Monday 24 June 2013

When Madras wanted a piece of Bangalore and whole of Mysore

Many Bangaloreans, including hordes of computer geeks and software experts, aver that the City has gained recognition in the world for its booming IT and fledging BT industries.
Industry experts and even the State Government brandish statistics to show to the world Bangalore’s image as the IT hub of India and Asia and also as one of the leading software centres in the world.
However, what many conveniently forget is that Bangalore is one of those cities that were known both in India and even abroad centuries before the advent of industrialisation in India.
The story of  Bangalore’s recognition as a strategic, military, social and industrial hub begins towards the fag end of the  eighteenth century when the British killed Tipu Sultan in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore war of 1799.
The British initially established their garrison in the island fortress of Srirangapatna. But soon, mosquitoes and epidemics did what Tipu failed to do: they dislodged the British and made them run away from Srirangapatna. The British then zeroed in on Bangalore.
Finding Bangalore more like “a spot of England”, the British decided to set up the largest Cantonment in south India in Bangalore.
The beginning of Cantonment was from 1809 and in just a few years, it soon outstripped Bangalore Pettah in both area and population and of course trade and commerce. What began as a garrison soon took on a new hue as a huge and sprawling metropolis peopled by almost all communities, including Kannadigas, Tamlians, Telugu, Maratha, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and of course Britishers.
Initially, the administration of both the Civil and Military areas remained with the Mysore Government. However, in 1811, the Madras Government (East India Company) asked Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III to transfer the civil and criminal jurisdiction over the assigned areas to them. Thus the British compelled the Mysore Government to transfer administrative powers for the Cantonment tracts to them. The Cantonment then embraced more than 9000 acres of land.
While the area of Cantonment remained at 12½ sq miles and the Maharaja refused to assign more lands or draw a permanent boundary, that of Bangalore town grew every decade. Yet, it was only in the mid 1920s that the population of Bangalore Pettah outstripped that of Cantonment which came to be known as the Civil and Military Station.
Every dignitary who came to Mysore, be it a Maharaja or an East India Company officer or British citizen, like Thomas Macaulay, came to Bangalore and enjoyed the salubrious climate.
Very soon, the Cantonment became a model British township. It had huge bungalows, military barracks, polo grounds, business and military establishments, churches, lakes and tanks.
Many Governors-General of India who visited Mysore also came to Bangalore and were charmed by our City’s climate, which they found so refreshingly similar to that of England. The sweltering heat of Madras, then the seat of power of  East India Company, was a sharp and discordant contrast to the cool and naturally air-conditioned environs of Bangalore.
Bangalore was also strategically located and was easily accessible from Madras and Hyderabad provinces or the Baramahal areas directly administered by the British after the bifurcation of the Mysore Kingdom in 1799.
With Bangalore transforming itself  into a major garrison centre and the playfield of British and Europeans, trade and commerce too grew alongside education.         
The rapid growth of Bangalore led to the then Governor-General of India, Lord William Bentinck (1833-1836)  to write a secret letter to the Directors of East India Company on April 4, 1834, suggesting that Bangalore and surrounding areas be permanently ceded to the British Government.
The letter was kept a closely guarded secret and Bentinck wanted Bangalore to be made the capital of south India. He not only refers to the salubrious climate of Bangalore but also its vantage position in the Deccan.
Though the letter was well received, the directors choose not to press the Mysore Maharaja on the issue. The directors realized that the entire administration of the princely state of Mysore had come under the British after 1831 and they thought no purpose would be served  if  they went ahead with the full and complete bifurcation of Bangalore and surrounding areas from the Kingdom.
By then, Bangalore had become the capital of the Kingdom and Mysore continued only as the headquarters of the Wodeyars. The British then continued to nurture Bangalore and the office of the Commissioner which later became the office of the Resident of Mysore too was shifted from Mysore to Bangalore.
Bangalore Cantonment came directly under the rule of the Commissionerate whose office too was in Bangalore.
Even after Bentinck’s plan of taking over Bangalore directly under the British fold failed, The Chief Commissioners Bowring made frantic and repeated efforts to ensure that Mysore became a province of the British Empire and that the Kingdom would never be given back to the Wodeyars. In this, Bowring was aided substantially by the Madras Government which desperately wanted Mysore to come under its jurisdiction.
In 1861, the foreign office of  the British India Government fell into the trap laid by the Madras Government and handed over overall charge of Mysore State, including Bangalore to it. The Madras Government drew up plans to integrate Mysore State with it. However, protests by the Maharaja and the resignation of the then Commissioner Mark Cubbon who protested against the move, led to the Governor-General quickly withdrawing the order.
Several British officers and the Madras Government then began persuading the Maharaja to bequeath the state to the British. The Maharaja enlisted the help and support of liberals and the intelligentsia to get back his Kingdom. Their pressure on the British Government in England and the local campaign in the Mysore State forced the British not to annexe Mysore. The raging debate in England over the unfair manner in which the Maharaja had been made to hand over the reigns of administration of  the Kingdom also stalled the British and Madras Government desire for making Bangalore a part of their province.
However, all the British plans came to naught in 1881 when the British were forced to return the Kingdom they had so unfairly taken from the Wodeyars. The Madras Government too backed down and it was made to eat humble pie. Infact, the entire rendition-takeover of Mysore state by the British-was a carefully devised strategy by the Madras Government to wrest control of Mysore.
The Madras Government had deliberately misled and lied to the office of the Governor-General stating that Mysore had defaulted on payment of annual amount as part of the subsidiary alliance. The Madras Government deceived Lord Bentinck so thoroughly on the issue that he ordered the take over. It was only when the accounts were examined, it was found that Mysore had never defaulted on the payment.
When Bentinck realised the truth, it was too late. He then immediately wrote to the Directors of the East India Company and suggested that the Kingdom be returned, the Directors thought it fit to ensure that the British ruled Mysore for sometime before handing it back.
Till his death, Bentinck had only one regret. He repeatedly said that the only mistake he had ever made in India was to listen to the Madras Government and take over the administration of Mysore. Need more to be said on the issue. We rest the case here itself.       
Today’s generation have forgotten this story. They have also perhaps forgotten that before Bangalore was known as the IT capital, it was the hub of manufacturing industry and the city with the most number of public sector units. It was also well-known for its textiles and trading.          

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