(Last Updated on : 04-02-2010)
Grain riots in the city of Nagpur and in different parts of the district had begun at the end of September, 1869. There was famine in the north of the Province that is in the Jabalpur Division, as well as in the adjoining parts of the North-west Provinces. There was no famine in the Nagpur Division
, but the prices of grain were very high. The reason of this was partly the demand for the export of grain from that part of the province to the famine-stricken parts, and partly the determination of the grain merchants to hold up their grain in hope of still higher prices when the famine elsewhere should have developed. There was some distress occasioned by these high prices. People with fixed incomes found it hard to purchase for themselves even the necessaries of life; and there was a great deal of ill-feeling in the community against the grain merchants.
The main causes of the disturbance were undoubtedly: (1) the discontented state of the Koshti population, whom the mills had deprived of a great part of the profits of their own peculiar calling, and who did not readily turn to any other ;(2) the rise in prices owing to the want of rain and the demand for food grains from the North-Western Provinces and parts of Bengal; (3) the export of grain which led the people to fear that there would soon be no grain at all in Nagpur
; and (4) the efforts of the goons to fan the flame of resentment against the grain-sellers and rich merchants, so as to create for themselves an opportunity for robbery.
A number of inquiries found out that a number of these people of Nagpur had set themselves to foment this ill-feeling and to incite the people to rise against the grain-sellers and take their stock by force. Their object was to stir up a riot and incite an attack on the grain merchants' shops, in the hope that, while the rioters were possessing themselves of grain, they might take advantage of the disturbance of the peace to break into the treasuries and secure the bullion and valuables belonging to the merchants. A rumour had spread that that Government would not tolerate any prolonged disturbance, but was quite willing to have the grain dealers robbed of a certain amount of their grain, provided that the disturbance did not last more than two or three hours, by which time it would be possible to give them a sound lesson without too seriously injuring them. These extraordinary statements were received without doubt by a large number of ignorant persons; and riots in Nagpur city and in several towns in the District were the result.
It was later found out the prime arrests of the riots were all of bad characters, some of them having several previous convictions against them, and that one of the principal promoters of the disturbance was an ill-conditioned distant relative of the old Bhonsla family of Nagpur, who was well known for encouraging crime and reaping profit from it.
The rioters were mainly ill-disposed persons bent on plunder. But the prompt action of the military helped to turn down the riots in the city. Although the riot was promptly quelled in the city, however, the disturbance spread to surrounding villages.
The results of the riot were that the people were generally alarmed, and the ill-disposed were encouraged in lawlessness. The entire area of Nagpur was panic-stricken.