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Hawla Tenure


Hawla Tenure an intermediate right developed in the agrarian relations of south and southeast Bengal in the nineteenth century. The rise of madhyasvatvas or intermediate interests standing between a zamindar and cultivating raiyats was a direct result of permanent settlement. The greatest challenge to the security of zamindars after the Permanent Settlement was the revenue sale law commonly known as Sunset Law. Under this law, the lands of the defaulting proprietors were made liable to be sold at public auctions for recovery of public revenue. Under the operation of this law, a great number of zamindaris, including the mammoth ones changed hands immediately after the introduction of the Permanent Settlement. In response to the crisis, many Bengal zamindars created intermediate interests between themselves and actual cultivators. The hawla tenure was one of them.

The hawla tenure is essentially a land reclamation right developed in and around Bakerganj. In the nineteenth century, extensive areas of lands in the sundarbans were cleared and cultivated by the hawla tenureholders called hawladars. In search of new sources of income, many zamindars, whose estates were contiguous to the Sundarbans, invited agrarian ijaradars or farmers to clear jungle lands within their jurisdictions offering them attracting terms. The clearing farmers made considerable capital investments in bringing the land under cultivation. Their incentive was that they got a right in the cleared land either for a term or in perpetual lease at a very nominal rate of rent. The blocks of land named hawla were leased to capitalist farmers who agreed to clear the jungle lands by laying out their own capital, labour and organisation. They became attracted to the zamindar's reclamation drive, because they got secure tenurial right at a nominal rate of rent. As frontier reclaimers, the hawladars further extended their domain by creating a subordinate right called nim or second degree of hawladar. The nim-hawladar in turn created osat-nim-hawladar or third degree of hawladars. In this way, in some places even five to ten degrees of under-rights were created with the appellation of hawla. Thus a tiered class of hawladars of various denominations emerged within the landed society in the coastal districts of Bengal with Bakerganj as its centre.

But all these tenures were created in defiance of the Permanent Settlement Regulations. However, in recognition of the social solidarity of the hawladars, the government recognised their tenures by making appropriate enactment in 1837, 1841 and 1845. These enactments made all types of hawla tenures legally valid. Finally, the bengal tenancy act of 1885 codified the customs and laws about undertenures and defined the rights and liabilities of all the types of hawla tenures. The hawla tenures were abolished under the east bengal state acquisition and tenancy act of 1951. [Sirajul Islam]