British Rule in Bihar

British Rule in Bihar After the Battle of Buxar, 1764, the Mughals as well as the Nawabs of Bengal lost effective control over the territories then constituting the province of Bengal, which currently comprises the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, and Bangladesh. The British East India Company was accorded the diwani rights, that is, the right to administer the collection and management of revenues of the province of Bengal, and parts of Awadh, currently comprising a large part of Uttar Pradesh. The diwani rights were legally granted by Shah Alam, who was then the sovereign Mughal emperor of India. During the rule of the British East India Company in Bihar, Patna emerged as one of the most important commercial and trading centers of eastern India, preceded only by Kolkata.

Under the British Rule, Bihar particularly Patna gradually started to attain its lost glory and emerged as an important and strategic centre of learning and trade in India. From this point, Bihar remained a part the Bengal Presidency of the British Raj until 1912, when the province of Bihar and Orissa was carved out as a separate province. When the Bengal Presidency was partitioned in 1912 to carve out a separate province, Patna was made the capital of the new province of Bihar and Orissa. The city limits were stretched westwards to accommodate the administrative base, and the township of Bankipore took shape along the Bailey Road (originally spelt as Bayley Road, after the first Lt. Governor, Charles Stuart Bayley). This area was called the New Capital Area.

The Patna Secretariat with its imposing clock tower and the Patna High Court are two imposing landmarks of this era of development. Credit for designing the massive and majestic buildings of colonial Patna goes to the architect, I. F. Munnings. By 1916-1917, most of the buildings were ready for occupation. These buildings reflect either Indo-Saracenic influence (like Patna Museum and the state Assembly), or overt Renaissance influence like the Raj Bhawan and the High Court. Some buildings, like the General Post Office (GPO) and the Old Secretariat bear pseudo-Renaissance influence. Some say, the experience gained in building the new capital area of Patna proved very useful in building the imperial capital of New Delhi.

The British built several educational institutions in Patna like Patna College, Patna Science College, Bihar College of Engineering, Prince of Wales Medical College and the Patna Veterinary College. With government patronage, the Biharis quickly seized the opportunity to make these centers flourish quickly and attain renown. In 1935, certain portions of Bihar were reorganized into the separate province of Orissa. After the creation of Orissa as a separate province in 1935, Patna continued as the capital of Bihar province under the British Rule.


Provincial Administration of Bihar

Provincial Administration of Bihar placed Bengal under a Lieutenant Governor in 1854. The diarchy system that was introduced during this time continued from 1921 to 1937.

Provincial Administration of Bihar was authorized in the Charter Act of 1853. The Charter Act of 1853 certified the Directors to constitute a new Province or to appoint Lieutenant-Governor.

Bengal was placed under a Lieutenant Governor in 1854 and this arrangement lasted till 1912 when it was again raised to the status of a full-fledged Governorship. Bihar was placed under a Lieutenant Governor in 1912 and subsequently under a Governor. Under the regime of British East India Company, the Provincial Governor had huge powers and he was the chief authority. He was the President of the Executive Council. He had the power to summon, prorogue or dissolve the Legislative Council and to order fresh elections. His permission was necessary for the introduction of private members’ resolution for discussion in the Council He possessed the powers of certification against Legislature with regard to all bills including money-grants. The Act of 1919 introduced the system of Dual Government in the Provinces. There was an Executive Council in each of the Governor’s Province after 1919.

The Ministers were normally selected by the Governor. The Secretaries had direct access to the Governor and they were independent of Ministerial Control. The system could be demoralized into subservience to an irremovable executive. The successful working of the diarchy thus became impossible from the very beginning. The absence of well organized political parties in the Legislative Council, the existence of commercial differences, the financial difficulties and the consequent inability of Ministers and last, the inherent defects of the novel machinery of joint Government, made the diarchy a failure.

