Rambles and recollections of an Indian official!
Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B.
Murder of Mr. Fraser, and Execution of the Nawāb Shams-ud-dīn
At Palwal Mr. Wilmot and Mr. Wright, who had come on business, and Mr. Gubbins, breakfasted and dined with us. They complained sadly of the solitude to which they were condemned, but admitted that they should not be able to get through half so much business were they placed at a large station, and exposed to all the temptations and distractions of a gay and extensive circle, nor feel the same interest in their duties, or sympathy with the people, as they do when thrown among them in this manner.
To give young men good feelings towards the natives, the only good way is to throw them among them at those out-stations in the early part of their career, when all their feelings are fresh about them. This holds good as well with the military as the civil officer, but more especially with the latter.
A young officer at an outpost with his corps, or part of it, for the first season or two, commonly lays in a store of good feeling towards his men that lasts him for life; and a young gentleman of the Civil Service lays in, in the same manner, a good store of sympathy and fellow feeling with the natives in general.
Mr. Gubbins is the Magistrate and Collector of one of the three districts into which the Delhi territories are divided, and he has charge of Fīrōzpur, the resumed estate of the late Nawāb Shams-ud-dīn, which yields a net revenue of about two hundred thousand rupees a year.
I have already stated that this Nawāb took good care that his Mewātī plunderers should not rob within his own estate; but he not only gave them free permission to rob over the surrounding districts of our territory, but encouraged them to do so, that he might share in their booty.
He was a handsome young man, and an extremely agreeable companion; but a most unprincipled and licentious character. No man who was reputed to have a handsome wife or daughter was for a moment safe within his territories. The following account of Mr. William Fraser's assassination by this Nawāb may, I think, be relied upon.
The Fīrōzpur Jāgīr was one of the principalities created under the principle of Lord Cornwallis's second administration, which was to make the security of the British dominions dependent upon the divisions among the independent native chiefs upon their frontiers. The person receiving the grant or confirmation of such principality from the British Government 'pledged himself to relinquish all claims to aid, and to maintain the peace in his own possessions.'
Fīrōzpur was conferred by Lord Lake, in 1805, upon Ahmad Baksh, for his diplomatic services, out of the territories acquired by us west of the Jumna during the Marāthā wars. He had been the agent on the part of the Hindoo chiefs of Alwar in attendance upon Lord Lake during the whole of that war. He was a great favourite, and his lordship's personal regard for him was thought by those chiefs to have been so favourable to their cause that they conferred upon him the 'pargana' of Lohārū in hereditary rent-free tenure.
In 1822, Ahmad Baksh declared Shams-ud-dīn, his eldest son, his heir, with the sanction of the British Government and the Rājās of Alwar. In February, 1825, Shams-ud-dīn, at the request of his father, by a formal deed assigned over the pargana of Lohārū as a provision for his younger brothers by another mother, Amīn-ud-dīn and Ziā- ud-dīn; and in October 1826 he was finally invested by his father with the management; and the circumstance was notified to the British Government, through the Resident at Delhi, Sir Charles Metcalfe. Ahmad Baksh died in October, 1827.
Disputes soon after arose between the brothers, and they expressed a desire to submit their claims to the arbitration of Sir Edward Colebrooke, who had succeeded Sir Charles Metcalfe in the Residency of Delhi. He referred the matter to the Supreme Government; and by their instructions, under date 11th of April, 1828, he was authorized to adjust the matter.
He decided that Shams-ud-dīn should make a complete and unencumbered cession to his younger brothers of the pargana of Lohārū, without the reservation of any right of interference in the management, or of any condition of obedience to himself whatever; and that Amīn-ud-dīn should, till his younger brother came of age, pay into the Delhi treasury for him the annual sum of five thousand two hundred and ten rupees, as his half share of the net proceeds, to be there held in deposit for him; and that the estate should, from the time he came of age, be divided between them in equal shares. This award was confirmed by Government; but Sir Edward was recommended to alter it for an annual money payment to the two younger brothers, if he could do so with the consent of the parties.
The pargana was transferred, as the money payment could not be agreed upon; and in September Mr. Martin, who had succeeded Sir E. Colebrooke, proposed to Government that the pargana of Lohārū should be restored to Shams-ud-dīn in lieu of a fixed sum of twenty-six thousand rupees a year to be paid by him annually to his two younger brothers. This proposal was made on the ground that Amīn-ud-dīn could not collect the revenues from the refractory landholders (instigated, no doubt, by the emissaries of Shams-ud-dīn), and consequently could not pay his younger brother's revenue into the treasury.
In calculating the annual net revenue of 10,420 rupees, 15,000 of the gross revenue had been estimated as the annual expenses of the mutual [sic] establishments of the two brothers. To the arrangement proposed by Mr. Martin the younger brothers strongly objected; and proposed in preference to make over the pargana to the British Government, on condition of receiving the net revenue, whatever might be the amount. Mr. Martin was desired by the Governor-General to effect this arrangement, should Amīn-ud-dīn appear still to wish it; but he preferred retaining the management of it in his own hands, in the hope that circumstances would improve.
Shams-ud-dīn, however, pressed his claim to the restoration of the pargana so often that it was at last, in September, 1833, insisted upon by Government, on the ground that Amīn-ud-dīn had failed to fulfil that article of the agreement which bound him to pay annually into the Delhi treasury 5,210 rupees for his younger brother, though that brother had never complained; on the contrary, lived with him on the best possible terms, and was as averse as himself to the retransfer of the pargana, on condition that they gave up their claims to a large share of the movable property of their late father, which had been already decided in their favour in the court of first instance.
Mr. W. Fraser, who had succeeded to the office of Governor-General's representative in the Delhi Territories, remonstrated strongly against this measure; and wished to bring it again under the consideration of Government; on the grounds that Ziā-ud-dīn had never made any complaint against his brother Amīn-ud-dīn for want of punctuality in the payment of his share of the net revenue after the payment of their mutual establishments; that the two brothers would be deprived by this measure of an hereditary estate to the value of sixty thousand rupees a year in perpetuity, burthened with the condition that they relinquished a suit already gained in the court of first instance, and likely to be gained in appeal, involving a sum that would of itself yield them that annual sum at the moderate interest of 6 per cent.
The grounds alleged by him were not considered valid, and the pargana was made over to Shams-ud-dīn. The pargana now yields 40,000 rupees a year, and under good management may yield 70,000.
At Mr. Fraser's recommendation, Amīn-ud-dīn went himself to Calcutta, and is said to have prevailed upon the Government to take his case again into their consideration. Shams-ud-dīn had become a debauched and licentious character; and having criminal jurisdiction within his own estate, no one's wife or daughter was considered safe; for, when other means failed him, he did not scruple to employ assassins to effect his hated purposes, by removing the husband or father.
Mr. Fraser became so disgusted with his conduct that he would not admit him into his house when he came to Delhi, though he had, it may be said, brought him up as a child of his own; indeed he had been as fond of him as he could be of a child of his own; and the boy used to spend the greater part of his time with him.