Friday, January 21, 2011

Panipat Revisited - Part 4 - The genesis of the problem

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Shuja of Lucknow participated in battle against Marathas for two reasons

1. Islamic brotherhood
2. Najib's threat of releasing abdali on Awadh

What marathas seriously misunderstood was rallying power of Islam as an idea and its efficacy in gangetic plains. The call of "Islam in danger" had no effect whatsoever on Telugu Ibrahimkhan Gardi who fought and died alongside Sadashivrao Bhau on the fields of Panipat. It had effect only on Muslims in Gangetic plains. This thing repeated during rise of Muslim leage in decade of 1940s. The idea of Pakistan did not have much support amongst Muslims in Punjab, Bengal and rest of India. It was primarily in Muslim majority districts of UP and Bihar.

Marathas considered Gangetic valley as temporarily fixed with bengal in disarray and friendly Shuja. 1755 OR 1756 to be more precise is the period of Adina Beg's idea of granting Punjab's rights to Marathas in exchange of their promise to protect Delhi from Pathans. This is when the lobbying and deliberations began. When capable people are at helm, they see things coming much earlier. In spite of whatever people say, Nanasaheb and Sadashivrao bhau were extremely capable administrators and statesmen. 

The problems for Marathas started in 1737, when Bajirao-1 conquered Delhi. It was his decision not to oust Mughal emperor. He should have made himself as king of delhi OR made shahu chhatrapati as Dillipati. This was the moment of choice. When Bajirao-1 decided to preserve Mughals for namesake, the die was cast. The alienation of Hindu kings (mentally) started from that moment itself. The emotional pull of idea of Shivaji's Hindavi swarajya ended with this choice of Peshwa.

Why did Marathas preserve Mughals?

The decision of preserving Mughal emperor for namesake is most intriguing of all the decisions of Marathas. If one starts blaming Marathas for that decision, one is intrigued that when staunchly anti-Mughal Sikhs conquered Delhi temporarily in 1770, even they did not choose to oust Mughal emperor and declared him titular head. Until 1803, Mughal emperor was titular head while living off the pension from Marathas. After 1803, the guardianship of Mughal emperor moved to East-India Company when even they continued this policy of Bajirao-1 Peshwa of keeping Mughal emperor as nominal head. 

Mughal Empire was non existent and in rapid decline since 1703 when Marathas crossed Narmada and conquered central India. Yet, Mughal dynasty continued to linger on till 1857 due to their preservation by Marathas and East India company respectively. Even while 1857's Indian war of independence, Nanasaheb -2 Peshwa and Tatya Tope tried to replicate similar model by naming old Bahadur Shah Zafar as titular head of independent India.

The Mughals had a large supporting networks in terms of marriage, shared unbroken blood lines and of course basic religious philosophical motivations with "all" the Islamic pieces of the Mughal empire which had survived despite the Mughal power falling. 

Once a power base is created, it is not merely the dynastic people at head, which as we see in case of last Mughals were personally vacuous and inept. It is the inertia of the mutually benefiting groups which continue to need the "name" to keep the network going.

The Maratha's chose to use the network to their advantage rather than pick a fight with everyone at once by breaking it -- of course in hindsight we know it is wrong decision -- and they should have made their own ideological allies -- but in reality could they? As a large centrist power whose cadre was drawn from ALL quarters?


The Summary

Having made the choice to preserve Delhi and Mughals in 1737, the requirement of Marathas in terms of "allies" changed. This is what culminated in their decisions in 20 years later. Those who could have been long term allies were alienated because of this decision. 

In changed scenario of requirements, the players who presented themselves as potential allies had their advantages and drawbacks.. Whilst Marathas appreciated the advantage of preserving mughals and hence support of shuja while ignoring Jats, they did not appreciate the drawback of the same. The context of this policy realignment in 1750s is in the decision of 1737..

Once they decided to preserve delhi (an inherently islamic power centre) the responsibility of preserving and protecting other allied islamic power-centres fell upon them too. This is the reason they could not eliminate Nizam of hyderabad, in spite of defeating him conclusively time and again. Najib was Persona non grata because he openly aspired to overthrow Mughals and sit on throne himself.

Marathas left deccan to overthrow Mughals. By the time they reached Delhi, they became protectors of Mughals. This was a "deal-breaker" for many other people (like Sikhs, Jats, Ahoms) who were fighting against Mughals previously.

10 comments:

Ace said...

You have mentioned two reasons for Shuja alligning with Abdali viz.
1. Islamic brotherhood
2. Najib's threat of releasing abdali on Awadh.
The first reason is unlikely as Shuja was very secular. He had hindu ministers like Kashirajpant (who was incidently a marathi settled in the north). One reason why Shuja may have joined Abdali could have been the help the Marathas gave Wazir Gaziuddin in ousting his father the earlier Wazir Safdarjang from the Mughal court.Shuja wanted revenge for his fathers humiliation. But again that dosent hold much water in real politik either.
The second reason put forth by you, seems more likely, as the Afghans were in proximity to Awadh and more likely to ravage the countryside (Marathas were across the Yamuna)lest Shuja didnt join their side.