The introduction of diarchy created certain problems. The diarchy continued from 1921 to 1937. Muddiman Committee was appointed by the Government of India to investigate into the working of the diarchy. The report was published in 1925. Therein it was pointed out that the Finance member must be a member of the Executive Council. There was no force in the argument put forward in defense of this rule that trained men were required to fill the office. Bihar and Orissa was the only Province where there was an Indian Finance member and it was only here that expenditure on Transferred Department was not less than seventy percent.

This was no mean achievement for Bihar in the face of such stiff opposition from the Government side. On the basis of Bihar, Dr. Annie Besant proposed that the division between the Transferred and Reserved subject be reduced, and in her opinion the work of Dr. Sinha proved that the constitutional difficulties with regard to finance could be reduced to a vanishing point if the department was placed under an able Indian. Viewed in the light of constitutional difficulties of the ministers under diarchy, the credit of establishing utilitarian institutions goes to Sir Ganesh Datta Singh, whose ministry was the longest and at the same time most remarkable. As a minister he was credited with having placed on the Statute-Book a liberally-conceived Local-Self Government Act, which is one of the best enacted under Diarchic regime as it enfranchised the District and Municipal Boards by vesting in them the right to elect their own Chairman and also larger powers of administration and control.

Modern History of Bihar

Modern History of Bihar witnessed its separation from Bengal Presidency in 1912. Later it also saw the formations of various political parties.

Modern history of Bihar is dealing with the rule of the British Government from the year 1858 that is after the Sepoy Mutiny. During the time of British India, Bihar remained as a part of the Presidency of Bengal, and was governed from Kolkata. This territory was dominated by the people of Bengal. Later after the separation from the Bengal Presidency in 1912, Bihar and Orissa comprised a single province. Later, under the Government of India Act of 1935, the Division of Orissa became a separate province; and the Province of Bihar came into being as an administrative unit of British India. At Independence in 1947, the State of Bihar, with the same geographic boundary, formed a part of the Republic of India, until 1956.

Resurgence in the history of Bihar came during the struggle for India’s independence. It was from Bihar that Mahatma Gandhi launched his Civil-Disobedience Movement, which ultimately led to India’s independence. At the persistent request of a farmer, Raj Kumar Shukla, from the district of Champaran, in 1917 Gandhiji took a train ride to Motihari, the district headquarters of Champaran. Here he learned, first hand, the sad plight of the indigo farmers suffering under the oppressive rule of the British. Alarmed at the tumultuous reception Gandhiji received in Champaran, the British authorities served notice on him to leave the Province of Bihar. Gandhiji refused to comply, saying that as an Indian he was free to travel anywhere in his own country. For this act of defiance he was detained in the district jail at Motihari. From his jail cell, with the help of his friend from South Africa days, C. F. Andrews, Gandhiji managed to send letters to journalists and the Viceroy of India describing what he saw in Champaran, and made formal demands for the emancipation of these people. When produced in court, the Magistrate ordered him released, but on payment of bail. Gandhiji refused to pay the bail. Instead, he indicated his preference to remain in jail under arrest. Alarmed at the huge response Gandhiji was receiving from the people of Champaran, and intimidated by the knowledge that Gandhiji had already managed to inform the Viceroy of the mistreatment of the farmers by the British plantation owners, the magistrate set him free, without payment of any bail. This was the first instance of the success of civil disobedience as a tool to win freedom.

Many people from Bihar came forward in India’s struggle for independence. Apart from Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Jayprakash Narayan also significantly contributed to the struggle.

Independence Movement

Bihar played a major role in the Indian independence struggle. Most notable were the Champaran movement against the Indigo plantation and the Quit India Movement of 1942.

