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instances a right to the headman's emoluments ;' and cer- LECTURE tainly after this date we cannot find that any rights of
The zemindars value were left to any of the ancient officials. The zemin- regained their dar's power was only temporarily affected by Jaffier Khan's proceedings and soon revived again. Sujah Khan the successor of Jaffier Khan restored many of the zemindars;' and the result of the blow struck by Jaffier Khan was that the zemindar, at whom it was aimed, was the only one that survived it. And after this period the hereditary claims of the zemindars were recognised, and their acts became more oppressive than before, especially as the Mahomedan power was fast declining. It was after this that under-farming began to prevail so largely : the under-renters again underletting and so on. Exactions were heavier than ever, and the ryot was squeezed to the utmost. One favourite mode of exaction was by threatening to measure the ryot's lands; since most ryots held more land than they were assessed for, this being probably their only barrier against utter ruin. Moreover the land could be made to appear upon measurement more than it was, by raising the middle of the measuring pole, or withholding the rope.* I shall conclude my account of the zemindar by compar- Discussion of
the zemindar's ing the accounts given of his position by various authorities. position. Mr. Grant says in his Political Survey of the Northern Circars:5—
Land Tenure'by a Civilian, 76. • Fifth Report, Vol. I, 105. Harington's Analysis, Vol. III, 274 Stewart's History of Bengal, 261.
Fifth Report, Vol. I, 132 ; Vol. II, 8, 9. Land Tenure by a Civilian, 64, 65. Harington's Analysis, Vol. II, 68.
• Fifth Report, Vol. I, 141. Land Tenure by a Civilian, 65. Colebrooke's Husbandry in Bengal, 57.
5 Fifth Report, Vol. II, 237.
"It hath been asserted, and we presume to think on grounds admitting of political demonstration, that no one tribe of Hindoo landholders, jointly or severally within the circars, or the whole of them collectively, under whatever denomination (excepting the ancient rajahs of the country, which have been particularized as descendants of the Royal family of Orissa or Gajeputty), have in right, form, or fact, the smallest pretensions to any territorial property beyond the extent of their specified official domains called saverum, making scarcely one-twentieth part of the local civil jurisdiction committed to their management by the sovereign proprietary Government. First.—The private right of a more extensive landholding could only be acquired by conquest, royal grant, hereditary or prescriptive tenure of free or feudal possession, while it is notorious that every zemindary title is the most limited and precarious in its nature, depending on the arbitrary will of the lowest provincial delegate; equivalent to a simple lease in tenancy subject to annual renewals, and to be traced to the same base and recent origin, within the period of British rule, as generally distinguishes the spurious claims of the farmers-occupant themselves ;—to family pre-eminence from birth, or the enjoyment of large territorial income in prejudice of the prince's necessary undisputed regal dues. Second.—The form of such sunnuds or dewanny patents as constitute the desmookhs or zemindars official collectors of the revenue with inferior civil powers, at the same time that it ascertains the extent of their petty freehold estates appropriated for family subsistence with each local jurisdiction, determines specifically or comparatively, if we may be allowed to make use of an European term, the unqualified villainage to the sovereign or his feudal representative of the great
portion of land in occupancy; as well as the slavish dependence of the Hindoo landholder, for the whole of his uncertain tenure, on the lordly Mussulman jageerdar or aumil. That the possessors of such inferior grants should be reluctant now in producing their respective deeds, under the prevalence of a delusive idea which magnifies their relative importance, is perfectly natural; but that the rights and privileges of subjects as derived from Government should so frequently be agitated, and to this day acknowledged to be matters wholly undefined, or of the greatest doubt; and that yet the only sure, easy, and simple mode of discovering the truth, by a critical examination of sunnuds, should be neglected, appears altogether extraordinary and unaccountable. Third. In point of fact, the most conclusive evidence offers itself of the sovereign's claim to the landholder's share of yearly territorial produce, that the whole body of zemindars were from the beginning and are still to be considered simply as intermediate agents for the State to realize the stipulated rent of the peasantry. This doctrine forms incontrovertibly the ground-work of the past and actual system of finance throughout all the dissevered members of the Mogul empire. It is practically enforced everywhere by the prince; acknowledged or acquiesced in by the ryots universally, as the foundation of their Magna Charta ; stating the proportions to be invariably drawn of the produce of the soil, assisted by their labour, for the public service. Accordingly it may be clearly traced in the letter and spirit of the original instruments conferring investiture; describing the nature, local extent, with the powers of zemindary officers, as well as the annual cowle bestowing the temporary management of the revenue on the same generally permanent agents. It is manifested in the ever customary
frequent acts of Government, at pleasure or for mal-administration, in suspending their authority as collectors and depriving them altogether of territorial jurisdiction with its assigned advantages ; unless in some cases with the exception of saverum or subsistence in land : then transferring their employments, official rights and privileges, to others in perpetuity or for a time. And it is finally demonstrated by the tenor of the muchulka, or written obligation, of the zemindars to discharge faithfully the trusts reposed in them; otherwise implicitly acquiescing in the justice of suspension or entire exoneration, and never acquiring at any time anything in the nature of territorial property beyond the extent of their saverum ; but always to account with the treasury for the last daum collected throughout the remainder of their local jurisdiction, whether constructively or positively by royal authority; and which, though they do in general abstract by false statements of receipts and disbursements, never doth or can supersede the sovereign's right to enter into detail, resume defalcations and curtail unecessary sebundy or exorbitant mofussil expenses of the circar or state; being all that is contended for, as requiring public investigation and economical reform, in order to reduce the emoluments of intermediate agents, to the primitive, legal, and equitable standard of russooms and saverums, virtually as well as in form.” In this passage we have the extreme theory of the merely official position of the zemindar. We have seen that the official element was that which the Mahomedan theory brought into prominence : but we gather from this passage, as well as from the general result of Mr. Grant's enquiries, that there was in practice another element of hereditary proprietary claim; although in strict adherence to Mahomedan theory
he rejects this element. Again in a letter to the Board of Revenue, dated 1st March 1787, Mr. Grant says, as regards the zemindar's privileges :'-—“These though not ascertainable by their sunnuds, are equally to be learned as precise matters of fact from notorious usage and revolving customary forms of the year in settling the jummabundy. The first essential privilege is that by which the zemindar is entitled to stand in the place of a perpetual farmergeneral of the lawful rents claimed by Government within the circle of his jurisdiction; nor can he, or ought he, constitutionally to be deprived of any contingent emoluments proceeding from his control, during the periods of his agreements, though such should arise in concealment of the entire public resources on his part, with the corruption or ignorance of the other financial officers of the State. A second privilege annexed to the officer of zemindar is that of being made the channel of all mofussil serinjamy disbursements. A third is that of improving waste grounds, under certain limitation, to his private advantage, at least for the period of his bundobusty engagement; though not, as more recently practised, by the depopulation or fallow of other productive lands, assessed for rent to the exchequer. A fourth is that of granting pottahs for untenanted farms in the ordinary terms of an Indian leasehold, yet more or less substantially beneficial to the occupant, in proportion to the favour of his superior landholder. A fifth is the privilege of distributing internally as he pleases the burthen of abwabs or additional assessments, when levied, as in Bengal, on the ausil jumma by zemindary jurisdictions; and not specifically by pergunnahs.
| Harington's Analysis, Vol. III, 362.