Surat: Fall of a Port, Rise of a Prince: Defeat of the East India Company in the House of Commons
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The ships of the English East India Company first docked at India’s shores in Surat in the early 17th century. In time, the Company through astute politics and superior naval power would become masters of this great port, but not with the objective of building on its legacy as India’s emporia of maritime trade but with the single minded goal of destroying its trading prowess. And they did this by overcoming the local princes and fostering corrupt practices. By 1800 the port had been completely annexed and a Treaty signed with the Nawab that would guarantee his family’s security from generation to generation. But the Company violated the treaty by stopping the family’s income, usurping the palaces, estates, jewellery and all that was part of the private estates of the Nawab, leaving the infant granddaughters of the last Nawab on the brink of destitution.
In a riveting counterattack Meer Jafar Ali Khan, father of the two infant girls stood to defy an Empire and expose the corrupt practices of the Company in Victorian England. Spearheading a legal offensive that would shatter the Company’s reputation, Meer Jafar Ali Khan’s campaign for justice generated great heat and debate in British Parliament. Fighting against all odds this prince won it all back for his daughters and found true love in Victorian England.



Publié par
Date de parution 08 février 2018
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9788193600931
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 5 Mo

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Dedicated to my daughters Aara and Zohaa
And in memory of Meer Jafar Ali Khan’s epic struggle against The English East India Company to safeguard the birthrights of his daughters.
Meer Jafar Ali Khan was the Last Custodian of the House of Surat and the Ruling Darbar Shree of Kamandiyah State in Kathiawar, Gujarat. The English East India Company did not officially bestow the title of Nawab of Surat on him. After 1842 the title was extinguished and never restored to any individual.
So Deeply Coveted
Deceit, Blood, Desperation – and the Port Falls
The Prince, and an Alliance to Safeguard
The Challenge, and Beginning of the Rise
A Divided England
Courage and the Chosen Battleground
Heat in Parliament
Taking Leave
Select Bibliography
Photo Credits
The city of London today. Such energy and diversity that if a question is asked of it, one would get varying answers and you can then take a pick. I am grateful to the city for re-igniting in me the love for history. While I have been utterly fascinated by the subject, it was London that gave me the platform and means to pursue this subject and make it a passion. I am thankful to the librarians of the British Library at Kings Cross and in particular the India Office Records in that library. Not only do the staff maintain research and reading material with obsessive care and vigilance, ensuring the library is a temple of knowledge, but they are also devoted custodians of an environment that is conducive to academic study and writing. The accurate collection of research data is the key when writing history. The vast amount of documents, manuscripts and letters I was able to unearth relating to the English East India Company’s dealings in Surat and with the Nawab family at the British Library proved invaluable. The Asiatic Library in Mumbai also proved to be a place of great importance in the pursuance of writing the book.
I thank Jessica Douglas-Home for her belief in the story and continuous urging to ‘keep writing’. Her wonderful country home, ‘Knights Mill,’ in Gloucestershire, where I was able to lock myself away on so many occasions and write uninterrupted proved to be a great haven. Luke Douglas-Home whose friendship has come to mean much. He was the first to read the draft and in his typical style sent an email which had just two alphabets to it – ‘V.G.’ It meant very good. Thomas Gibson who tirelessly spoke about the publishing world and how I should approach it. His insights were most helpful. His belief in the subject and story were unwavering.
Dave Cazalet, for his energy. His introduction to David Campbell ensured a meeting with Charlie Campbell a highly reputable literary agent who bravely took up my manuscript, read it front to back and became my agent in London. I am also grateful to Charlie for offering me the opportunity to net at Lords with the ‘Authors Cricket Team’ of which he is captain. Richard Kelly for painstakingly editing my first draft and guiding me through this effort. His insights on how to keep the narrative tight and impactful have been immensely helpful. I am grateful for the warm friendship of Jojo and Jonathan Hull. Their lovely home in Oxfordshire proved to be a great refuge to wander the fields and think.
I thank my publisher Roli Books and in particular Priya Kapoor. On a visit to London she brought me a wonderful painting of the Surat Castle which an ancestor had once held. Priya on hearing my story immediately agreed to publish my yet to be completed work and she kept her word. I am grateful to Ashlesha Khurana of the Times of India Surat edition who organised my visits to the Surat Castle, the Portuguese, Dutch and English cemeteries and to the mausoleum of Meer Jafar Ali Khan and for the research material she provided.
My gratitude for my parents who have supported me in all endeavours grows constantly. I am thankful to my fiancé Leonie whose love and understanding has been so crucial for the completion of this book. Leonie, who works for Christie’s London heard me with great interest as I chased a portrait of an ancestor. Without her constant words of encouragement this book would not have emerged from mere thought and into bounded words.
Finally, thank you to my daughters who come to London every year and walk down Warwick Avenue with me. The street from where their ancestor launched the greatest legal offensive against the East India Company in Victorian England.
In 1856 as Hindustan was about to burst into flames against the oppression of the English East India Company, one Hindustani prince was on the verge of creating history in England. He had fearlessly led the greatest legal counter attack against the corporation on their home soil and in the House of Commons. In 1800 the East India Company had annexed Surat and signed a treaty with the Nawab. Ruthlessly, the treaty was violated by the Company leaving the Nawab’s descendants on the verge of destitution. Meer Jafar Ali Khan who was never officially bestowed with the title of Nawab of Surat (but carried his paternal title of Darbar Shree) had risen above the petty desire to claim ceremonial titles and devoted his struggle to ensure his girls had a future. A future that stood devastated at the hands of the Company. The East India Company in 1856 was the wealthiest colonising corporation in the world. It was at the forefront of Empire expansion. It had the most powerful stakeholders including prominent British MPs, Lords, Dukes, Earls and businessmen. Its army in Hindustan stood close to 300,000 making it the most powerful in the subcontinent. At the peak of its powers it faced the most unlikely adversary on its home turf in Meer Jafar Ali Khan who had given up all that he possessed in Hindustan to take the ‘good fight’ to Parliament.
Through his years of struggle in London Meer Jafar Ali Khan had come to occupy a unique position in Victorian England. While a steady flow of Hindustani princes came to England, some to enjoy the sights and sounds and others to just complain about the treatment they received at the hands of the Company without any strategic planning, Meer Jafar Ali Khan had over many years in England meticulously planned and mobilized the most powerful alliances in the British political establishment to challenge the injustice of the Company in Surat and particularly against his infant daughters. Voyaging twice to England, first in 1844 and then again in 1853, Meer Jafar Ali Khan went onto become one of the most well-known figures in Victorian England. Backed by the British press which addressed him as ‘Nawab’ and carried daily reports on him and his case, Meer Jafar Ali Khan strove tirelessly to achieve his goals. What made his character an utterly fascinating one was his tenacity in opposing the English East India Company’s injustice and malpractices in Surat, navigating the political divide in Victorian England towards the Company, masterfully crafting his arguments with the help of his allies, retaining his Hindustani identity in all the drama his case gener

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