After his return from South Africa, it was from Bihar that Mahatma Gandhi launched his pioneering civil-disobedience movement, Champaran Satyagraha. Raj Kumar Shukla drew Mahatma Gandhi’s attention to the exploitation of the peasants by the European indigo planters. Champaran Satyagraha received the spontaneous support from many Biharis, including Brajkishore Prasad, Rajendra Prasad (who became the first President of India) and Anugrah Narayan Sinha (who became the first Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister of Bihar).British Rule in Bihar

In India’s struggle for independence, the Champaran Satyagraha marks a very important stage. Raj Kumar Shukla drew the attention of Mahatma Gandhi, who had just returned from South Africa, to the plight of the peasants suffering under an oppressive system established by European indigo planters. Besides other excesses they were forced to cultivate indigo on 3/20 part of their holding and sell it to the planters at prices fixed by the planters. This marked Gandhi’s entry into the India’s independence movement. On arrival at the district headquarters in Motihari, Gandhi and his team of lawyers—Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Brajkishore Prasad and Ram Navami Prasad, who he had handpicked to participate in the satyagraha—were ordered to leave by the next available train. They refused to do this, and Gandhi was arrested. He was released and the ban order was withdrawn in the face of a “Satyagraha” threat. Gandhi conducted an open inquiry into the peasant’s grievances. The Government had to appoint an inquiry committee with Gandhi as a member. This led to the abolition of the system.

Raj Kumar Shukla has been described by Gandhi in his Atmakatha, as a man whose suffering gave him the strength to rise against the odds.

Gandhi reached Patna on 10 April 1917 and on 16 April he reached Motihari accompanied by Raj Kumar Shukla. Under Gandhi’s leadership the historic “Champaran Satyagraha” began. The contribution of Raj Kumar Shukla is reflected in the writings of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, first President of India, Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Acharya Kriplani and Mahatma Gandhi. Raj Kumar Shukla maintained a diary in which he gave an account of struggle against the atrocities of the indigo planters, atrocities so movingly depicted by Dinabandhu Mitra in Nil Darpan, a play that was translated by Michael Madhusudan Dutt. This movement by Mahatma Gandhi received the spontaneous support of a cross section of people, including Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Bihar Kesari Sri Krishna Sinha, Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha and Brajkishore Prasad.

Shaheed Baikuntha Shukla was another nationalist from Bihar, who was hanged for murdering a government approver named Phanindrananth Ghosh. This led to the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. Phanindranath Ghosh hitherto a key member of the Revolutionary Party had betrayed the cause by turning an approver and giving evidence, which led to his murder. Baikunth was commissioned to plan the murder of Ghosh. He carried out the killing successfully on 9 November 1932. He was arrested, tried, convicted, and, on 14 May 1934, he was hanged in Gaya Central Jail.

In North and Central Bihar, a peasant movement was an important side effect of the independence movement. The Kisan Sabha movement started in Bihar under the leadership of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati who in 1929 had formed the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha (BPKS) to mobilise peasant grievances against the zamindari attacks on their occupancy rights. Gradually the peasant movement intensified and spread across the rest of India. All these radical developments on the peasant front culminated in the formation of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) at the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in April 1936, with Swami Sahajanand Saraswati elected as its first President. This movement aimed at overthrowing the fedual zamindari system instituted by the British. It was led by Swami Sahajanand Saraswati and his followers Pandit Yamuna Karjee, Rahul Sankrityayan and others. Pandit Yamuna Karjee along with Rahul Sankrityayan and other Hindi literaries started publishing a Hindi weekly Hunkar from Bihar in 1940. Hunkar later became the mouthpiece of the peasant movement and the agrarian movement in Bihar and was instrumental in spreading the movement. The peasant movement later spread to other parts of the country and helped in digging out the British roots in the Indian society by overthrowing the zamindari system.

Bihar’s contribution in the independence movement has been immense with famous leaders like Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, Shaheed Baikuntha Shukla, Bihar Bibhuti Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Mulana Mazharul Haque, Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan, Satyendra Narayan Sinha (Singh), Basawon Singh (Sinha), Yogendra Shukla, Sheel Bhadra Yajee, Pandit Yamuna Karjee, Dr. Maghfoor Ahmad Ajazi and many others who worked for India’s indepdence and worked to lift up the underprivileged masses. Khudiram Bose, Upendra Narayan Jha “Azad” and Prafulla Chaki were also active in revolutionary movement in Bihar.

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