Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

The Landed Elite under the British Patronage, Their Mutual Interests and the Politics of Power-Sharing: A Critical Evaluation of the Colonial Punjab (1849-1947)

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

The Landed Elite under the British Patronage, Their Mutual Interests and the Politics of Power-Sharing: A Critical Evaluation of the Colonial Punjab (1849-1947)

Article excerpt

This article aims to explore the role of the Punjab Landed Elite which contributed a great deal under the patronage of the British Raj. This privileged class is highly important in the socio-economic scenario and the political history of the Punjab. In the medieval India, it was in fact the land was a symbol of gift, granted by a ruler or sire to the loyal ones, who later egressed to the status of the Elite Class. This politic privileged class, using the political and religious tools for their mutual interests, played a pivotal role in the politics of colonial Punjab to be a bridge between the ruling class and the masses. After the annexation of the Punjab in 1849, the British government also acted upon the same policy and provided vast tracts of land to the influential chieftains of the Punjab in return for their military assistance, loyalty and political support. The effective sociopolitical role of the Punjab Landed Elite compelled and enabled the British government to strengthen the dominance of landowners as they played a crucial role in the mobilization of the peasants. Furthermore, it will highlight the role of the Punjab Landed Elite for their so-called protectionist policy for the welfare of the down-trodden peasant class. This landed class also provided a gateway to the British government in the form of different platforms for the procurement of their vested political goals in the colonial Punjab. The jāgīrdār class remained loyal to the British government and supported it in times of political crisis throughout the colonial period. This paper will also examine the role of various religious sanctuaries of different pīrs and sajjādah-nashīns who were not only the leading religious figures but were also in possession of vast tracts of land in the Colonial Punjab.The British government was well aware of their enormous political and religious sway. A comprehensive, lucid and in-depth analysis of the contribution of the Landed Elite and their matrimonial alliances cum politics of mutual interests lies at the core of this research paper. Marxist theory of 'Class System' has been employed in this article to explore and evaluate the class system of the Punjab under the British patronage.

Keywords: Colonial Punjab, Class system, Landed elite, Pīrs and Sajjādah-nashīns, Power-sharing, Mutual interests, Unionist party, British patronage.

Introduction

The Punjab, a land of five rivers, has remained a significant province in the history of India due to its socio-economic and geo-political scenario.1 It had been a vast fertile region that produced a large agricultural wealth and its Landed Elite2 played a dominating and crucial role in the Punjab politics. It remained occupied since ancient times. The Indus Valley Civilization that dates back in almost 2600 B.C.E. was initially found in the Punjab and Sindh.The characteristics of the Punjab can also be traced in the longest Hindu epic poem, the Mahābhārata3 The Taxila University is considered to be one of the oldest Universities in the world.4 In 326 B.C.E., Alexander the Great of Macedonia defeated King Porus at the Battle of the Hydaspes (Jehlem River) near Mong, in the Punjab.5 It is also said that, the Punjab was conquered in the 8th century C.E.6 Later on, the Punjab was invaded by Amīr Tīmūr· (Tamerlane), Babur and Nādir Shāh etc. The Punjab province reached the peak of its splendor during the reign of the Mughul Empire, which for a long time had been governed from Lahore.7 After waging a successful rebellion, the Sikh-led forces claimed Lahore in 1759. The administration of the Sikh Empire was established in Lahore, and on 7th July 1799, Ranjit Singh (1799-1838 A.D.) became the ruler of Lahore who made his hold strong and controlled whole of the Punjab and even Peshawar.8 He relied mostly on the loyal support of the Landed Elite9 of the province and gave them important political as well as social status in the Punjab.The final round of the Sikh battle with British government took place at Chaillyänwäla near Gujrat in 1849, bringing the Punjab ultimately under the British control. …

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