The Ceded Districts, the Circars, and

the Nizam


(Retired District Judge)

During his recent visit to the Madras Presidency, Nawab Yar Jung, a jaghirdar of the Nizam’s Dominions, wanted a retrocession of the Ceded Districts in the Madras Presidency to the Nizam, and spoke as if the Nizam had a moral if not a legal claim to the retrocession. This demand of his has evoked some sympathy in the minds of a few of the Muslims of the Ceded Districts. As for the Hindus, the claim has so terrified them that, when the Governor of the Madras Presidency visited Bellary, some of the leading merchants waited in deputation on His Excellency and prayed that the Madras Government should at once, openly and unequivocally, declare that there would be no such retrocession.

To people who are acquainted with the terms of the treaty, dated 12th October, 1800, between the Nizam and the British Government, by which the Nizam handed over to the British Government the four districts of Cuddapah, Kurnool, Bellary and Anantapur, now known as the Ceded Districts, the demand of Nawab Yar Jung must seem based on complete ignorance of the terms of the treaty and of the negotiation that preceded it.

In the wars waged by the British against Tippu Sultan, first in 1792 A.D. and again in 1799 A. D. the Nizam, as an ally of Britain, got a large area of territory for his share. In the year 1800 the Nizam entered into what is known as a subsidiary alliance with the British. By the terms of this treaty the Nizam agreed to have a permanent subsidiary force of eight battalions of sepoys and two regiments of cavalry furnished by the East India Company in his territory. For the regular payment of this force, the Nizam was asked to cede in perpetuity the area that he got in the wars against Mysore in 1792 and 1799 subject to a few territorial adjustments and exchanges so as to make the Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers the boundary line between the ceded area and the Nizam’s own territory. The Nizam agreed to this; and it is the area so granted that is now known as the Ceded Districts.

Nawab Yar Jung seems to imagine either that the arrangement of 1800 was not of a permanent nature or that it was one of trust. Neither supposition is true. Article 5 of the treaty of 1800 (printed at p. 323 of Vol. VIII of Aitchison’s Treaties) says that the Nizam "hereby assigns and cedes to the Honourable East India Company in perpetuity (italics mine) the territories acquired by the Nizam in the wars of 1792 and 1799. Article 6 refers to the territorial adjustments above referred to Article 7 says that the area ceded "shall be subject to the exclusive management and authority of the said Company and of their officers." (italics mine)

Writing about this treaty, Mill in his History of British India (5th edition of 1858, Vol. VI) says:– Nizam Ali ceded to the English, in perpetual sovereignty (italics mine), all the acquisitions which he had made from the territory of Tippoo." This shows how British politicians and historians viewed the cession.

But, should doubts still exist as regards the matter, they will be dispelled when we look at the negotiations that preceded the treaty dated 12th October 1800. In Vol. II of Brigg’s well-known book on "The Nizam–His History and Relations with the British Government" (published in 1861) at p. 392 is to be found a letter dated 15-6-1800 despatched by Marquess Wellesley, then the Governor-General of India, to Captain J. A. Kirkpatrick, the British Resident at Hyderabad. It shows that, without the previous consent of the Governor-General, the British Resident had entered into a treaty with the Nizam on 20-5-1800 and sent it for ratification to the Governor-General. Marquess Wellesley refused to ratify it. He expressly objected to the fourth article of the Resident’s draft treaty. "which expressly reserved to the Nizam the option of discharging the subsidy (due for the subsidiary force) either from his treasury, or by an assignment of territory, according to his Highness’s pleasure." The Governor-General ended his criticism with these words:– "Any expression in the grant calculated to raise a doubt of its permanence or to limit the power of the Company’s internal government of the countries, or to favour the Nizam’s right of resumption (italics mine), would evidently prevent us from concluding any settlement worthy of our character, or advantageous to our interests."

While refusing to ratify the treaty, Marquess Wellesley sent a draft treaty of his own with remarks on the several clauses in it. It was this draft that was accepted by the Nizam, and that became the treaty of October 1800. Some of the Governor-General’s remarks are interesting, Speaking of the permanent cession of territory, he writes:– "The cession will appear both advantageous and honourable, when His Highness shall reflect that the dominions proposed for cession were acquired principally by the aid of the British arms, that after the cession, His Highness will possess the same extent of country which he held previous to the war of 1790-91; that he will be enabled without any pressure upon his finances, to command the services of a large British force; and finally that he will be effectually protected against all future encroachments of the Mahrattas."

Writing about article 7 of his own draft (now article 7 of the treaty of 1800), the Governor-General wrote:–"If the subsidy (i.e., the cost of a subsidiary force) were a mere temporary charge upon the funds of the Nizam, the perpetual assignment of territory would be objectionable; but as the subsidy is a fixed and permanent charge, the funds for its liquidation should be of the same nature."

