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Rohilla War

  • Name of the Battle: The Rohilla War
  • Venue: Rohilkhand, Northern India
  • Year: 1774

The Rohilla War took place in the year 1774 AD and was considered a major conflict in the history of India between the Shuja-ud-Daula, Nawab of Awadh and the Rohillas. The Nawab was supported by the British East India Company under the governor-general of Bengal, Warren Hastings. In the war, the Rohillas were defeated. The support that Warren Hastings gave to the Nawab was not taken lightly by the British, for which he was vindicated.

The reasons that led to the battle

The Rohillas were Afghans or Muslim Highlanders who are presently a community of Muslim Urdu-speaking Pashtuns, settled in Rohilkhand, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. However, the Rohillas entered India in the 18th century. This was the time when the Mughal Empire in India was declining. They worked with the local zamindars and nawabs in India. They also were taken in the Mughal army by Emperor Aurangzeb to crush the Rajput population. Slowly the Rohillas started taking control of the areas they were staying and eventually they could create a large territory for themselves, which they named as the "Rohilkhand". This included districts of Rampur, Bareilly and the neighbouring regions in Uttar Pradesh. Soon the Mughal Empire declined completely and the Rohillas became all the more powerful and declared their independence. Now they were threatened by the Marathas in India for which they wanted help from the Nawab of Awadh, Shuja-ud-Daula. He promised to help the Rohillas but in return they had to pay him a sum of Rs. forty lakhs. The Nawab along with the help of the British army, fought with the Marathas and defeated them. However, the Rohillas were not able to the pay the sum of money as promised and as a result of which the war broke out between Shuja-ud-Daula and the Rohillas.

The main reasons for which the British supported the Nawab were as follows:
  • To bring Awadh under the control of the British empire.
  • To give a line of boundary to the area under the control of the Nawab so that it became easier to defend.

Aftermath of the battle: winner and loser
  • Winner: Shuja-ud-Daula, supported by the East India Company
  • Loser: The Rohillas

To fight against the Rohillas, Shuja-ud-Daula took the support of the British army, and during this time, Warren Hastings was the governor general of the East India Company. Warren Hastings agreed to help the Nawab in return for a sum of forty lakhs rupees. And also, he supported the Nawab because he felt that Rohillas were a danger to the British.

In August 1773, Warren Hastings got the control of Allahabad and Kora from the Nawab and send a troop of British army to the Nawab to fight against the Rohillas in January 1774. The Rohillas were led by Hafiz Rahmat Ali Khan while the East India army was led by Colonel Alexander Champion. The war took place on 23 April 1774. Both the armies proceeded towards Awadh. The British army invaded the Rohilla territory. The Rohillas were completely ousted by the British at a place called Miran Katra. Hafiz Rahmat Khan died in the battle, which was the turning point in the conflict.

The larger implications of the battle

When the army of the British East India Company defeated the Rohillas in 1774, the British could annex most of their kingdom. The territory of the Rohillas was annexed to Oudh. At Rampur, the British established a small "protected" Rohilla state and made Faizullah Khan, a Rohilla chief, as the Nawab.

The overall place and significance of the battle in the Indian history

In 1793, Faizullah Khan died as a result of which his sons fought amongst each other to come to power and become the Nawab of Rampur. Eventually, this led to the intervention of the British again under the leadership of General Abercromby. This led to the Second Rohilla War in 1794. In this war, the Rohillas were defeated and around 25,000 Rohilla soldiers were executed. Following the war, the Rohilla War Memorial was constructed within the campus of St. John's Church, Calcutta by the British in memory of their fallen soldiers, though very small in number.

The vast majority of the Rohillas settled in Pakistan after independence, though a large population stayed back in India. The region they stayed back is known as Rohilkhand and presently falls in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Today, they are the largest Pashtun diaspora community in India.

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Last Updated on : January 17, 2015