain from European and specifically from English trade. It was they, therefore, who had constrained the rajas and nawabs to allow foreign commerce a much freer hand in the interior of the country than it had ever had in the days of central Mughal rule.’’ p. 172, .
Under the patronage of the Mughal rulers of the Punjab, the Khatri merchants attained political power and influence, and many 'western' Khatris had embraced a mode of life that was, on the surface at least, Islamic. The four basic subdivisions into which all Khatris fall was supposedly the product of intervention by some early Muslim ruler in the community's marriage practice. Many Khatri merchant families take pride in close association with the great Muslim dynasties. p. 387, . Indeed, it is worth pointing out that many mercantile family histories recall the Mughal rulers and Nawabs as benevolent, but accuse their lieutenants of meddling in commercial custom pp. 390-391, . Further, it is to be noted that the family histories (of merchants) apparently took pride in coming to the financial relief of a great king (most often Islamic), even when there was no hope of being repaid; however, these merchants remained rich and honourable people. p. 391, . Bayly remarks that ``The great Gurwala banking family of Delhi, for instance, claim to have lent up to ten lakhs of Rupees to the Mughals during the early nineteenth century on an interest-free loan which was never repaid.’’ p. 391, . So thorough was the mercantilisation of the Khatris that Bayly points out that, ``Among the Benares and Pattna Khatris it was even common for their Saraswat Brahmin domestic domestic priests to enter into business partnerships in the Punjab shawl and horse trades.’’ p. 377, .
Jain merchants had achieved a degree of political influence that already secured them a number of special privileges or immunities which had developed around the concept of 'sanctuary' (ashrama). Bayly comments that in several Rajput states, ``officers of the raja were excluded from the temples and living quarters of Jain merchants, and the high status they had achieved influenced the standing of other townsmen with whom they had dealings.’’ p. 176, .
Many Lucknow Khattri firms handled the nawab of Awadh's Revenue in the lower Doab. p. 210, . Many Lucknow families had also served as Bankers to the nawab's revenue officers p. 276, . Bayly points out the power of Lucknow’s merchant houses. He states, ``Lucknow's banking houses provided a key service for the Nawabi government in remitting the annual tribute to Calcutta every year after 1764. So important was the annual tribute that the bankers gained access to the Lucknow Darbar and to the British Resident in Lucknow and began to take a close interest in court faction as they had done in Bengal, Hyderabad and Benares before.’’ p. 173-174, . The famous Jain banker, Lala Bacchraj, after becoming a partner of the Benares banking magnate, Lala Kashmiri Mull, whose firm was responsible for the transfer of tribute all over Hindustan to the British in the 1770s and 1780s, worked himself into the center of the Lucknow court faction by the 1790s. Once there, he began a complicated series of intrigues aspiring for the seat of the Naib Nawab. These intrigues collapsed and he ended up in a Nawabi prison, the punishment for failure in political games. pp. 173-174, . However, as Bayly points out, ``It was significant that even in this, the most powerful and most agrarian of the north Indian successor states (Awadh), Indian financiers could come so near to the sources of power.’’ pp. 173-174, . Another example of bankers gaining power in Awadh is the moneylender, Chundun Lal. The moneylender Chundun Lal was the only one whose family lived in a burnt brick house. Neither government servants, nor landlords dare harm these bankers, who are needed to provide credit and exchange to everyone. Chundun Lal, like others of his kind was disposed `to abuse the confidence of government officers and in collusion with them, to augment his possessions in land at the cost of his weaker neighbours.’ p. 269, .
Hirderam (Hirday Ram) was a Brahmin banker in Unnao. As Bayly remarks, ``Hirderam had grown powerful as money lender and trader within the domains of Unao's largest Hindu raja, but his influence was vulnerable and constricted by the dominance of the Rajput aristocracy. About 1770 he gained the protection of the local nawabi officials and began to trade in Awadh cotton and cloth which he imported from Mirzapur for sale to the qasbah gentry around the centres of Muslim government. Then he moved into an extremely lucrative appointment as treasurer to the nawabi governor of Baiswara, which meant, in effect, controlling the whole cash flow from there to Lucknow. A major source of profit was the commission he took from the Baiswara zamindars in exchanging local rupees - the symbol of their now curtailed economic autarchy - into the Lucknow Rupees in which the nawab's revenue had to be paid. Later, one part of the family moved into the British station of Kanpur which retained strong commercial links with Awadh, while the other built up for itself a large landed estate in the districts of Baiswara.’’ p. 98. . Bayly also points out that in Bareilly, the ancient house of Lachman Das tided over the ruin of Mughal power and the coming of the Rohillas to power. Not only that, they survived the fall of the Rohillas too, and remained important in both local Hindu and city politics at the beginning of British rule. p. 173, .