Dealing with the objection that the future revenues of the ceded area might exceed the cost of the subsidiary force, the Governor-General wrote:– "A long period of time must elapse before the territory which I require as a security for the subsidiary payments can become equal to their discharge…. If the net revenues of the districts specified in the new treaty should hereafter exceed the charges of the subsidiary force, or of the present nominal revenue of the districts (a revenue which under the management of His Highness’s officers never has been realised–) should be realised under a more wise and prudent system, enforced by the abilities, experience and integrity of the Company’s officers, it would be reasonable that the increased resources of these countries now verging to ruin, should be turned to the advantage of that power under whose happy auspices the improvement had been carried into effect. The augmented revenue might justly be claimed by the Company on various grounds." (Then the Governor-General proceeded to give five grounds).

It will be seen that Marquess Wellesley was determined to see that the cession was a permanent one without any right of resumption in the Nizam. The Nizam, with open eyes entered into the arrangement thus suggested by the Govenor-General. No amount of casuistry or ingenuity can now convert the perpetual arrangement into a temporary one.

Apparently Nawab Yar Jung and his supporters seem to think that the assignment of the Ceded Districts was somewhat like the assignment of the Berars in 1853. But under the treaty of 1853 (printed at page 349 of Vol. VIII of Aitchison’s Treaties) the British Government agreed to "render true and faithful accounts every year to the Nizam of the receipts and disbursements connected with the said districts and make over any surplus revenue that may exist to His Highness." In other words the Berars were assigned "to be held in trust by the British Government for the purposes specified in the treaty of 1853" (Aitchison Vol. VIII, p. 271). But in the case of the Ceded Districts there was no trust. There was an outright grant, subject only to the obligation of the subsidiary force which continues to be maintained at Secunderabad.

Dealing next with the alleged moral claims of the Nizam to the Ceded Districts, can it be contended that the Nizam was unwise in entering into the subsidiary alliance and handing over to the British the sovereignty of the Ceded Districts? Writing in 1806, Sir Arthur Wellesley (afterwards Duke of Wellington) wrote of the condition of the Nizam after the Nizam’s defeat in 1795 at the battle of Kurola by the Mahrattas, (a defeat caused because Sir John Shore would not send British troops against the Mahrattas who were also allies of the British at the time), as follows:– "The Nizam, by the result of an unfortunate state of hostility with the Mahrattas, which ended in battle, and a peace or rather capitulation, concluded at Kurola, in the year 1795, had fallen from the state of a great and leading power in Hindustan to that of tributary to the Mahrattas. His ministers were appointed by the Mahrattas." (See p. 53 of the introduction in Sidney J. Owne’s, A Selection from Wellesley’s despatches, published in 1877).

It may safely be said that, but for the treaty of 1800, the very existence of the Nizam as a power in South India would have been impossible. His luck in becoming an ally of the wining side helped him not only to get back a large part of his territory taken by the Mahrattas by the treaty of Kurola but even to win some of their own territories.

When dealing with the alleged moral claim of the Nizam, it may not be inappropriate to consider what was the condition of the Ceded Districts under the Nizam before their cession in 1800. A large portion of the present Cuddapah District was acquired by the Nizam under the Mysore Treaty of 1792, and was thus for about ten years under the Nizam’s direct administration before its cession to the British in 1800. Writing about the state of things during those ten years, Sir Thomas Munro wrote, in 1801: "The ten years of Moghul Government in Cuddapah have been almost as destructive as so many years of war, and this last year a mutinous, unpaid army was turned loose during the sowing season to collect their pay from the villages. They drove off and sold the cattle, extorted money by torture from every man who fell in their hands and plundered the houses and shops of those who fled." (Rulers of India Series, Munro, p. 112). According to Sir Thomas Munro, there were in the Ceded Districts 80 poligars, or petty chiefs, who subsisted by rapine, with 30,000 armed peons under them. The Nizam had never been able to put them down.

The claim for the retrocession of the Ceded Districts has thus neither a legal nor a moral sanction. Will the British Government be a party to such a retrocession when it is opposed by the majority of the residents of the Ceded Districts? I think not, unless the British Government attaches no force to the following lines of one of the English poets:

Are crowns and empire,

The government and safety of mankind,

Trifles of such moment, to be left

Like some rich toy, a ring or fancied gem,

Like pledge of parting friends?


The speeches of Nawab Yar Jung, a Jaghirdar of the Nizam’s Dominions, during his recent visit to the Madras Presidency, have also raised the question whether the Northern Circars are not held by the British Government under a grant essentially in the nature of a lease made by the Nizam, and whether in any case the Nizam has no moral claim to recover the Northern Circars. It would be of interest therefore to state the facts relating to the acquisition of the Northern Circars by the British Government.

