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Ibrahim Khan


Ibrahim Khan Subahdar of Bengal from 1689 to 1698, was the eldest son of Ali Mardan Khan Zig, a famous noble of Persian origin under shahjahan. After his father's death Ibrahim Khan was granted a mansab of 4000. During the war of succession among the sons of Shahjahan he had sided with Dara and fought for him at the battle of Samugarh. After Dara's fall he took service under Murad and ultimately joined aurangzeb. He served as subahdar of Kashmir, Lahore and Bihar, one after another, and was raised to the rank of 5000. In 1676 he applied for resigning his mansab and it was granted.

But in the 21st year of Aurangzeb's reign (1679) he was again appointed subahdar of Kashmir. With the help of fidai khan, his son, he conquered Tibet in 1683. The emperor sent a farman of praise and presented a special robe, a jewelled phul katara dagger with pearl ilaqa worth 7,000 rupees, an Arab horse worth 200 mohars with gold saz and an elephant from the emperor's own stable worth 15,000 rupees. He was quite an old man at the time of his appointment as subahdar of Bengal and lacking in military prowess; his only desire was to read Persian books. But his longing for administering justice with equity and promoting agriculture and commerce encouraged the English traders who took him as 'the most famously just and good nabob'.

The first act of his authority was to release the English merchants who had been confined in Dhaka by the emperor's order. Though we do not have any positive evidence of the reasons for the change of emperor's mind, Charles Stewart suggests that Aurangzeb probably did not want to loose the revenue from the English commerce. The average annual flow of bullion brought into Bengal by the English was about A387, ooo. Besides the English power was formidable at sea. Their war ships could make pilgrimage to Mecca difficult.

Ibrahim Khan wrote a letter to the Madras factors on 2 July 1689 inviting the English to return to Bengal. He counselled the Madras authorities to re-establish the Bengal factory. In February 1690, peace was finally concluded between the Mughal government and the English on the West Coast. The emperor agreed to grant a new farman on condition that the company paid all the dues of the Indian merchants and gave compensation for the losses inflicted on the empire.

On the fulfillment of these terms, the old permits for the trade on the West Coast and in Bengal were restored. But the English were asking for a specific farman for Bengal upon which they could continue their trade. Ibrahim Khan informed job charnock that pending the desired farman, which would take time, all sorts of protection would be given to them if they returned to Bengal. Consequently Charnock with his council of factors returned to Sutanuti.

Ibrahim Khan's friendly gesture helped the company to export from Bengal silk and taffeta at a much larger scale. In February 1691 a farman was issued granting the company exemption from the payment of custom duties in Bengal in return for Rs 3,000 a year. In other words the status quo of 1651 was re-established.

Meanwhile the outbreak of the European war gave a boost to the company's trade. The demand for Bengal silk increased considerably. In October 1693 the court of directors wrote that Bengal silk was the 'very best commodity' that could be sent from India.

The french established a factory at chandarnagore in 1688, which was not completed till 1692. It was not till 1692-93 that the French succeeded in obtaining a farman from Aurangzeb with permission to trade in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa on the same terms as the dutch. The activity of the companies obviously gave an impetus to the production of Bengal, which had an effect on her internal economy. But at this time (1695-96) the imperial authority in Bengal was rudely shaken by the rebellion of shobha singh, a zamindar of Chandrakona in Midnapore district. Ibrahim Khan was taking no action at all to stop the revolt, except asking the foreign companies to form an alliance and ordering his energetic son Zabardast Khan to prepare an army. Through the imperial intelligence the news had reached the emperor. Aurangzeb immediately conferred the command of the army in Bengal upon Zabardast Khan, recalled Ibrahim Khan and appointed azim-us-shan, his grandson, to the government of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. [Anjali Chatterjee]