Then again, as Bayly notes, ``Large merchant houses such as those of Vaziri Mull and Pinde Das (both Khattris) functioned on the upriver trade route from Bengal to Benares in the latter half of the 18th century. In the 1770s, the Shahs and other bankers of Benares exported several lakhs of rupees per month from Murshidabad and Patna to be sent on to Lucknow and the West’’ pp. 230-231, 
The merchants were used to advancing money to nazims to purchase their appointments from the Nawab’s court. Thus, the moneylenders were protected from reprisals from the courts, no matter their atrocities. The nazims and contractors, who purchased contracts from the Awadh court, needed to make their own profit and also pay off the exorbitant demands of the moneylenders and the court. This led them to perpetrating some terrible outrages on the hapless peasantry. For instance, Buksh Alee (a revenue contractor of Russoolabad district) terrorised the district, depopulated the villages, plundered the travellers between Lucknow and Cawnpore so much that the roads became unsafe. They [the contractor’s men] used to seize every good looking girl, whose parents or husbands were not powerful enough and make slaves or concubines of them. pp. 318-319, . So powerful were the moneylenders that even the big landlords were in awe of them, and attempted to appease them and buy their goodwill. Rajah Rambuksh [a powerful talukdar of Awadh] of Dondhea Kheera was in the same predicament [of being in the crosshairs of the Chundun Lal]. Sleeman narrates the situation as follows: ``He [Raja Rambuksh] tells me that a great part of his estate has been taken from him by Chundun Lal, of Morowa, the banker already mentioned, in collusion with the Nazim, Kotab-od Deen, who depends so much on him … he [the Nazim] is obliged to conciliate him by acquiescing in the spoilation of others; that he has already taken much of his lands by fraud and collusion, and wishes to take the whole in the same way; that this banker now holds lands in the district yielding above two lacs of rupees a-year, can do what he pleases, and is everyday aggrandising himself and family by ruin of others … they [the bankers] are apt to do much mischief in the districts where their influence lies, for the Government officers can do little in the collection of revenue without their aid; and as the collection of revenue is the only part of their duty to which they attach much importance, they are ready to acquiesce in any wrong that they may commit in order to conciliate them.’’ pp. 280-281, .
Bayly points out that in Benares ``commercial men appear to have made even deeper inroads into agrarian society from time to time. The machinations of the powerful British Residents evidently encouraged their connections among the Indian trading firms to take a more direct role in revenue management.... in the late 1770 s, the banker Kashmiri Mull appears to have taken the revenue-farm for fourteen parganas of the Jaunpur and Ghazipur Districts 'in partnership' with one of the royal princes.’’ p. 169, . Similarly, a banker known as Dobey had woven his net across the Jaunpur district. Kaun Das, master of the Benares mint, was involved in the revenue management of revenue-farmer Kulb Ali. When Kulb Ali failed in his farming business, he had to first repay his debt to the men of commerce and only then to the state; so deep was the control of the men of commerce pp. 169-170, 
Bayly points out that at the very pinnacle of the revenue system, the commercial houses made huge temporary loans against the incoming revenue to the raja (of Benares) himself. These promissory notes or dakhillas were considered as good as ready coin in the bazaar. Without them, the raja was unable to pay his troops, remit his tribute to the British, or maintain his ceremonial and religious functions in the realm. Thus, fifteen large Lucknow and Benares banking houses handled the whole 40 lakhs of rupees of the Benares revenue in the year 1760-80, taking on it a service fee which appears to have amounted to 2.5 per cent or more. Naturally this gave them very considerable political power. In 1776 the resident stated that the Great Agarwal house of Bhaiaram provided the main obstacle to the consolidation of his influence in the principality, while in 1787, Jonathan Duncan acknowledged that the bankers could 'in a great measure, command the Raja and Government, itself with respect to the realization of the revenue' pp. 168-169, .
The plunder of the lands to pay off moneylenders and the ever-greedy court of Awadh has been recorded at length by Maj. Gen. William Henry Sleeman, who has recorded the extent of the ruination that had been visited on the landed proprietors. He points out that, ``The estate of Rehwa, held by Jeswunt Sing, tallookdar, had paid regularly fifty five thousand rupees a year, but was so desolated by Rughbur that it cannot pay Rs. 11,000 now. Similarly, the estate of Bhumnootee once paid 1, 82,000 rupees, but could not pay more than Rs. 30,000’’ p. 32, . While it is a fact that EIC officials typically and systematically overvalued the revenues due from estates, in this case, Sleeman is noting the discrepancies from the previous revenue records. In addition, Surya Narain Singh points out that the the mortgage courts of Awadh was notoriously corrupt, with big moneylenders controlling amins, who were almost sure of their findings confirmed by the judges. p. 81, .
In Rohilkhand, Hindu bankers had close relation with the Muslim Mufti p. 326, . The merchants of Rohilkhand were on sufficiently good terms with Daood Khan that they would allow him to purchase horses on credit, and while they insisted on repayment from Shah Aulum Khan (on behalf of Daood Khan), they did not seek to get their money back by any serious compulsion. p. 8, . Similarly, the Shahdana shrine for example had been built by a Hindu Khattri governor of the town in the Mughal period. p. 326, .
