Lindsay, Robert

Lindsay, Robert (1754-1836) early colonial official stationed in Sylhet from 1778 to 1787 as 'supravisor' and from 1787 to 1790 as district collector and magistrate. A native of Scotland, Lindsay succeeded the first colonial representative for Sylhet, wm thackeray. This was the period when the colonial government was evolving a local government system replacing the Mughal pargana system in the country. In 1778, Sylhet district was under the Dhaka province and headed by a native diwan. Lindsay was deputed there to keep the frontier district under control and defend the region from the hill raiders. He was entrusted with multiple military and magisterial duties and reduced the district diwan to a cipher. Alongside his official duties, Lindsay also conducted his private business. Until 1793, all district officers were allowed to pursue trade and commerce.

Robert Lindsay's main attraction to get the appointment in Sylhet was business, particularly chunam or lime stone business. Later he extended his business to many other businesses, such as, elephant, rattan (cane) and betel nut. When the ruler is also a businessman, oppression on people becomes inevitable. Lindsay was no exception to the rule. Yet, Lindsay occupies a place in the history of Bangladesh, because his autobiography (1840) sheds important light on the social and economic conditions of the Sylhet region of the time, including a description of the general insurgency organised by the people of Sylhet town in 1782 against the company rule. The insurgency was led by one pirzada and his two brothers locally known as Hada Mia and Mada Mia (Syed Hadi and Syed Mahdi). Lindsay suppressed the insurrection. The pirzada and four others were killed.

In his autobiography Lindsay described in details the conditions of agriculture and manufactures. He reported that main attraction of Sylhet to the colonial government was chunam, rattan, elephants, fishes, timbers, betel nut, bamboo and so on. People from far flung districts used to come to Sylhet for fishes, timbers, betel nuts and bamboo. He described about the jungle state of Sylhet and presence of animals such as elephant, tiger, rhinoceros, leopard, deer, and wild fowl. Lindsay also gave descriptions of the shrine of Hazrat shah jalal (R.) and the surrounding social scenario.

Robert Lindsay made immense fortune from his Sylhet station and used it in buying large landed estates in Scotland. He died in 1836. [Dewan Nurul Anwar Hussain Choudhury]