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Jagir


Jagir medieval system of assigning land and its rent as annuity to state functionaries. Jagir is a Persian term meaning land assigned. Because of tardy communication and non-monetized economy, the Muslim rulers of Bengal, and also of India, had evolved a system of paying their officers, particularly those who were stationed in remote places of the kingdom in the form of assignments of land. The rentals of such lands were treated as their own remuneration as well as the cost of their establishments. With the departure or death of the incumbent, the state normally resumed the jagir and settled it with the next incumbent. Besides the regular jagirs for officialdom the rulers also granted jagir tenures to favoured state grandees for their maintenance. Such jagirs were enjoyed either for life. Sometimes such jagirs were granted on permanent basis.

The hereditary jagirs were normally allotted from jangalbari or uninhabited wasteland in the frontier regions. Besides providing the assignees, the grant of jangalbari jagirs presented several advantages to the rulers. It encouraged the reclamation of wasteland, restricted cliques and factionalism at the centre and made the assignees a kind of frontier guard against outside raiders and invaders. A jagir was always awarded with an imperial farman or decree. But during the nawabi period jagirs were granted extensively by the nawabs themselves for guarding the coastal areas against the raids from the Arakanese. These were then known as nawara jagirs.

Jagirs granted for the maintenance of individuals belonged to three categories. The hereditary ones were known as altamgha. The jagir tenures, which expired with the life of the incumbent, were called zabti or personal and those, which were held on condition of rendering some service to the state, were called maxhrut or conditional. The coastal jagirs were mostly mashrut. The zamindars in whose territories the jagir mahals were located were allowed a proportionate reduction of their share of general assessment. The holders of jagirs were called jagdars. Socially, jagirdars were superior to zamindars with the exception of zamindars of the chakladar cadre.

The policy of the government from 1772 was to resume all jagir lands on the ground that the political circumstances of the jagir system were no longer valid and the former jagirdars were no more parts of the state system and had no responsibility and function. But many of the jagirdars claimed that they were holders of altamgha jagirs and hence their tenures were not to be resumed. The government tried to examine the bonafide of their claims and accepted only those grants as valid the holders of which could produce original sanads in their favour.

Such a policy put the holders into great disadvantage because many of them did not possess original sanads, because these were either lost or damaged through lapse of time. Many sanads were declared as forged documents without even any investigation. The resumption proceedings were undertaken most vigorously under the administration of William bentinck (1827-1835). The jagirdars, now fallen and impoverished, had tried to convince the government of their status and predicaments but the financially pressed colonial government dismissed their representations and deprived them of their privileges with a view to increasing the state revenue. [Sirajul Islam]