It should be further noted that Hafiz Rahmat Khan, the Rohilla ruler, began his career in life in a mercantile capacity. p. 33, . As Bayly notes, in 1766-7, Hafiz Rahmat khan abolished taxes on all articles of merchandise throughout his domain, though his measure was strongly opposed by his financial advisers. … Franklin, who visited Bareilly in 1795, described it as the 'capital of Hafiz Rahmat Khan, a place of considerable trade' pp. 58-59, . Hafiz Rahmat Khan built a shahr panah(city wall) four miles in circumference at Pilibhit, which became an emporium of commerce during his rule. pp. 58-59, . Hafiz’s actions have been confirmed by Elliot too, who states that, ``In the year 1180 of the Hijree, being the twentieth year of Hafiz Rehmut’s government, he gave orders that henceforth no duties should be levied on any article of merchandise throughout his dominions; his sirdars strongly objected to the measure, as depriving him of a large source of revenue, and consequently disabling him keeping up an army as circumstances of the times required, but his object was to gain the affection of the subjects, and no persuasions could induce him to rescind the order.’’ pp. 87-88, . Immediately after removing the taxes on the merchants, Hafiz Rahmat Khan engaged on a building spree after removing all taxes from the traders. Two forts (one at Pillibheet and one at Jelolabad), improvements in the new town of Hafizabad and and a `splendid mosque at Pillibheet at the cost of three lacs of rupees’ p. 88, , were all constructed by him. It is interesting to ponder where he got this much of money from, immediately after removing taxes on merchants. And finally, when Kutehir (Katehr) was threatened by an invasion from Awadh by the Nawab of Awadh and the British, Hafiz’s dewan, Puhar Singh, offered to raise the money needed to stave off the invasion as the Mahajans were willing to donate and lend. p. 113, 
Other Rohilla rulers were also very favourable to the Indic bankers and merchants. Finances under Ali Muhammad Khan and his immediate successors was managed by the Hindus. The Revenue collectors were also Hindus. For instance, Qayam makes mention of Gulab Rai and his nephew, Lala Nawal Rai Wafa. The former was the diwan (finance minister) of Nawab Najib-ud-Daula, while the latter held the charge of a few parganas across the river Ganges in Saharanpur district. Likewise, Raja Hilas Rai Rangin, the Resident of Bareilly, served as Diwan under Hafiz Rahmat Khan. . In 1755, Chandausi was founded by the Pathan chief Ibrahim Khan who enticed banias from the nearby cities to settle there in order to meet merchants from the western territories. Subsequently, it became an important town for rice and sugar exports to the west. p.3, . Further, as Bayly remarks, ``The Chaudhuri family of Bareilly, for instance, whose experience of Muslim rule predated the Rohillas, was a key group in the various compromises over ceremonial residence which worked out in the cities during the 1830s.’’ pp. 337-338, .
The best description of the power of the big merchant families comes from Bayly, who states that, ``By the 1770s, the power of the major mercantile houses was similar to that acquired by the Jagat Seths in Bengal in the later days of the Nawabi....The petty local raja of Kantit retained considerable prestige and formally appointed a head or Chaudhuri of the bazaar. But his wealth and power was dwarfed by that of the leading merchant houses and the religious corporations. It was they who patrolled the gated areas of the town and it was their levies which policed the key trade route which ran South into Central India... In Benares a similar set of relationships developed around the Naupatti Sabha ... This association was a body of nine leading city merchant families...’’ p. 177, . ``The nine families in the Naupatti came from different backgrounds. One was Gujerati Brahmin, one Gujerati Vaishya, one Oswal Jain and the others Agarwals of various subgroups. ....the Naupatti became a self-perpetuating oligarchy of status which no aspiring family could enter.’’ p. 178, . A Shah family had a prominent presence in the Naupatti Sabha p. 236, . Several branches of this Shah family and other Naupatti bankers had risen to prominence as court financiers p. 236,  Many of the Gujarati and local Agarwal families were members of the Vallabhacarya sect p. 181, .
It is worthwhile to note that the mercantile groups that rose during the Islamist regimes were those that were integral components of the Pan-Islamic infrastructure extending from India to Afghanistan to Central Asia and Turkey. Recall that the Muslim aristocracy in India kept in constant contact with their counterparts in Iran and Central Asia. And, the Punjabi traders linked Mughal north India with the Central Asian Khanates p. 458, . In addition, the house of Jagat Seths that became the de facto Nawabs of Bengal had close connections to the Mughal emperors, Ahmad Shah Abdali and had stront commercial presence in the Muslim ruled regions of central Asia . It was this Pan-Islamic infrastructure that Islamized various parts of North India and Bengal through the export of the Sufis.
Finally, the claim has often been advanced that the merchants were compelled to fund the colonial Islamist regimes, but the British sources point out how the merchants more than made up for such extortion, and therefore put up with it gladly. As Bayly points out, ``British observers noted with bewilderment that the Hindu merchants could adjust to the direst forms of what they took to be oppression. G. W. Forrest has noted about the unwilling suppliants at the darbar of the ruler of Kandahar in the 1800s: `there were invariably from fifty to one hundred Hindus, some of them doubtless men of respectability and wealth, and all merchants and traders who had been seized in their houses and shops and dragged before the Durbar for the purposes of extorting money. This was not an occasional or monthly but a daily occurrence... I have seen on an occasion of a festival the Hindus of this city assembled in gardens without their walls and displaying every sign of ease and wealth in theit apparel and trinkets; nor were they the less grateful than they would have been in a Hindu kingdom. The gains of these men must be enormous, or they would never provide to the exactions of their governors, and without such profit operating as an offset never would submit to the indignity they are compelled to suffer’’’ p. 392, .
To sum up, Bayly points out that during the eighteenth century, ``it was the commercial community which decided who should or should not pass his hundis in the bazaar and if the merchants were subjected to unduly savage pressure to release food-grains or provide false loans, they simply closed the bazaar or abandoned the town. Tribute, military supply, pilgrimage and trade were linked together in an all-India network which merchants, bankers and specialist carriers could manipulate to the financial disadvantage of the regional rulers.’’ p. 170, .
