Nawab Wazir Ali

(Detailed Notes : This may not be very good in terms of language, but gives enough sketch for the purpose of research. This text may be using some vernacular terms too, which may be otherwise hard to understand in context but we will be happy to assist in this regard)

Nawab Wazir AliMirza Wazir Ali was asked to succeed after the death of Asaf-ud-Daula. He was young man who did not like the behaviour of most of the English men who were after making money. These English Officers considered Oudh as their jagir and went on their collection of booty by legal or illegal measures which most of the people of Oudh resented. Wazir Ali wanted to forge a joint alliance of Scindias of Gwalior, Peshwa of Pune Durbar, Mughal Emperor of Delhi and Chief of Lahore. The English Resident got the scent trough his moles in the Court, and in concert with the Governor General, planned to oust the anti English Nawab. Canards about the licentiousness of the Nawab and his illegitimate birth were spread. Influential nobles and state officers were bribed. Sir John Shore the English Governor General paid a surprise visit to Lucknow and in a swift move, disclaimed Wazir Ali as the true heir of Oudh’s masnad (seat). Wazir Ali was provided a pension of Rs. 1.5 lakhs and was asked to live in Benares. A suitable place outside the city, named Madho Dass Saamia ke Bagh (now called Saamia Bagh, Kabir Chaura) was chosen as residence for the deposed Nawab of Oudh. Wazir Ali made it a point to live and act as an independent Raja. He always moved with his armed guards and a naqqara preceded his entourage. He continued his activities for regaining independence and for which he posted one Jaman Shah as his lawyer in Calcutta and was successful in enlisting support from some prominent residents of Benares like of Izzat Ali and Waaris Ali. He wanted Zaman Shah of Afghanistan to attack the North. The presence of English forces in the vicinity of Benares prevented Wazir Ali to precipitate any military adventure. Such anti English activities did not take long to reach the ears of Cherry, Governor General’s Agent in Benares. In consultation with Lord Monkton, the then Governor General, it was finally decided to keep Wazir Ali in Calcutta under the watchful eyes of East India Company. Accordingly this advice was conveyed to Wazir Ali and he gave a probable date of 15 or 16 of January for his departure. On the morning of 14th January, Wazir Ali arrived at the house of Cherry along with his 200-armed men. Cherry with his secretary Evans were at the entrance and welcomed Wazir Ali and his entourage that included Waaris Ali, Izzat Ali and Father-in-law of Wazir Ali. The group along with four armed men was then escorted to the dining room where Cherry offered them eatables. Wazir Ali refused to take tea and started complaining about the Governor General’s actions that stopped the pension payment of Rs, 6 lakhs to him. Wazir Ali also held Cherry responsible for his (Wazir Ali) proposed movement to Calcutta. In the meanwhile when the accusations and counter accusations were being hurled, Waaris Ali left his place and stepped besides Cherry. Raging with passion and seething with anger against the English men, Wazir Ali could not control himself and attacked Cheery. Cherry tried to flee but he was caught and got killed. Izzat Ali stabbed Evans and when he tried to escape; his life was put to an end by a bullet. Captain Conway who entered the house at that moment was also killed in the ensuing melee. Wazir Ali’s men then tuned their fury on the nearby bunglow of Davis who was the Judge and Magistrate of Benares. Davis and his family were saved by the timely arrival of sahar Kotwals’ armed men. Stray incidents of arson and loot were reported from the city in defiance of the English Authority. Some police buildings were set on fire. Soon by 11:00 clock of the day, the British forces under General Ersquine took control of the city. Soon after the English cannons roared, Wazir Ali and his men retreated to Madho Dass Bagh where it was generally believed that they would take a determined stand. The gate of Madho Dass ka Bagh was blown away and when the British forces entered the inner chowk, they were informed that the defiant group of Wazir Ali fled away from the scene towards Butwal via Azamgarh. The British forces did not pursue the fugitives immediately. Next day, Maharaja Benares, both the sons of Jahandar Shah and leading citizenry of Benares met Davis and assured him that they had no link with the happening and the warring faction of Wazir Ali. Davis was praised for his efforts to look after the family of Wazir Ali and about 100 of his staff at Madho Bagh who were left behind. Peace was restored by 18th of January. The task remained was to punish the Banarsi accomplices of Wazir Ali. Forces were sent to arrest Jagat Singh, Bhawani Shankar, Shivdeo and Shivnath Singh (leader of Bankas) who were all the residents in and around Benares. Of all the rebels, Shivnath Singh was the only person who killed many before he and his men got killed. Bhawani Shankar was sent to gallows and Jagat Singh took poison while he was being sent to Andaman.

Wazir Ali organized resistance against the East India Company by making Butwal in Nepal at that time as his base of operation. He was able to occupy Gorakhpur and made futile attempts to gain his lost Oudh territory. His resources were meager and soon his resistance movement melted away. He had to flee again and this time surfaced in Jaipur where he sought shelter and help from Jaipur Raja Pratap Singh, which was however refused in the backdrop of a possible threat from Marquis of Wellesley. The Jaipur Raja instead of helping the ex- Nawab of Oudh, handed him over to the English Colonel Collies. This treacherous act of Kachwaha Raja was not liked by many Hindoostani Rulers (especially Holkar) and also by some impartial English men like James Tod and J. Mill who deplored this act in his book ‘History of British India’. The wretched and ill-fated ex-Nawab had to spend rest of his life as a captive showpiece in a cage and died in the year 1817, unsung and no body to mourn at Fort Williams, Calcutta. Sometimes the fate overwhelms a man so much that the poor Wazir Ali was served with a coffin of even Rs. 70 with difficulty but when he was married, his father Asaf-ud-Daulah spent a fabulous sum of Rs. 30 lakhs on that occasion. Dr. Moti Chandra in his learned book ‘Kashi ka Itihas’ has mentioned that Wazir Ali was sent to Vellore after his captivity at Fort Williams, Calcutta. This fact, somehow, needs further verification.

Some mention may be made here about Banno Begum, the chief consort of Nawab Wazir Ali. She was the daughter of Nawab Ashraf Ali Khan, son of Banda Ali Khan. Not much is known about her and it might be presumed that she did not exert much influence at the court. Moreover the nawabi period of Nawab Wazir Ali was too short for Banno Begum to play any worthwhile role to remember. She was granted Rs.600 per month for life to meet her personal expenditure. After Wazir Ali was taken to Kolkata, she stayed back at Monghyr. She had no issue from the marriage and spent her life as a lonely person, lost in the wickedness of the world. The English did not care the least about her pension as she was supposed to be taken care of like any other member of the Oudh royal household.

Some names of secondary wives of Wazir Ali appear in the Company Records regarding grant of pensions and their stay after his imprisonment. Ilahi Khanum and her son were sent to Patna and then to Monghyr and afterwards permitted to stay at Chhapra. Sahib Buksh and her son Muhammad Ali lived at Monghyr. Hussaini Begum was another wife who with her daughter Saadat-un-Nisa stayed at Patna. They all received nominal pensions.