Social Scientist. v 9, no. 97 (Aug 1980) p. 53.


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Permanent Settlement in Bihar

THE policy of ^amindari settlement by the East India Company in Bihar during the second half of the eighteenth century deserves serious probe as a measure of stability of British authority which-at the samc^ time, sharpened the contradiction between zamindars, and peasants. It is generally believed that the Company government recognized the acquisition of jagirs and ^amindaris through inheritance in Bihar.1 But in fact, it was the authority that such families had over the people, and not their hereditary claim, which induced the British power to recognize them as ^.amindars. In the present paper two selected cases of ^amindari settlement are discussed which prove the above contention and reflect the British attitude of institutionalizing the conflict between the two important social strata of Bihar.

In an agrarian society, rights in land constitute the main element of political system. The structure of such a society "reflects the way in which numerous interests are accommodated in a scale which reaches from the tiller of the soil to the highest authorities of the state."2 It has been further observed in the context of colonial rule in India that "landlord and tenant are the designations of such interests."3 It was the integration of these interests of ^amindars, tenants and state authority that came to be known as wmindari system which helped the colonial regime in our society for a considerable period of time. The integration of upper layers, namely, the state authority (alien to this land) and ^amindars^ however, was a result of the kind of policy of recruitment to the latter layer (the layer of ^amindars) that was assumed by the East India Company. The policy was to recognize only those families as ^amindars which commanded the loyalty of the people and without whose efforts revenue collection appeared extremely difficult. This becomes clear as one finds British authority offering settlement of ^amindaris to even rebel ^amindars. There were some ^amindars such



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