Section C: Oppression of the Peasants of North India by the Indic Mercantiles
The peasants were obliged to pay their revenues in cash. However, such peasants who resided on the jagirdar lands were often forced to pay their taxes in kind to the jagirdars, who generally undervalued the produce. The jagirdars, who took the peasant’s produce in taxes as opposed to cash, could obtain higher prices than the peasants ever could. p. 85, 
The peasants urgently needed cash to pay their revenues as soon as they got their harvest and could not afford to wait (peasants had to pay their taxes in cash), while the merchants could afford to do so and force peasants to sell at a much lower price. p. 86, . In the weighing of their produce, the peasants were routinely defrauded and also in the cash paid out to them. Peasants were often also compelled by the officials to sell their produce to a single mercantile buyer or a group of buyers. This meant that the peasant was paid even less than usual for his produce. The buyers also suffered as the merchants maximised their profits at the expense of the peasants. pp. 86-87 
Most peasants could not reach the open market at all and were forced to sell their produce to their creditors at the price affixed by the creditors. Irfan Habib notes that ``Whether the creditors were merchants or village moneylenders, the result was always to depress the price obtained by the peasant.’’ p. 85, . In some places, the British also entered into the game, but never for long though. Pelsaert records that the British were able to obtain indigo at much lower price than on the market by forcing the peasants of Bayana (just west of Agra) to sell to them at a lower price. However, they were forced out of the business by the local moneylenders and merchants. pp. 85-86, . In fact, so thorough was the hold of the moneylenders and traders on the peasants that even imperial diktats could not change them. As an example, we narrate the following incident. In 1633, an imperial monoply was instituted in the trade of indigo in the Agra area. Initially, the monopoly was to continue for a period of three years. The peasants, probably instigated by merchants who stood to lose the most by this imperial monopoly, uprooted their plants in protest. pp. 87-88, 
The heavy revenue demand imposed by the Rohilla rulers and the extinction of the rights of the intermediate zamindars after 1740 in Rohilkhand may have been the cause which reduced a large part of common farmers to bondsman status. p. 48, . Peasants were compelled to grow valuable cash crops like sugarcane and rice to meet the enhanced revenue demand. This, in turn, forced them to turn for capital to the elites, since the valuable cash crops were often more capital intensive than the original foodgrains, and the mercantile elites, in their turn, took closer control of production. p. 48, .
Section D: Contrast between Indic Merchants and Indic Peasants
Section D.1: Lifestyle
The Mughal nobility lived in great luxury. The high tax rate, that drained all the surplus from the peasant to fund the lifestyle of the upper classes, was the secret to this wealth of the nobility. To quote Bayly, ``Expenditure by the Mughal nobility has been large in proportion to North India's agricultural production as early as the time of Akbar. Though the mechanism remains obscure, at least 40% of the crop must have been marketed to pay the central government land-revenue. Shireen Moosvi's ingenious studies have suggested that expenditure by the zamindars on their establishments may have been equal to a further 30% of the revenue.’’ pp. 52-53, . This prosperity continued in the region of Awadh. Ashirbadi Lal Shrivastava points out that the big merchants and landlords and high Nawabi officials lived in great prosperity, and enjoyed most luxuries of the time, spending vast amounts of wealth on them, and living extravagant lives. p. 266, . There was a small class of petty landlords, well paid troops, lower level Nawabi officials and small merchants who constituted a middle class p. 266, . Multiple wives and concubines were a common feature of not only the upper class, but also the middle class, both Hindu and Muslim. p. 11, . Both male and female slaves were purchased like ordinary commodities and were very cheap at Gorakhpur. p. 11, .
In contrast, the lot of the peasant was miserable. There is reason to believe that, then as now, they dwelt in low insanitary mud huts, roofed with thatches of straw and contented themselves with coarse bread and minimum clothing. Writing of them in 1626, Francisco Pelseart, the chief of the Dutch factory in Agra, says, ``Their houses are built of mud, with thatched roof. Furniture there is little or none, some earthenware pots to hold water, and for cooking, and two beds, for here, man and wife do not sleep together. Their bed clothes are scanty, merely a sheet or perhaps two, serving as both under and over sheet; this suffices in the hot weather, but the bitter cold nights are miserable indeed, as they try to keep warm over a low cow dung fire, which is lit outside the door, because the houses have no fireplace or chimneys; the smoke from the these fires all over the city is so great that the eyes run, and the throat seems to be choked.’’ pp. 266-267, . The above description and those left by Bernier and Tavernier in the 17th century agree that the peasant was bitterly poor and the lot of the peasant did not substantially improve from the 17th century till the 20th century. p. 267, . Similarly, Pelsaert declared during the reign of Jahangir that, ``The common people live in poverty so great and miserable that the life of the people can only be described as the home of stark want and the home of bitter woe.’’ p. 103, . Similarly, the huts of the peasants of the [Ganga Yamuna] Doab are described by Mundy as `badd mud walled ill thatched howses’, while Pelsaert also describes the workmen of Agra as living in `houses built of mud with thatched roofs’. pp. 109-110, . Further, Pelsaert remarks of the workmen of Agra that, ``Furniture there is little or none, except for some earthenware pots to hold water and for cooking and two beds, one for the man, the other for the wife.’’ p. 110, 
The clothing of the peasants was also very limited. Babar observed that, from Bhera in the west to Bihar in the east, the men wore only a short dhoti and women a saree. p. 107, . The paucity of clothing for peasants is also remarked by an English factor at Agra, during the reign of Jahangir, who observed that, ``The plebian sort is so poor that the greatest part of them go naked in their whole body [save] their privities which they cover with a linen [cotton] coverture.’’ p. 108, 
Section D.2: Treatment by rulers
The mercantile class was treated far better than any other class by the Mughals. Roads and sarais were built in Mughal India, not only for the soldiers, but also for the merchants, who were routinely on the march in Mughal India. The merchants often followed the big armies to sell their wares. Such groups that were deemed trustworthy by the Mughals were allowed to build up monopolies too. For instance, trade in articles such as foodgrains, pulses, sugar, butter and salt was monopolised by the banjaras, who were themselves nomads. A large tanda (camp) would consist of 600-700 men, and 12-20,000 bullocks and carry 1,600-2,700 tons of material. They were usually called on to supply Mughal armies (which is why they were likely permitted the monopoly in the trade) and when a large army was to be supplied, they would raise as much as 1,00,000 bullocks to supply the armies. p. 69, .