In the year 1751 Salabat Jang (the third son of Asaf Jah, the founder of the present ruling dynasty at Hyderabad) became the Subadar of the Deccan with the help of the French troops. Out of gratitude he gave an Inam of the Kondavid (Guntur or Moortizanagar) Circar to the French in 1752. The next year he assigned the remaining four Northern Circars to the French, viz., Moostafanagar (Kondapalli); Ellore; Rajahmundry; and Chicacole.

In the year 1756, the Seven Years’ War broke out between England and France. Ananda Gajapati Raz of Vizianagar, who was the renter-in-chief under the French but was dissatisfied with their administration, applied to Clive in Bengal for help. He was emboldened to do this, because the French General Bussy had left Hyderabad, having been summoned by Lally, the new Governor of Pondicherry, to help him with his troops in the siege of Madras. Clive was only too glad to accept the invitation of Ananda Gajapati Raz, and deputed Colonel Forde to evict the French from the Circars. After brilliant successes, Colonel Forde marched on Masulipatam, then the chief town of the Circars, and took it. The French were completely evicted. Salabat Jang, however, advanced to oppose the British, but found it prudent to enter into a treaty with them in 1759. By this treaty the British got, "as an enam or free gift," the country round Masulipatam and Nizampatam. The rest of the Circars reverted to the Subadar, i.e., the Nizam.

In the year 1761, Salabat Jang was deposed by his younger brother Nizam Ali. Nizam Ali gave the Kondavid or Guntur Circar to his brother Basalat Jang as a jaghir for life. For the remaining area in his possession, Nizam Ali appointed one Hussain Ali Khan as the renter. Nizam Ali, though a usurper, managed to get his title confirmed by the Delhi Emperor.

In the year 1765 an important event occurred. Following the way pointed out by Nizam Ali, Lord Clive obtained a Firmana or Sanad direct from the Moghul Emperor for the whole of the Northern Circars. This Sanad is printed at pages 278 and 279 of Vol. VIII of Aitchison’s "Treaties, Engagements and Sanads." After referring to the unauthorised grant of the Northern Circars by the Subadar to the French, to its not having been confirmed at Delhi, to the British being the firm allies of the Moghul, and to their having expelled the French from the Northern Circars, the Sanad proceeds thus:– "We, therefore, in consideration of the fidelity and good wishes of the English Company, have from our throne, the basis of the world, given them the aforesaid Circars by way of enam or free gift without the least participation of any person whatever in the same)". (Italics mine).

The Madras Government was at first unwilling to publish the above Sanad lest it should make Nizam Ali an enemy. But in 1766 the Madras Government mustered courage to publish it. The result was that Nizam Ali invaded the Carnatic where the British had obtained a large jaghir from the Nawab of the Carnatic. But Nizam Ali was driven back. The Madras Government, however, was in pecuniary difficulties and did not wish to exasperate the Nizam. So it entered into a treaty with the Nizam in which no reference was made by either party to the Sanad of the Moghul Emperor. In this treaty of 1766, Nizam Ali granted the East India Company the five Northern Circars "as a free gift for ever and ever," the grant being accompanied by a Sanad published at page 283 of Vol. VIII of Aitchison. The treaty was published as a separate document, page 280 of Vol. VIII of Aitchison. By the terms of this treaty the British agreed to pay to the Nizam annually some sums thus:– 5 lakhs for the Circars of Rajahmundry, Ellore and Moostafanagar (Kondapalli); 2 lakhs for the Circar of Chicacole; and 2 lakhs for the Circar of Moortizanagar (Guntur), when the Company took possession of it (i.e. after the termination of Basalat lang’s life-jaghir). But these sums were not payable in the years in which the Nizam might ask for the assistance of British troops. The Nizam also was to assist the British with his troops when necessary.

Had matters stood thus, the British Government would be now holding the Northern Circars as a kind of jaghir under the Nizam. But this was not to be. In 1767 the Nizam joined with the English and the Mahrattas for an attack against Haidar Ali of Mysore. Haidar Ali first bought off the Mahrattas, and then seduced Nizam Ali to desert the British and to invade the Carnatic. When the Nizam thus proved faithless, the British rose equal to the occasion, and advanced against Hyderabad. This brought Nizam Ali to his senses, and he found it prudent to enter into a tripartite alliance with the British and the Nawab of the Carnatic. It is by virtue of the terms of this treaty of 1768 that the British Government are now holding the Northern Circars. (The treaty is to be found at page 285 of Vol. VIII of Aitchison’s Treaties).

