British relation with Princely States of Odisha

The Feudatory States also known as Native States or Princely States or Garhjat States or Tributary Mahals were twenty six in number by the time of the merger with the Province of Odisha in 1948-49. Those feudatory states divided into three groups were:

1. States of central Odisha: There were nineteen States of central Odisha-Angul, Athgarh, Athmallik, Banki, Baudh, Baramba, Daspalla, Dhenkanal, Hindol, Khandapara Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Narasirnhapur, Nayagarh, Nilgiri, Pal Lahara, Talcher, Tigria and Ranapur. Two of them-Banki and Angul were annexed to British Odisha in 1840 and 1847 respectively.

2. States under Central Provinces: There were five States under Central Provinces-Patna, Sonepur, Kalahandi, Bamanda and Rairakhoi were transferred to Odisha division in 1905.

3. Transferred states to Odisha division: Two like States-Gangpur and Bonai were transferred to Odisha division from Chhotanagpur in 1905.

Features of British-Feudatory States relationship

The British followed the following features towards the feudatory states:

1. Indirect control by the British: Feudatory States were controlled indirectly in contrast to British Odisha which was under the direct administration of the British government. The British was the Paramount or Sovereign Authority and Feudatory States were subordinate allies to it.

2. Policy of ‘No-interference’: The British followed a policy of ‘No-interference’ in the internal affairs of the States. Regulation XII of 1805 exempted the nineteen States from implementing the administrative laws of British-ruled territory of Odisha. The British tried to secure the good-will and co-operation of the States in the early phase of their rule.

3. Policy of laissez-faire: The policy of laissez-faire changed towards 1813. The British insisted on loyalty of the Chiefs of States and maintenance of public peace and started interfering in internal matters as in the cases of Dhenkanal and Mayurbhanj.

Creation of office of the Superintendent of the Tributary Mahals

A significant feature was the creation of the office of the Superintendent of the Tributary Mahals in 1814. His powers were defined in Regulation XI of 1816. The Chiefs were to administer civil and criminal justice in their respective states. Serious offences and those demanding capital punishment were to be referred to the Superintendent. He was empowered to dispose of cases of inheritance, succession and such other claims.The Judge-cum-Magistrate of Cuttack, Edward Impey, became the first Superintendent in 1814.

The creation of the office of Superintendent brought Garhjat States under closer British supervision, without any hostility with the Chiefs or the people of the hilly tract since noninterference in the state affairs continued as the British policy. The Commissioner of Odisha was appointed Superintendent of the Tributary Mahals in 1817 in place of the Judge-cum- Magistrate of Cuttack. Government interference were allowed to be made in 1821 only in cases of political nature like feuds among Chiefs, defiance or violation of loyalty to Govt. and oppression by the Chiefs. The Chiefs of Banki and Angul were imprisoned and the States were annexed to British Odisha on political grounds.

Impact of the Revolt of 1857

The Great Indian Revolt of 1857 brought about a noticeable change in British Policy. The British Crown conferred Sanads on the Chiefs in 1862 granting them hereditary title of Raja and guaranteed them the right of adoption, The loyalty and co-operation of the Odishan Chiefs in the days of Great Revolt of 1857 made the Govt. adopt a conciliatory and friendly policy towards them. The Chiefs of “Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar were conferred the title of ‘Maharaja‟ for their services during the period. Sir Richard Jemple, the Lt. Governor felicitated the Chiefs in a grand Durbar held at Cuttack in Nov. 1874. Relationship was re-defined and renewed moralresponsibility of the British Government for good governance in the States, interference in cases of oppression, violation of law and order, disputed succession and the like.

Results of the relation with feudatory states

The relationship between the feudatory states and the British had brought the following results:

1. The British power gained from such policies. The rulers of the States became loyal supporters of the British Raj. They vied with each other to gain favour of the Government officials. By virtue of the right of supervision of state administration, the Government could interfere in their administration as and when necessary.

2. The Feudatory Chiefs in many cases were negligent and in some cases oppressive. They could continue, despite their maladministration, if they could manage to get the favour of the Paramount sovereign authority.

3. Maladministration was almost chronic. As a result, discontent grew among the peasants who constituted the bulk of population. Disturbances and agrarian revolts broke out in many of the States such as in Baud, Athamallik, Keonjhar and Nayagarh in the later half of 19th century.

British relation with feudatory chiefs in 20th century

The growth of national consciousness became alarming for the British authority. They tried to maintain more cordial relationship with the Feudatory Chiefs. At the same time, they wanted that the princes should pay more attention to the welfare of the people. Two important steps were taken in that regard. The first was the appointment of Political Agent and the second was preparation of Feudatory States Manual. Sir Andrew Fraser, the Lt. Governor of Bengal strongly recommended for the appointment of the Political Agent for the Feudatory States of Odisha under the control of the Commissioner of Odisha. He should act as the friend, philosopher and guide of the rulers for effective administration. In 1906, L.C.B Cobden-Ramsay was appointed Political Agent for the Feudatory States of Odisha. The Sanads granted to the Feudatory States formed the basis of the Feudatory States Manual. It provided guidelines to the Chiefs. Their dignity as Valuable asset’ was recognised. At the same time attempts were made to help the Chiefs to discharge their responsibilities. Its effects were far-reaching. While securing the good will and loyalty of the Chiefs and maintaining sound administration, it would curb the nationalist risings in the States. So far as States under direct administration of the British were concerned, the Political Agent acted as the Chief authority subject to the control of the Commissioner.Many States faced a lot of troubles from the Praja Mandalas or State’s People’s Conference after 1920. The All-India Congress Party championed their cause to establish representative or democratic governments. The British Government also came to realise the changing conditions. Maladministration, popular discontentment and growth of consciousness were reflected in the Montague-Chelmsford Report as the present stir cannot be a matter of indifference to the princes. The British Government realised that the Feudatory Chiefs who were a pillar of strength to them could not survive if they failed to provide good administration. It was revealed from the statements of Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy in 1939 and L.S. Amery, the Secretary of State for India in 1943.

Last Line to say

During the two decades preceding the Merger of the States in 1948 witnessed implementation of some reform measures and developments in administration, education and public works. Whereas in some States, oppression and suppression of the popular revolts continued unabated. The British Government could read the writing on the wall, in the fag-end of their rule, that the days of the Chiefs were numbered and they were rather lukewarm in their support to the Chiefs.