Similarly, the merchants of Rohilkhand were on sufficiently good terms with Daood Khan that they would allow him to purchase horses on credit, and while they insisted on repayment from Shah Aulum Khan (on behalf of Daood Khan), they did not seek to get their money back by any serious compulsion. p. 8, . The Rohilla ruler, Hafiz Rahmat Khan, often extorted money from the Muslim zamindars, and was corrupt, taking bribes from Muslim officials. p. 228, , However, there is no record of his extorting merchants. Indeed, in all of the accusations made against him by the British, there is no mention that he harassed merchants at any time. Even otherwise, in general, transit duties in Rohilkhand seem to have been fairly moderate, and in particular the larger merchants obtained many exemptions. p.87, . According to Bayly, ``For all their Sunni intransigence, the Rohilla rulers had cultivated good relations with the Hindu commercial groups. They had insisted on the precedence of Muslim religious ceremonies but at the same time had abolished internal customs and patronized the leading merchants. The decline in communal relations in the area came later - during the 1830s’’ pp. 326-327, . Further, in the 1710s, Muhammad Khan founded the city of Farrukhabad, and planted colonies of (Muslim) Bangash and merchant communities like the Soods in it, who were encouraged to settle by the award of privileges and exemption from taxation pp. 118-119, 
The Rohilla nuclei of urban culture created a new demand for both luxury and bulk products. These new `ganjes’ [trade towns] and qasbas could lure foreign trade and credit towards the Rohilla territories. Some of these were erected to smooth the traffic between the major cities. For example, Hafiz Rahmat Khan founded Hafizganj in order to offer merchants a resting place on the road from Bareilly to Pilibhit. p. 51, . It is of interest how far Hafiz went to appease and cajole the merchants, many of whom were Hindus. Recall from earlier in this article how Hafiz went out of the way to remove all taxes on merchants, most of whom were Hindus and built commercial emporia for them. But the same Hafiz was ruthless towards common Hindus, being part of the Abdali army that sacked Mathura and slaughtered the Hindus of the region. p. 140, . He also led an expedition that invaded Almora and when the Raja fled to Garhwal, the province of Kumaon was taken over by the Afghans. This event, according to Elliot, occurred in the 25th year of Mahmud Shah’s reign (1154 Hijree). According to Elliot, ``The Mahommedans destroyed all the images of the infidels, melted down all their gold, and silver ornaments and slew cows in their streets.’’ p. 19, . Hafiz Rehmut Khan was also the man that ordered Sheikh Kubbeer to put the entire garrison of the Hindus at Bhurtapore to the sword on its capitulation. Even his relief during famine was contingent on the recipients of the charity becoming Muslim. Elliot points out that during the massive famine in Mewat and its adjoining areas in Delhi and the Upper and Central Doab, Hafiz Rehmut Khan took in the famine stricken of Mewat into Katehr, but with a twist. Everyone who received any largesse at his hands was obliged to convert to Islam. A large number of Mewatis were converted to Islam by Hafiz Rehmut Khan. p. 78, , However, on the Hindu merchants, he was very sweet and allowed them many privileges, including removal of taxes.
In parts of Eastern Rohilkhand, which was dominated by Awadh after 1774, Bayly notes that, ``the affluent merchants often paid rates 25 per cent to 30 per cent less than the poorer bazaar traders and hucksters.’’ He further states that, ``the aumils being sensible that the continuance of their own authority depended in great measure upon the influence of the several persons of respectability and consequence'. Merchant wealth was here, as in the larger cities, an independent force and one not wholly 'encompassed' by political power as the ideological formulation has it.’’ p. 101, . Between 1740 and 1780, the Gosain traders paid special rates on their transit goods to Benares p. 165, .
