Shah Alam II

Shah Alam II (1761-1805) Prince Ali Gauhar, afterwards Emperor Shah Alam II, had been the heir apparent of his father, Emperor Azizuddin Alamgir II. Alamgir's unscrupulous minister (Wazir), Ghaziuddin, had completely dominated the emperor and kept Ali Gauhar under surveillance. After an escape from Delhi, Ali Gauhar appeared in the eastern provinces in 1759, hoping to strengthen his position by gaining control over Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

The political disorders in Bengal and the unpopularity of mir jafar raised high hopes in his mind. Mir Jafar was entirely dependent upon British support for maintaining himself on the throne. Shah Alam also asked for British help, but robert clive chose to continue with Mir Jafar. Shah Alam's forces were driven back by the English. Further intrigues of the Wazir at Delhi compelled the prince to seek the protection of the English and ask for a sum of money for his subsistence, and offer, in return, to withdraw from the province. Clive sent about a thousand Pounds, and Shah Alam left Bengal.

Thus, the Wazir deprived Shah Alam of the title of Subahdar of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. But, upon the assassination of his father by Ghaziuddin in 1759, the prince proclaimed himself emperor, assuming the title of Shah Alam II. The new Mughal emperor, the nominal suzerain of Mir Jafar and the theoretical overlord of the company, invaded Bihar. He was defeated by a British force, but entered into friendly relations with his conquerors. The British forces escorted him to Patna. Here the new Nawab mir qasim waited on him. Mir Qasim had his investiture as Subahdar of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and agreed to pay an annual revenue of 24 lakhs of Rupees. Shah Alam was under the shelter of the nawab of Oudh from 1761 till the Battle of buxar, in 1764.

Soon after the battle of Buxar Shah Alam, a sovereign who had just been defeated by the British troops and was in fact a homeless fugitive sought the protection of the English. By the treaty of Allahabad (1765) Shah Alam granted the diwani (right to collect revenue) of Bengal (which included Bihar and Orissa) to the English east india company in return for an annual tribute of twenty-six lakhs of Rupees. The company further secured for him the districts of Kora and Allahabad.

Shah Alam took up residence at Allahabad and no doubt could have passed his life peacefully there. But he wished to go back to Delhi to restore the bygone glories of the great Mughals. An opportunity came when the Marathas, having occupied Delhi, invited him there to occupy the throne of his forefathers. The Marathas had acknowledged that they were servants of the emperor. Shah Alam left Allahabad in May 1771 and in December reached Delhi. He had consulted the British and they had advised him not to trust the Marathas. The emperor resided in the fort of Allahabad for six years as a virtual prisoner of the English. warren hastings, who had been appointed Governor of Bengal in 1772, discontinued the tribute of twenty-six lakhs and also made over the districts of Allahabad and Kora to the nawab of Oudh. These measures amounted to a repudiation of the company's vassalage as diwan and the annexation of Bengal. An Afghan, Gulam Qader, during Mahadaji Sindhia's temporary evacuation of Delhi, blinded Shah Alam in 1788.

The French threat in Europe and its possible repercussions in India caused the British to strive to regain the custody of Shah Alam. The British feared that the French military officers might overthrow Maratha power and use the authority of the Mughal emperor to further French ambition in India. On 14 September 1803 British troops entered Delhi and Shah Alam, a blind old man, seated under a tattered canopy, came under British protection. The Mughal emperor no longer had the military power to enforce his will, but he commanded respect as a dignified member of the House of Timur in the length and breadth of the country. The nawabs and subahdars still sought formal sanction of the emperor on their accession and valued the titles he bestowed upon them. They struck coins and read the Khutba (Friday sermons) in his name. The British, not yet strong enough to claim sovereignty on their own, kept Shah Alam as a puppet till his death in 1805. [Mohammad Shah]