Shaukat Jang

Shaukat Jang naib nazim (deputy governor) of Purnia under Nawab Alivardi Khan and a rival claimant of Sirajuddaula on the masnad of Murshidabad. He succeeded his father Saiyid Ahmad Khan Saulat Jang, nephew of Alivardi Khan, as naib nazim of Purnia on 27 March 1756. On the eve of Alivardi's death the enemies of Sirajuddaula including Mir Jafar Ali Khan and Ghaseti Begum secretly supported the claim of Shaukat Jang on the nizamat of Bengal subah. Soon after Alivardi's death (10 April 1756) and accession of Sirajuddaula to the Murshidabad nizamat, Shaukat Jang received a secret letter from Mir Jafar urging upon him to invade Bengal and assuring him of his support along with the support of some other army officers in Murshidabad. But the Purnia nawab in his unbridled ambition planned to dethrone Sirajuddaula and started intrigues at the Delhi imperial court to secure a farman granting the nizamat of the three eastern subahs to him.

Having intelligence of the conspiracy, Sirajuddaula started in May 1756 for the conquest of Purnia. On the way, at Rajmahal, he received a dutiful message from Shaukat Jang, and recalled the expeditionary troops mainly in order to face the defiance of the English merchants of Calcutta, thereby securing his rear. Calcutta having been captured, the Nawab set out for Purnia in September 1756.

Meanwhile Shaukat Jang had secured a farman from Delhi Emperor Alamgir II granting him the nizamat of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. He procured the farman by promising a bribe of one crore rupees to Ghaziuddin Imadul-Mulk, the wazir of the Emperor. He now assumed the title of Alampanah (Protector of the World). Shaukat Jang, a block-headed person with ignorant pride, uncontrolled passions and looseness of tongue, insulted and drove away all well-wishers of his family, and was always found surrounded by rash sycophants as his counselors.

Sirajuddaula's agent Rai Rasbihari proceeded towards Rajmahal and dispatched to Shaukat Jang the letter of the Nawab asking him to give Rai Rasbihari peaceful possession of Purnia. But Shaukat Jang on the advice of his counselors wrote back ordering Sirajuddaula to vacate the masnad of Murshidabad in his favour, and retire to Dhaka to rule the area as his deputy or to get his pension. Sirajuddaula immediately dispatched an army under Raja Mohanlal to take possession of Purnia. This army was swelled by the forces of Raja Ram Narayan, deputy governor of Patna, and by the forces of the Bihar zaminders. The advanced division of the invading army, led by Raja Mohanlal, crossed the Ganges at Rajmahal, and by way of Hayatpur and Basantpur Gola (skirting the eastern bank of the old Kosi) entered South Purnia and arrived at Manihari. The second half of the Bengal army and the Bihar auxiliaries under Raja Ram Narayan followed some distance behind.

Shaukat Jang with his forces advanced to face the invading army and took an entrenched position at Nawabganj, four miles north of Manihari. Shyam Sundar was deputed to command his field artillery. But Shaukat Jang's chances of making any effective defense were frustrated due to his thoughtlessness and ignorant pride. In the battle that followed (16 October 1756) many of the Purnia troops were slain and wounded, many were captured, and the rest took to their heels without even having the chance of drawing their swords. Shaukat Jang on an elephant while mobilizing his army, a musket shot struck on his head and he fell dead.

Mohanlal entered Purnia, seized Shaukat's treasure, and carried the captive family of the deceased Nawab of Purnia to Murshidabad.

Shaukat Jang had no doubt greater personal courage than his rival cousin Sirajuddaula, and recklessly courted death in battle, but his few loyal and capable lieutenants failed to do him any good owing to his capricious levity and insane obstinacy. He managed to secure a farman granting the nizamat of the Bengal subah from the imperial court at Delhi, but he failed to assert his legal right for lack of princely virtues. [Muazzam Hussain Khan]