Saturday, 8 June 2013

How Madras and Bowring strove to deny Wodeyars the Mysore Kingdom

When the British took over the administration of the Mysore Kingdom from 1831 to 1868, the Maharaja of Mysore became a mere puppet with absolutely no powers.
All the powers of the State were exercised by the Resident  or Commissioner of Mysore and the East India Company at Madras looked after the overall state of the Kingdom.
It was William Bentinck, the Governor-General of India, who recommended to the Board of Directors of the East India Company that Mysore be taken over and his recommendation was immediately accepted.
The Madras Government had in 1831 falsely represented to the British Government that the Mysore Kingdom had failed to pay the annual sum of Rs. 34,50,500 due to it. This amount had to be paid by Mysore every year as part  of the Subsidiary alliance that the kingdom was forced to enter into with the British after the death of Tipu Sultan in Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799.
The British had in 1799 reinstalled the five year-Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar to the throne of Mysore and even participated in his coronation in Nazarbad , Mysore.
Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar turned out to be a King among Kings. He had the welfare of the people at his heart and he undertook many developmental works. Unfortunately, the Nagar rebellion of 1803-31 not only shook the Wodeyars but also put the British n a fix.
Citing the non-payment of the annual tribute as a wrong, Bentinck recommended the takeover of the Kingdom and this was done immediately.  
When Bentinck decided to enforce the provisions of the Treaty and wrote to the Maharaja asking him to surrender the
administration of the State to the Company, the King did so without even a murmur. Ironically, the letter by Bentinck was handed over to the Maharaja when he was celebrating
the Dasara festivities in 1831.
The Maharaja, made no attempt to evade the letter or delay the handing over of the power. He handed over the reins of Government and a Commission of British Officers was established to administer the country in the King’s name.
When Bentinck had the Mysore accounts examined by the Accountant General, he was horrified to find that the Kingdom had been regularly paying the annual tribute though it was a heavy drain on its resources. He also found the charge of financial mismanagement of the state coffers levied by the Madras Government against Mysore to be flimsy and false.
Bentinck regretted his hasty action and more than once said in India and in England that this was the only act in India that he looked back upon with deep sorrow.
A gentleman, he acknowledged his error and placed it on record that he had been  “misled into hasty action by the exaggerated representations of the Madras Government.” He doubted the legality and justice of what he had done and suggested that three-fourths at least of the territories of Mysore should be immediately restored to the Maharaja and the remaining portion could be  temporarily retained as a guarantee for the subsidy.
However, the Court of Directors  of the East India Company did not agree with the proposal and they decided to go ahead with administering Mysore for some more time.  
Mysore continued to be in British hands till 1868. The Maharaja, till then, never kept quiet. He continued canvassing for the return of his kingdom and enlisted the services of many people, including Britishers. He write to the Governors-General who followed Bentinck and sought their good offices in the return of his Kingdom. Meanwhile, even public opinion began building up against the British and in favour of the Maharaja.
When Lewin Bentham Bowring took over as the Commissioner in 1863 from Mark Cubbon (1834-1863), he immediately found out that the King and his subjects were keen to see and end to British rule. He instantly and unfairly took a dislike to the King and made all efforts to see that the Kingdom was returned to the Maharaja.    
Throughout his tenure from 1863 to 1870, Browning spared no effort in trying to tarnish the image of the Maharaja. Even trivial events were exaggerated to deliberately portray the Maharaja in poor light.
Mr. Bowing paid his first formal visit to the Maharaja on April 30,
1862, and the description of  the escort he gives of it shows how deeply he was prejudiced against the King. He called the escort at best a “heterogeneous rabble draped in bright colors and adept at only making a noise.” He further remarked that by sending such an escort, the Maharaja had “done honor to himself”.
The grandson of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, who received Bowring at the Mysore palace, was “a loutish looking youth.
Bowring claimed that during the interview, the Maharaja only spoke about the injustice meted out to him and the Dewan looked terribly frightened and did his part “very badly. Bowring then pats himself on his back, saying “but the Commissioner, wise and sagacious man that he was, ., shook his heard like Lord Burleigh but did not commit himself to any opinion on the Maharaja’s opinion.”
Bowring’s pride and ego took a severe beating when he  found that the Maharaja did not consult him about the many steps he had taken for getting back his Kingdom. The Maharaja, by then had come to rely more heavily on Campell, his doctor and others.
Bowring then writes that when he heard of the exertions of the Maharaja, he sent for the Dewan Bakshi Narasappa and told him that “His Highness better make known all his wishes
through him (Bowring) to the Government.
In England too, public opinion was building up against the arbitrary action of the British in taking over the Mysore Kingdom.  
Liberal thinkers like John Stuart and John (later Viscount) Morley took up the matter with the British Government.
On his part, Bowring continued his tirade against the Maharaja and continued his petty ways. All this was of no avail when in 1868 the British handed back Mysore to Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
So much so for the Indian reverence to Bowring and the manner in which he is lionized in Bangalore as one of its modern builder. My simple point is this. If Indians can forget and forgive Bowring for stalling the transfer of power of the Mysore Kingdom and credit him with the development of Bangalore, why can’t they forget the shortcomings of Tipu Sultan and agree that he is a freedom fighter. To me, the way we look at both these personalities, it shows our double standards.

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