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Balaki Shah


Balaki Shah a fakir who resisted company rule in Bakarganj in 1792. Balaki Shah was a resident of mouza Bakhari under Salimabad pargana of Bakarganj district. The closing years of eighteenth century Bengal-the period of chronic scarcities, rack-renting and administrative instabilities-are characterised by sporadic local peasant resistance movements.

Balaki Shah's followers, who were all cultivators, felt oppressed by the ever rising revenue demands and oppressive mode of their collection. Being unable to get any relief from the authorities, the oppressed peasantry looked to Balaki Shah, their murshid (guide), for justice. Balaki organised a resistance force of one thousand armed men and established a fort at Subania. For defence purposes he also repaired the old Sujabad fort, earlier built by shah shuja.

Balaki Shah's resistance activities had twofold aims of driving out the Europeans from Bakarganj and rescuing the oppressed raiyats from the misrule of the company. In realising these two objectives, Balaki Shah declared independence of company rule in 1792 and installed one Jeon, presumably his mentor, as sultan. He proclaimed the end of the Firingi hukumat. He compelled all the zamindars of pargana Salimabad, Nazirpur and Chandradvip to renounce the company authority and acknowledge him as their new ruler and pay revenue to him.

In order to win the peasantry over to him and also to substantiate his sovereignty, Balaki Shah announced a new rate of rent, which was far below the existing rate. He ordered the zamindars not to charge more than two rupees per kani (120 decimals) and refund to the raiyats if any excess had been collected already. Defaulting zamindars were threatened with severe punishment.

Balaki Shah and his followers initially succeeded in ousting the company barkandajes from the area. Many zamindars fled away from their estates. To bring the situation under control, the Bakarganj collector sent a detachment of sepoys under the command of European officers who stormed Balaki's mud fort and captured him. He was tried in the Dhaka Nizamt Adalat, which found him guilty of rebellion and bloodshed and sentenced him to seven years imprisonment. [Delwar Hussain]