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Reza Khan


Reza Khan (1717Foodgrain-1791) naib nazim and Naib Diwan of Bengal during the great transition period when Bengal was passing from Mughal rule to that of the English east india company. An adventurer from Persia, Syed Muhammad Reza Khan came to Bengal during the regime of Nawab alivardi khan and quickly rose in stature in Bengal power politics. His political career began with his assignment as faujdar of Katwa in 1756. mir jafar promoted him to the post of the faujdar of Islamabad (Chittagong) in early 1760. In 1763 Reza Khan was appointed Naib Nazim of Jahangirnagar (Dhaka), the capital of the eastern wing of the Bengal Subah. Through commercial dealings and political networking he developed intimacy with robert clive, who, after the acquisition of the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa for the East India Company in 1765, made him the Naib Diwan of Bengal. As Naib Diwan, he was to administer the Diwani on behalf of the company. At the same time he was also made Naib Nazim of the subah in view of the minority of Nawab nazmuddaula, son of Mir Jafar. From 1765 to 1770 Reza Khan was the virtual ruler of Bengal.

Reza Khan's rise to power was very rapid and so was his fall. His source of power was his patron Robert Clive, who believed not in the direct conquest of the country but only in indirect political control so as to enable the company to continue trade and commerce in the country with great advantages. Historians have described Clive's system of indirect control of Bengal as 'Double Government'. Until his final departure in 1767 Clive's system worked to the satisfaction of all interests of Murshidabad and Calcutta. But since then he began to lose his grip on the administration. The company officials were increasingly showing interest in administering the diwani without the native agency. The first signal of the new trend was the introduction of the post of district supervisor (1769) manned by European officers in order to put a check on the uncontrolled power of Reza Khan. In the end, he was dismissed and imprisoned in 1772 and tried for alleged corruption and oppression. In the trial that followed Reza Khan successfully proved how the corrupt and oppressive company officials of the fort william Government made him a scapegoat. He was restored to his post of naib diwan and naib nazim in 1775 with full honours. But by then the political scene of Bengal had changed dramatically. Under the operation of the regulating act, 1773 and the expansive iron rule of warren hastings the colonial state was undergoing rapid metamorphosis and in the process all native elements in administration were either eliminated or reduced to insignificance. After reinstatement Reza Khan continued to act as the nominal naib nazim of Bengal until lord cornwallis formally abolished the titular post in 1791. Frustrated, Reza Khan died soon after.

Reza Khan was a typical representative of the native elite of the time who collaborated with the British initially, but came into conflict with them subsequently on the issue of the mode of governance. The native elite was in favour of preserving the traditional institutions of governance including the Niabat, but the Fort William authorities differed. With the introduction of the permanent settlement and its ancillary institutions in 1793 the colonial state was established to the total exclusion of native elements in the administration. [Sirajul Islam]