Early Trends of Anti-colonial Peasant Resistance in Bengal
THE FORMAT of this paper is exploratory in nature. We would submit a tentative suggestion for explicating certain trends of anti-colonial peasant resistance in Bengal during the second half of the 18th century. The paper shall be divided into three sections : (i) the main character of early colonial impact under the English East India Company, (ii) a selective description of peasant insurgency from some well-known anti-colonial movements and (iii) complexities involved in formulation of general trends of early peasant resistance. Though the paper may inherently suffer from a number of shortcomings, we shall try to carve out a delimited theme for discussion rather than go out for more vulnerable generalisations on a massive and flamboyant scale.
Any formulapon on the perspective of anti-colonial character of peasant resistance during the British rule should begin with a resume of the basic economic changes which started taking shape in Bengal and elsewhere after the introduction of colonial rule of the East India Company from 1757 onwards. There were different phases of colonial impact and the basic economic changes asumed various dimensions accordingly. Our discussion, as already mentioned, would be limited to the intial 'mercantilist phase of the late 18th century when an increased revenue from new colonial acquisition was essentially considered as a larger mercantile capital. The first reaction of the Court of Directors to the news of assumption ofdiwani in 1765 was to ask the Company in Bengal "to enlarge every channel for conveying to us as early as possible the annual produce of our acquisitions" and "to increase the investment of your Company to the utmost extent you can".
It is now generally recognised that the main thrust of the East India Company, particularly after the assumption of diwani in 1765, was to enhance the land revenue of Bengal which was essential for financing one-wav export trading and administrative expenses of the Company. Between 1765 and 1784, the collection of land revenue was increased from Rs. 6.5 million to Rs. 26 million.' Till 1757, the English traders were obliged to bring bullion to India, as Indian coiton and silk goods had a flourishing market in
* Sociol6gical Research Unit, Statistical Institute .Cateutt&r