While the merchant class was thus enabled and well treated by the Mughal emperors and their Rohilla and Awadhi Nawab successors, the peasant bore the brunt of the oppression. Even the comparatively mild Akbar’s karori experiment brought ruin to the peasants of the central country (both banks of the Yamuna and the adjoining regions of Rohilkhand). p. 371, . Further, vast lands were depopulated during the time of Jahangir and Shahjahan due to oppression by the jagirdars and other officials, pp. 371-372,  In consequence of their financial ruin and inability to pay revenue, frequently, therefore, the peasants were compelled to sell their women, children and cattle to meet the revenue demand. But enslavement was not generally so voluntary as even this. Habib remarks that ``Villages, we are told, which owing to some shortage of produce, are unable to pay their full amount of the revenue-farm, are made prize, so to speak, by their masters and governors and their wives and children sold on the pretext of a charge of rebellion.’’. He also points out the fate of the peasants thus enslaved,``They (the peasants) are carried off, attached to heavy iron chains, to various markets and fairs (to be sold), with their poor unhappy wives behind them, carrying their small children in their arms, all crying and lamenting their evil plight.’’ p. 370, 
Habib further points out that failure to pay revenue was not the only cause for which such harsh punishment like slavery was inflicted on the peasants. The generally accepted law in the Mughal Empire stated that, if any robbery occurred within the assignment or jurisdiction, respectively of a jagirdar or a faujdar, he was obliged to trace the culprits and recover the loot or make the restitution himself. However, this was often not an unwelcome duty for the official, since it offered the potentates an excuse to sack any village they chose to suspect. p. 370, . The men were killed in such cases, says Mundy, and ``the rest, with women and children, are carried away and sold for Slaves.’’ p. 370, . Abul Fazl states, ``Many evil hearted, avaricious men, either merely from ill founded suspicions, or only from a false imputation of disloyalty or because of their greed, make their way to the villages and mahals of the countrymen, and put them to sack. On being questioned, they offer a thousand excuses and attempt delay or evasion’’ p. 371, .
The most poignant narrative comes from Khafi Khan, who wrote about the state of the peasantry in the declining days of the Mughal Empire. In 1731, Khafi Khan wrote about the state of the peasantry, ``It is clear to the wise and the experienced that now, according to the ways of the time, thoughtfulness in managing the affairs of state, (and the practice of) protecting the peasantry and encouraging the prosperity of the country and increase in produce, have all departed. Revenue collectors, who take revenues on farm, having spent considerable amounts in the imperial court (to obtain it), proceed to the mahals and become a scourge for the revenue paying peasantry. … Since they have no confidence that they will be confirmed in their office next year, nay, even for the whole of the current year, they seize both parts of the produce [the state’s share as well as the peasant’s] and sell them away. It is a God fearing man, indeed, who limits himself to this and does not sell away the bullocks and carts (of the peasants) on which the tillage depends, or not contenting himself with extorting the amount of his expenses at the court, of the troopers, and of the deficit on his pledge, does not sell away whatever remains with the peasantry, down to the fruit-bearing trees and their proprietary and hereditary (rights in) land. … Many parganas and townships, which used to yield full revenue, have, owing to the oppression of the men in authority, been so far ruined and devastated that they have become forests infested by lions and tigers; and the villages are so utterly ruined and desolate that there is no sign of habitation on the routes. Although from greed and the ways of these evil times, the country becomes devastated every day, and peasants are crushed by the oppression and cruelty of the ill-fated revenue collectors, (while) the jagirdars have to bear the scourge of the groans of the women and the children of the oppressed peasants, the cruelty, oppression and injustice of the officials have no thought of God, has reached such a degree that if one wishes to describe a hundredth part of it, it will still defy description.’’ pp. 372-373, . It is perhaps important to remark here that the tax farmers were either moneylenders themselves, or used to get their resources for their initial expenses from big moneylenders, who used to recover their profits from the looting of the peasantry.
The state of the peasants which has been described above in the Mughal Empire, holds even truer for the Nawabs of Awadh and Rohillas. While the Rohillas lavished great care on the merchants, on the other hand, the Hindu farmers had been used to seeing their homes destroyed and their lands laid waste in every dry season under the Rohillas. p. 278,  Hamilton confirms this point stating that, ``The Hindoo farmers and other original inhabitants of the country groaned under the worst species of military vassalage; whilst the upstart Mussulman despots who held them in subjection, were, by their perpetual feuds, disabled, as we have seen, from affording them the smallest protection against armies of barbarous marauders, who every year spread their devastations among them, almost without resistance.’’ p. 208, 
In Awadh, murder of peasants for gain and even the spoilage of the land itself were common. A small instance narrated by Sleeman provides an insight into what the peasants suffered in Awadh. He states that Ghoolam Huzrut took possession of the small estate of Golha, turning out its proprietor Bhowanee Sing, a Rathore Rajput. Bhowanee Sing was re-established there by the next contractor after Aga Ahmud, Giridhara Sing, but the village was attacked by Huzrut with a gang of ruffians. He killed five of Bhowanee Sing’s family, burnt down his home, turned out the family of Bhowanee Sing, and took the village under his `protection’. He also took the entire autumn crops of the village and cut down sixty mango trees planted by Bhowanee Sing’s family. p. 21, .
Section D.3: Famines
It was the poor who were the worst affected during famines. And in Mughal India, with the bulk of the surplus drained from the peasant by the ruling classes, he was left with a bare minimum for his own needs. With all the surplus produce seized, a single bad year could mean the end of the peasantry of the region. Irfan Habib points out that Mughal officials and merchants tended to make famines worse by their extortions of the common folk during times of scarcity. While Mughal emperors often abolished transit and customs duties during famines, the officials in famine hit areas would often extort merchants and the merchants themselves would pass on the costs (along with likely trying to maximise their profits) to their customers. p. 74, . And in Mughal India, right from the initial days, there was a lot of famine.