Kal_Chiron said...

Its never one reason.. I said, Islam was one of the reasons. Those guys were politicians. They were reasonable enough not to support Abdali on the basis of Jehad alone.

What I said was, Jihad emerged as one of the very important factors, when Shuja was in two minds on whether to help marathas or not.

He could have stayed Neutral and called the bluff of najib and Abdali.. Abdali would never have risked opening a front in Awadh... A king capable of raising an army to help Afghans and pay lakhs of rupess per day to Abdali is a considerably powerful king.. he could have stayed neutral with minimal damage (in that time and place)..

Ace said...

We can only speculate ofcourse !
The call of Jehad (by Shah Waliullah) could have affected his muslim soldiers and even caused a internal rebellion. That could have been a factor. Shuja was a very deliberating king, not the one to be swayed by rhetoric of Najib,thats for sure!
I understand there was a rumour floated (true or otherwise) that Peshwa wanted to establish Vishwasrao on the throne of Delhi could that have been the factor? He may have been suspicious of Sadashivbhaus moves to capture the pilgrimage centres. Most of the temples were replaced by mosques. Reclaiming the pilgrimage places could have meant destruction of those mosques and re-supplanting them with temples.
As I said we can only guess!

Kal_Chiron said...

This post is primarily about ideological genesis of complications in North owing to policy of Marathas to preserve Mughals..

The Shia-Sunni tension between Najib and Shuja is important factor which resisted this alliance to form.. In spite of this, whatever happened, happened. what was the catalyst to "suture" this alliance? denying the effect of call of Shah Wali is ignoring the white elephant in the room..

I am not saying Shuja was personally swayed by argument, there is no way we can know this. But while studying the patterns of history (which is the purpose of this entire blog), what goes in book as observation? The observation is that "Islamic kings of Gangetic valley allied in spite of differences against Hindu Marathas with Afghan Abdali". The rallying of Islamic power centres in Ganga valley with "north-western power" is not new and a repeating pattern (recall partition of India).

Ace said...

But for that matter , there was no support forthcoming to the Marathas from the hindus either. The Rajputs abstained, as did the Jats and the Sikhs (fr various reasons). The fact of the matter is Marathas werent a particulary well liked force in the north. The Marathas werent considered united enough, nor trustworthy.
Its true they helped Safdarjung in warding off the Rohilla threat. But
later they sided with the same Najib Rohilla to replace Safdarjung (Shujas father) with Ghaziuddin. They tried to limit the influence of Surajmal in Delhi. Interfered unnecessarily in Rajput affairs. All this may also have prompted Shujas decision.
Also a king is as good as his army. If the army itself rebels in the name of islam , there is little a king can do. Shuja was definately shrewd enough to understand where the wind was blowing.
If Islam was such a rallying point, then would Ghaziuddin have supported the marathas? Ghaziuddin was no less cunning and ruthless. Dont forget he was the grandson of Nizam Imad ul mulk Chin Quilich Khan.
Emperors and kings have always used Islam as a rallying factor. But in their personal life were any of them true musalmans?
Barring Aurangzeb all lead a hedonistic lifestyle, murdered their own , lived lavishly at the cost of their subjects......

Kal_Chiron said...

you have reiterated my point succintly.. Islam (as an ideology) provides enough "space" for the leaders to mobilize people for a particular cause.

If we delve into question of "who is true Muslim" then we are into slippery zone. Wahabi Islam (which taliban practices) follows the most strict and literal interpretation of Quran. According to them, all Non-Wahabis are "lesser Muslims" and "Kaafirs(non-believers)". TO prove their argument, they cite reference from Quran.

Now, there is no Mullah/Qazi from other "sects" of Islam who has tried to "discredit" the Wahabi argument "technically". A mullah from Shia sect, deobandi, barelvi, Sufi has not dared to declare Wahabis as "Kafirs". Which somehow shows that mullahs of other sects know that "technically" it is impossible to defeat Wahabi Argument without modifying Quran. But Modifying Quran is not allowed, hence Wahabi argument continues to become stronger.

The reason I am stressing on Wahabi is because Mullah Sirhindi and Mullah Shahwaliullah were both followers of this school and grandson of Shahwali started the seminary at Deoband, thus continuing the thread of power-heritage.

There are many arguments presented in front of Shuja's mind to ponder, one of which is Islamic brotherhood. All these arguments (including the brotherhood one) played role.

Regarding observations,there are many..