The terms of this treaty of 1768, which was entered into by the Nizam when he feared an attack on his capital, are naturally different from the terms of the treaty of 1766. Briefly, they show that the Nizam recognised the grant of the Northern Circars by the Moghul; that, however, for the sake of peace the British agreed to pay an annual subsidy to the Nizam (the subsidy being paid as by one co-equal government to another); and that the British also agreed subject to some conditions to supply troops, (2 battalions of sepoys with guns), on the Nizam’s requisition, the Nizam defraying the cost of the force.

The treaty of 1768 was thus in the nature of a compromise by which, though the British held the Northern Circars under the Moghul Emperor, they agreed to pay an annual subsidy. This is rendered clear by the difference in language between the terms of the treaty of 1766 and the treaty of 1768. In the treaty of 1766, there was no mention of the Sanad of the Moghul Emperor; but in the treaty of 1768 there is a reference thus:– "The exalted and illustrious Emperor of Hindustan, Shah Alum Padtcha, having out of his gracious favour, and in consideration of the attachment and services of the English East India Company, given and granted to them for ever, by way of enam or free gift, the five Circars–by his royal Firmaun, dated the 12th August 1765..." Nizam Ali in the treaty of 1768 described himself as "Soubah (provincial governor) of the Deccan," There was thus an acknowledgment of the royal grant.

Again, in the treaty of 1766, there was a grant of the Circars by the Nizam "as free gift," i.e., as an enam, But in the present treaty the language used is as follows:– It is now acknowledged and agreed by the said Ausuph Jah Nizam-ool-Mulk, Soubah of the Deccan, that the said Company shall enjoy and hold for ever, as their right and property, (italics mine) the said five Circars, on the terms hereafter mentioned." ‘There is no reference to the Circars being held as an "enam or free gift" under the Nizam.

Further, in the treaty of 1766, the British agreed to pay certain sums annually "as a consideration for the free gift of the above-mentioned five Circars." In the treaty of 1768, there are no such words. It is true that there is a reference to the annual payments. But the treaty of 1768 says that they will be paid "as a further proof of the Company’s sincere desire to preserve a friendship with the Soubah of the Deccan."

Then again, under the treaty of 1766, the British agreed to pay annually 5 lakhs for the Circars of Rajahmundry, Ellore and Moostafanagar (Kondapalli) , and 2 lakhs for the Circar of Chicacole. In the treaty of 1768, for all the above four Circars, the annual subsidy was fixed at only 5 lakhs and not seven lakhs. (As for the Circar of Guntur, the British in both the treaties agreed to pay 2 lakhs annually after the life-estate of Basalat Jang came to an end. Basalat Jang died in 1782; and after some hindrances caused by the Nizam, the British got possession of the Guntur Circar in 1789; and from that time the total subsidy payable to the Nizam rose to 7 lakhs.)

The matter is perhaps clinched by one of the clauses in the treaty of 1768, under which the Nizam agreed to acquaint all the Zamindars concerned that "they are in future to regard the English Company as their sovereign." (Italics mine).

There can thus be little doubt that under the treaty of 1768 the British were recognised as sovereigns of the Northern Circars subject to two main obligations, viz., (1) the payment of the annual subsidy and (2) the despatch of troops when required by the Nizam. As for the annual subsidy, in the year 1823, Nizam Ali’s son and successor Sikandar Jah extricated himself from his financial difficulties by getting the annual subsidy capitalized, and taking a lump sum of one crore and 66 and odd lakhs of rupees (Rs. 1,66,66,666). (See Aitchison’s Treaties, Vol. VIII, page 269). As for the despatch of troops, it was in the treaty of 1768, subject to the qualification that the British were to send the force "when the situation of their affairs (i.e. of the British) will allow of such a body of troops to march into the Deccan." When in 1800 the Nizam entered into a subsidiary alliance with the British and agreed to have a permanent force of 8 battalions of sepoys and two regiments of cavalry, the Secunderabad Contingent, the clauses in the treaty of 1768 about the despatch of troops by the British when they found it convenient became superfluous for all practical purposes.

In the above circumstances he would be a bold man indeed who could say the British are now holding the Northern Circars under a direct grant from the Nizam that was essentially in the nature of a lease.

As for the alleged moral claim of the Nizam to recover the Circars, apart from the fact that the retrocession would be against the wishes of the bulk of the residents of the Circars, one may take into consideration the condition of the people when they were under the Nizam. Prior to the treaties of 1766 and 1768, a large area was under the direct administration of the Nizam who, as already stated, appointed one Hussain Ali Khan as a renter or lessee. Being unable to restore order, this lessee had to request the Madras Government for help. The then state of things is thus referred to by Mr. Grant who wrote in 1785 in his "Political Survey of the Northern Circars": "The completest anarchy recorded in the history of Hindustan prevailed over all the Northern Circars. The forms, nay, even the remembrance, of civil government seemed to be wholly lost."