Right at the beginning of Akbar’s reign, in 1554-1556, there was a massive famine. It ravaged `all the eastern parts of Hind’ p. 113, , particularly the territories around Agra, Delhi and Bayana. People died in groups and the dead received `neither graves, nor coffins’ p. 113, . `The common people lived on the seeds of Egyptian thorn, wild dry grass and cowhides.’ p. 113, , states Badlauni, who claims to be an eyewitness to cannibalism and also that the rebels (mostly famished farmers) plundered Muslim towns. Agra was also desolated with only a few homes remaining. p. 113, 
In just the area of (current) Uttar Pradesh, at least several serious famines have been reported in the Mughal times. A serious famine and bubonic plague in Delhi and the Ganga Jamuna Doab in 1613-1615 was reported, followed by Bubonic plague in 1615-1616.] p. 115,  Another major famine reported in Agra in 1644. p. 117,  A second serious famine was reported in Agra in 1646, p. 118, . In 1650, `a dearth of corne’ was reported in Awadh, and the scarcity of corn also affected all the country between Ahmedabad and Agra. p. 118, . Starting in 1658, scarcity of foodgrains was felt acutely in Delhi and Agra for the first four-five years of Aurangzeb’s reign] pp. 118-119, . In 1670, an acute famine from west of Benares to Rajmahal in 1670 has been recorded. We have eyewitness accounts of how multitudes perished on the routes to and in Patna. In Patna itself, 90,000 were estimated to have died. Marshall wrote that, ``the townes near Patna, some quite depopulated, having not any persons in them.’’ p. 119, . In 1755, there was a massive famine in Mewat and the adjoining areas of the Upper and Central Doab. p. 78, . Finally, in 1782-84, there was the huge Chalisa famine that affected most of the country, including current Uttar Pradesh. p. 90, .
Irfan Habib points out the effect of and the extent of the distress imposed by the famines on the common people. While years of large scale mortality due to drought might have been few, the magnitude of the depopulation when the famines struck a region seriously would have been utterly frightful. Not only did the people die of starvation, but also did they fall victim to all kinds of pestilence, particularly the dreaded plague, which followed even in the wake of lesser scarcities, since the peasants’ share of his own produce had been reduced to the barest minimum. Apart from death, there were many other miseries and indignities which famines heaped upon the peasant masses. Their consumption, already reduced to bare necessities, fell dangerously below the necessary level of subsistence. With no foodgrains left to consume, we have occasionally a glimpse of what they were forced to eat in times of dearth. Fryer considered it an accepted fact that ``(in Great Scarcity), Grass roots (became) the common Food of the ordinary people.’’ Habib also remarks that ``the wasted fields drove peasants from their homes to seek sustenance in distant lands and each scarcity was marked by a phenomenal glut in the slave market.’’ p. 122, 
The Indic mercantile structure that facilitated the Islamist rule in the region that is current Uttar Pradesh ushered in the next imperialist successor, the East India Company when it suited their mercantile interests. We conclude by briefly pointing out the role played by the mercantile houses of North India in ushering in the rule of the English East India Company. It were the Jagat Seths and the Aminchands who brought in the East India Company rule in Bengal after facilitating the Nawabi rule there . We now briefly focus on the role of the merchants of North and West India stationed in North India in ushering in the British Imperialist rule through the East India Company.
In the Benares region, many of the Naupatti had started building bridges with the English East India Company. Bayly points out that during the 1760s, one of the senior members of the Naupatti Sabha, Lala Ami Chand, who was also chief of the city's Purbiye Agarwal community, cooperated with an East India Company Factory in Benares p. 231, . The deep links that the big merchant families had forged with the Islamic aristocracy of Afghanistan and North India stood the Europeans in good stead too. Through the offices of the Naupatti merchants, the Europeans were able to tap into a vast network of transactions in precious stones which extended from Afghanistan to Hyderabad but centred on Benares. Bayly remarks that, ``Lala Kashmiri Mull of a Khattri family, which had strong North-western connections, and Khub Chand, a Jain who was one of the major property owners of Benaras, dominated the trade in precious stones there. Kashmiri Mull's house was treasurer of the company and creditor to the Maharaja.’’ pp. 231-232, .