1. Muslim powers of North allied with Pathans against Marathas.
2. Pathans and Mughals are traditional enemies (even today). Hence in changed times, Marathas and Mughals became friends against common enemy - Pathan (najib and abdali)
3. Hindus were fragmented in north with much lesser sense of "independence". This mentality is not seen in region to the south of Vindhya mountain (Gwalior). this tells lot about people. This also explains why there has been no emperor from "Magadha" since Harshavardhan. except 1857, Hindus from ganga valley never fought against any one and preferred "status quo". any one who disrupts that status quo, they resist - be it Marathas, British OR pathans.

Finally, King has to follow the wishes of populace and intelligentsia. Populace in turn is heavily influenced by "intelligentsia". With Mullahs like Sirhindi and waliullah vomitting venom against Hindus, how will the public opinion be ignored? A king then has to choose either to follow the wishes OR pacify the public opinion (by force OR peace). Shuja chose to follow.

India and "hindus" were in process of "mopping things up" in form of Maratha movement when British interfered with this process. Mopping includes cleaning the "ghettos" and the "Ghetto Mentality" using "Saam-Daan-Danda-Bhed".

So, Islam is not the "only factor", but one of the significant factors, nonetheless. The example of Panipat is still taught in Pakistan by their rabid mullahs (eg.Zaid Hamid) as event to motivate people religiously. This has been happening in "muslim ghettos" ever since.

History is not always about "how things were". It is also about "How people wish to perceive their past"? And these wishes can be engineered by means of Political conquests (which Marathas were carrying out).

Mughals are Mongols and are arch nemesis of Pathans. They took away India from Pathans on Panipat (1526), something which Pathan lobby never forgot. one has to view all the later Mughal-Maratha relations from this angle.

Kal_Chiron said...

It is true that Marathas were not "much liked" force in north.

But why?

One do not like someone else because that someone is working against the one.

So while studying "what went wrong", one has to think why was marathas disliked?

It is because they shifted the equilibrium and cause "discomfort" to established class in upper ganga valley (belonging to both religions). The point to ponder is, whether that disruption was "good for India (and the idea what she stands for) or not". If it is good, then "dislikes" of discomforted "bourgeois" class can be "ignored" to a point.

Of course an emperor who possess ambition and capability of establishing pan indian empire has to take care of all these parameters and at accordingly. Sometimes, mistakes happen and then Panipat happens. But then it is part of life.

The next question to ponder is, Why did Marathas have to loot so much in first place to generate revenue? What global picture prevented them from having enough money from taxes and trade-surplus (for which India was famous since ancient times)? They managed to rule India for 100 years, thus it shows that they were not mindless marauders but had a definite policy and overall, their rule was not "hated" by aam janta (as opposed to Aurangzeb).

Lets see when I get the answers for this question. Please contribute your thoughts too, they are most welcome..

Ace said...

In response to your question.... Why did Marathas have to loot so much in first place to generate revenue? What global picture prevented them from having enough money from taxes and trade-surplus (for which India was famous since ancient times)? ....
I would say that, Marathas were neither accomplished agriculturists (for varied reasons) nor good traders. Hence the finer points of finance always eluded them. Fiscal discipline was never one of the virtues of Marathas. Rather than spending money on irrigation,social welfare, they were often found squandering the same on religion (temples, alms fr brahmins etc). Also Marathas had by now got used to 'khandani' concept (extortion)and living by the sword.
After a few months of procastination, they used to venture out fr collection.
Also there was rivalry between marathas themselves. When one group paid off Holkar group, that group used to soon find that Shinde is at his doorstep. This happened between the Peshwas and Dabhade, Peshwas and Bhosale (Nagpur). Marathas had supported Safdarjung against the Rohillas only to dislodge him later for Ghaziuddin. There were many such instances. So Marathas were viewed as more of an unreliable and untrustworthy lot and could never command the kind of respect say the Rajputs commanded. Thats the bitter truth.

Kal_Chiron said...

partial reasons, IMO. writing an article on this. tried to answer your comment, but it became too big and blogger won't accept it. :P

It has to do with loss of India's control over international trade-routes due to negligence of mughals towards Naval capabilities of India, thereby creating a technological gap of 500 years in fields of shipbuilding and naval architecture, something which are not able to cover even today. All major shipping companies are european, and they control oil-economy :-)

secondly marathi is different from maratha. Maratha is a movement which drew its cadre from all sections of Indian society. even if marathi speaking section were not good traders (arbitrarily), there were other professionally good "Vaishya" class at the disposal of maratha policy makers to encourage and facilitate trade and generate revenue. yet, it could not be done because of lack of technology to venture out and trade while physically eliminating naval competitors.

Aneesh Gokhale said...

disagree abt a few point viz Marathas did not take Delhi.