(Last Updated on : 03-05-2012)
The appointment of Warren Hastings as the new governor general of Bengal in 1772 opened a new chapter in the history of the East India Company in India. Being a governor General, the sole motive of Hastings was to make the Company the paramount power in India. The socio-political condition of India, when Warren Hastings became the governor was extremely anarchic. Moreover the independence of the three Maratha rulers -Sindhia, Bhonsle and Holkar had to be crushed before the Company became the arbiter of the Indian administration and politics. The socio-political conditions were not suitable for the negotiations. Hence Hastings prepared for waging wars against the three Maratha powers.
The chaotic political condition in the Maratha territories greatly facilitated the task of Hastings. The Raja of Berar was probably the weakest of the three Maratha chiefs. After the death of Raghuji Bhonsle, the socio-political condition was ripe for civil war. As the immediate successor of Raghuji Bhonsle, Parsoji succeeded the throne. The young Raja's cousin Appa Sahib disputed the widow Bukka Bai's claim for Regent. Because Appa Sahib considered himself to be the next successor to the throne of Nagpur, hence became the contender of Bukka Bai. The British resident Mr. Jenkins found the situation ripe to implement the policy of the Subsidiaary Alliance on the state. Appa Sahib was extremely keen to get the British support in his rivalry against the Rani. He offered favorable terms to the British and signed the treaty of Nagpur with them. By this treaty a subsidiary force of six battalions of infantry, a regiment of cavalry and a company of European artillerymen was posted in Nagpur. According to the treaty, Appa Sahib had to pay a fixed amount of subsidy to the Company. The subsidy was fixed as 7 ½ lakhs of rupees per annum. Apart from these the Raja was also agreed that he had to surrender all the foreign affairs to the Company. The treaty of Nagpur proved a great advantage to the Company. This is so because through this treaty the Company won the strategic control over Nagpur, which was of immense advantage both from defence and offence. The treaty of Nagpur posed a serious blow to the strong foundation of the Maratha s confederacy in India.
Peshwa Baji Rao II, after accepting the Subsidiary Alliance by the treaty of Bassein found the British Stronghold dangerous for his supremacy. Henceforth he tried to recover the independence of action, which the office of Peshwa usually exercised before. But his efforts were thwarted by the British intervention. As a result the Company compelled the Peshwa to sign the Six Articles of Agreement. The Peshwa's claim over the Gaekwar of Baroda, feudatory of the British resulted in another trouble in the year 1814 The Gaekwar according to the suggestion of the Company sent Gangadhar Shastri to Poona in order to negotiate with the Peshwa. But no conclusion could be reached regarding the Peshwas claim of tribute from Kathiawar and Baroda. Later Gangadhar Shastri was murdered at Nasik on 1815, by a plot devised by Trimbakji (the chief minister of Peshwa). The British resident Elphinstone demanded the arrest of Trimbakji. The Peshwa postponed but surrendered the Prime Minister Trimbakji in the year1816. Trimbakji was lodged in the Thana jail buts he escaped in 1816 from the prison. Hastings by this time was free from the Nepal war. He urged Elphinstone to surrender the demand of Trimbakji within a period, fixed by the resident. Hastings also insisted Elphinstone to ask the Peshwa that if she refused to submit to the proposed restrictions he would be considered as the enemy. It was also declared that if the Peshwa would not submit the Company would be bound to wage a war against him. Moreover the Governments of Bombay, Madras and the British Resident at Hyderabad were also asked to be ready with troops in cases of need. On 7th May 1817, the British Resident asked for the submission of Trimbakji along with the surrender of the forts of Raigarh, Simhagarh and Purandhar with a course of one month. The Peshwa was vacillating between fight, resistance and submission. In the meantime Colonel Smith had occupied the forts and surrounded Poona. On 13th June 1817, the Peshwa submitted to the British supremacy and a peace treaty, treaty of Poona was signed. According to the Treaty of Poona, the Peshwa was made to fulfill the demands of the company. Consequently the Peshwa accepted the dissolution of the Maratha confederacy. According to the condition of the treaty the Peshwa was denied to hold any communication with other powers except through the British Resident. The Peshwa had to renounce his claims over the Gaekwar for an annual payment of four lakhs of rupees. Moreover the Peshwa ceded to the Company the fort of Ahmednagar and also transferred his right over Bundelkhand, Malwa and Hindustan to the Company. Finally the Peshwa was compelled to admit that in his dominion any number of additional troops the Company government might think necessary could be posted. Those troops would be permitted to move to any part of the Maratha Territory.
The treaties of Nagpur and Poona undoubtedly provided immense political and the military advantage to the Company. Due to these treaties the Maratha confederacy was on the verge of destruction, which established the foundation of the British supremacy in India.
In September 1817, Lord Hastings arrived with a big force at Kanpur. He put forward the terms and conditions directly to Sindhia. Hastings also declared in clear terms that if Sindhia refused to accept his terms and condition, Sindhia would be considered as the enemy. However Sindhia accepted the humiliating treaty in November 1817 and submitted to the British authority. By this treaty, Maharaja of Sindhia, agreed to provide 5000 troops of cavalry to fight against the Pindaris. The Sindhia was not to increase his army, which during the operations against the Pindaris was to occupy the positions allotted to it by the Company. Moreover according to the treaty British garrisons were to be posted into Sindhia's forts of Asirgarh and Hindia. The Company declared that these forts would be given back to Sindhia after the termination of the action against the Pindaris.
The treaty undoubtedly disarmed the Sindhia and gave the Company great advantages in the action of the Pindaris. The powerful terms and condition of the treaty provided by the Company was extremely humiliating. However the Company made Sindhia to accept those terms of the treaty. As a result of the treaty though the Sindhia became still independent constitutionally, the Company controlled the administrative machinery.
However the Maratha chiefs were not reconciled as the loss of their independence. They developed their confederacy secretly under the leadership of the Peshwa. On 5thNovembe 1817,the British Residence in Poona was attacked and burnt. The British troops repulsed and defeated the Peshwa's large army at Khirki on 5thNovember. Brigadier Smith occupied Poona on 13th November and the Peshwa escaped for life. The Nagpur Troops under Appa Sahib declared war against the British on 26th November 1817. The Council of Regency for Holkar also declared war against the British. But Appa Sahib was crushed at Sitabaldi and the Holkar's army was also defeated at Mahidpur on 1817. In this way Hastings placed the supremacy of the Company in India.