The financial assistance of the merchants of North India played a very important role in the expansion of the East India Company. We learn from Bayly: ``The most notable example of dependence was the manner in which the Company's own commercial interests throughout northern and western India relied on the good offices of the Hindustani banking houses. The Company commercial agents who purchased cloth and saltpetre at Patna or sugar and cloth at Ghazipur were as indebted to them for the supply of ready money as the first generation of revenue officers. The situation did not become much easier even when formal British control of the region was asserted. As late as 1796, the Ghazipur Commercial Agent was suggesting that Gopal Das Kothi should remain the 'sole channel' for cash payments for saltpetre and indigo purchases to avoid making his own office into a kind of bank, for which he had no facilities. Nor was the relationship simply between the Company agent and the banker. In fact, the intermediate purchasing merchants through whom the Company dealt were debtors or relations of the great firms’’ pp. 232-233, . We learn from Bayly as to how the exact same structure that helped the Muslim rulers continue in power ushered in the next Imperial power as well: `` In several ways, the East India Company was a direct beneficiary of the fiscal relations which had been created between the Indian principalities and the capital-owning corporations. As we have seen, Indian Bankers had made bridging loans to the rulers in the form of advances on the revenue (dakhillas) and these had been accepted almost as a currency in their own right. The British inherited this system in Benares, though during the 1770s and 1780s both Fowke and Duncan attempted to reduce their dependence. The connection between North Indian capital and the company was strengthened by a series of government loans issues which took place in the 1790 s and early 1800s. Depending on the urgency with which the Company needed money, these were made at 5, 7 + 12 per cent per annum. The loans became increasingly important as a matter of funding military activity in the heyday of Cornwallis's and Wellesley's expansion, but they can also be considered as an indirect subsidy to Company trade through Calcutta since the surplus in Company treasuries in Bengal and Benares was regularly used for purchasing the annual 'investment' in cloths, salt and saltpetre. Again, the Company worked closely with Indian corporate institutions. The resident approached the head of the Naupatti Sabha in Benares, while in Lucknow an attempt was made in 1791 to tap the large supply of funds in the hands of smaller merchants.’’ p. 233, . In fact, in Benares, one of the British residents' most important contacts in the business world was Aret Ram Tiwari, gomashta of the Benares firm of Arjunji Nathji. The firm of Arjunji nathji had been working with the East India Company in Surat since the 1750s p. 239, 
Naturally, the mercantile collaborators of the East India Company reaped heavy rewards for furthering the interests of the interests of the East India Company. Bayly has documented: ``Between 1790 and 1820, three great houses of Agarwal and Bhargava merchants from Rajasthan and Hariana respectively were allowed to gain control of the majority of government treasuries throughout the provinces. The British government was effectively contracting-out its fiscal business to the Indian trader. .. The bankers received the honor of the title of treasurer (khazanchi) and a whole range of new clients among the zamindars who paid their money into the collectorate’’ p. 217, . And, the story of this treason, as also that of the atrocities heaped by the East India Company on hapless Indic commoners, will continue in our subsequent series. Stay tuned.
 Irfan Habib, ``The Agrarian System of Mughal India’’
 WH Sleeman, ``A Journey through the Kingdom of Oude, in 1849-1850’’
 Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, Kirtivardhan Dave, Aparna, ``Indic mercantile collaboration with Abrahamic invaders’’ https://www.myind.net/indic-mercantile-collaboration-abrahamic-invaders
 RC Majumdar, ``History and Culture of the Indian People’’, Vol. 6 (Delhi Sultanate)
 Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, Kirtivardhan Dave, Aparna, ``Islamic rulers and Indic big merchants - partnerships and collaboration’’ https://www.myind.net/islamic-rulers-and-indic-big-merchants-partnerships-and-collaborations
 Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, Kirtivardhan Dave, Aparna, `` How Muslim rulers economically exploited underclass and appeased merchants ‘’ https://www.myind.net/how-muslim-rulers-economically-exploited-underclass-and-appeased-merchants
 Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, Kirtivardhan Dave, Aparna, `` Institutionalized Slavery in Muslim Regimes and Indic Mercantile Complicity’’ https://www.myind.net/Home/viewArticle/institutionalized-slavery-muslim-regimes-and-indic-mercantile-complicity
 Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, Kirtivardhan Dave, and Aparna, ``Indifference and exemption of Indic merchants to religious persecution of the rest of the populace by Muslim invaders’’ https://www.myind.net/Home/viewArticle/indifference-and-exemption-of-indic-merchants-to-religious-persecution-of-the-rest-of-the-populace-by-muslim-invaders
 Kirtivardhan Dave, Shanmukh, Aparna, Dikgaj, Saswati Sarkar and Dikgaj, ``Mercantile Collaboration in Different Regions – Gujarat’’,
 RC Majumdar, ``History and Culture of the Indian People’’ Vol. 8 (Maratha Supremacy).
 Ashirbadi Lal Shrivastava, ``The First Two Nawabs of Awadh’’
 Surya Narain Singh, ``The Kingdom of Awadh’’
 Elliot, ``Life of Hafiz ool Moolk, Hafiz Ahmed Khan’’
 Charles Hamilton, ``Historical Relation of the Origin, Progress and Final Dissolution Government of Rohilla Afgans in the Northern Provinces of Hindostan’’
 Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, Aparna and Kirtivardhan Dave, ``The exploitation of commons through Islamist-Indic mercantile collusion in Bengal’’,
 Brijendra Mohan Shankhdher, ``Sambhal – a Historical Survey’’
 Bayly, ``Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars in the Age of British Expansion’’
 Shahequah Ahmed, ``Aspect of urbanisation, commercial and cultural growth during 18th century North India: A Case Study of Rohailkhand'', Ch. 6.
 National Archives of India, Oriental Records Division, no. 3
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 EI Brodkin, "Proprietary Mutations and tiie Mutiny in Rohilkhand", Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 28(4), (1969)
 Muhammad Mustajab, ``Gulistan’’
 Capt. H. Yule, ``Report upon a Project for a Railway in Rohilkund’’, (n.p., 1855)
 Shireen Moosvi, ``People, Taxation and Trade in Mughal India’’