Landlords from Hell (1): putting cats in people’s trousers

Or strictly speaking, landlord’s debt collectors from hell. Sayyid Reza Khan was Deputy Dewan of Bengal in the first quarter of the 18th century. Part of his job was to collect state revenues derived from rent rolls, on behalf of the Nawab of Bengal, Murshid Kuli Khan. The funds would eventually be passed on to the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb. The following is an extract from Charles Stewart’s The HIstory of Bengal.

A principal instrument of the Nawab’s severity was Nazir Ahmad, to whom, when a district was in arrears, he used to deliver over the captive Zemindar to be tormented by every species of cruelty, as hanging up by the feet, bastinado- ing, setting them in the sun in summer ; and by stripping them naked, and sprinkling them frequently with cold water in winter. But all these acts of severity were but trifles compared with the wanton and cruel conduct of Sayyid Reza Khan, who was married to Nuffisah Begum, the grand-daughter of the Nawab, and who had been appointed Deputy Dewan of the province. In order to enforce the payment of the revenues, he ordered a pond to be dug which was filled with every- thing disgusting, and the stench of which was so offensive as nearly to suffocate whoever approached it : to this shocking place, in contempt of the Hindus, he gave the name of Bikoont, which, in their language, means Paradise; and after the Zemindars had undergone the usual punishments, if their rent was not forthcoming, he caused them to be drawn, by a rope tied under the arms, through this infernal pond. He is also stated to have compelled them to put on loose trowsers, into which were introduced live cats. By such cruel and horrid methods he extorted from the unhappy Zemindars everything they possessed, and made them weary of their lives.

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