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Uncovering Rasulpur Estate’s History: Landlords from Uttar Pradesh and Bengal in Bihar

Rasulpur Estate is documented in the Purnea District Gazetteer. In the District Gazetteers Purnea, historian L.S.S O’Malley recounts the history of Bibi Kamrunnisa, who was the wife of Jagirdaar Syed Raza Ali Khan Bahadur, originally from Muzaffarnagar.

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The village of Beni Rasulpur boasts a rich history dating back to the 17th century. Situated just 6 kilometers from Salmari Bazaar in Bihar’s Katihar district, Beni Rasulpur is more commonly known as Rasulpur. In its earlier days, this village served as a prominent neighborhood for local landlords, often referred to as ‘mir’ or ‘Raja’.

The Journey from Muzaffarnagar and Murshidabad

These landlords originally hailed from the renowned Jolly estate in Muzaffarnagar and the princely state of Murshidabad in Bengal. They made their way to Rasulpur during the 17th century, according to the recollections of Syed Imtiyaz Ahmad, a descendant of a Zamindar from ‘Purani Deorhi,’ one of the three prominent landlord households in Rasulpur.

Rasulpur Estate is documented in the Purnea District Gazetteer. In the District Gazetteers Purnea, historian L.S.S O’Malley recounts the history of Bibi Kamrunnisa, who was the wife of Jagirdaar Syed Raza Ali Khan Bahadur, originally from Muzaffarnagar. Her uncle, Agha Saifullah Khan, was the grandson of the last Nawab of Purnea, Faujdar Mohammad Ali Khan and held the position of Senapati (commander) at Jalalgarh Fort in Purnea, enjoying a prominent role among the town’s nobles.

Upon Agha Saifullah Khan’s passing without heirs, Bibi Kamrunnisa inherited his property. Furthermore, she received a 4 anna and 8 ganda share of Hafizunnisa’s property in Beni Rasulpur Estate. Hafizunnisa, a notable figure from Rasulpur estate, is among the few individuals from the area mentioned in historical accounts. She generously bequeathed a portion of her inheritance to her stepson, Syed Asad Raza.

In Pursuit of Historical Traces

Our journey led us to Rasulpur Village in search of the historical figures documented by L.S.S O’Malley in the ‘District Gazetteers Purnea.’ Within the village, we encountered remnants of the past, including an aged mosque, scattered ruins, and a pair of weathered cannons. Syed Imtiyaz Ahmad served as our guide, revealing ancient ruins and pointing out a venerable mango tree, believed to be nearly 250 years old.

According to Syed Imtiyaz, his forebears undertook a migration from the Jolly Estate in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district to Rasulpur in Katihar during the mid-17th century. He went on to explain that the Rasulpur estate accommodated three distinct houses of landlords, each residing in separate sections referred to as North Deorhi, South Deorhi, and West Deorhi. Imtiyaz’s lineage traces back to the landlords of West Deorhi, with “Deorhi” being an Urdu term signifying a doorway or entrance.

The Story of West Deorhi’s Landlords

Syed Mushtaq Hussain Hashmi, a descendant of West Deorhi, shared insights into the historical disputes that had once plagued the three landlord households. His grandfather, Syed Mir Aala Ali, made his way to Rasulpur from the Jolly Estate in 1837.

Syed Mir Aala Ali was the nephew of Syed Raza Ali Khan Bahadur, hailing from Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, who also came to West Deorhi in Beni Rasulpur Estate. The reference to Syed Raza Ali Khan can be found in L.S.S. O’Malley’s ‘District Gazetteers Purnea.’

Mushtaq Hussain Hashmi recounted, “An epidemic had struck Jolly Estate when my grandfather, Syed Mir Ala Ali, arrived at Rasulpur Estate. His village was in the throes of a severe outbreak, prompting his departure to Rasulpur Estate with a small retinue at the tender age of 7 or 8. Syed Mir Ala Ali’s maternal uncle, Syed Raza Ali Khan Bahadur, was the rightful heir of West Deorhi in Beni Rasulpur Estate. With no offspring of his own, the inheritance passed to my grandfather.”

He went on to mention that within Rasulpur Estate, there were two cousins among the landlords of North Deorhi and West Deorhi. The estate’s dominion stretched from Rajmahal in West Bengal to Nepal’s Morang District. A popular local legend within the village had it that a Sufi saint known as ‘Beni ke Peer Sahib’ had imparted his blessings upon Rasulpur Estate, paving the way for its expansion from Bengal to Nepal.

In his book ‘Purnea Par Faujdaron Ki Hukumat,’ historian Dr. Akmal Yazdani provides insights into the West Deorhi landlord, Syed Raza Ali Khan Bahadur, who, in the absence of offspring from his wife Bibi Kamrunnisa, saw her generously bequeath a portion of her inheritance to her stepson, Syed Asad Raza, the recipient of property passed down from her uncle, Agha Saifullah.

The South Deorhi

Turning to South Deorhi within the Beni Rasulpur Estate, it was once under the stewardship of landlord Syed Ghulam Abbas. While a few of his descendants remain in the village, most have long departed the region. South Deorhi, once graced by a grand palace, now stands in ruins, with its sole vestige being the red brick foundation behind a diminutive tower referred to as ‘Hawakhana.’

Syeda Begum, an elderly resident and descendant of North Deorhi’s landlord, Raja Hashim Ali, shared intriguing stories of her family’s past. Her grandfather had wed a woman from Murshidabad, and her grandmother’s lineage was linked to Siraj-ud-Daula. Upon their arrival in Beni Rasulpur, they brought with them soldiers, elephants, and even a few cannons.

She continued, recounting tales passed down by her mother, noting that when the British asserted their authority, they confiscated the cannons from the estate. Nevertheless, the estate owners managed to conceal two cannons, which to this day rest on the ground, serving as enduring symbols of the centuries-old Rasulpur estate.

As per Syeda Begum, the vast expanse of Rasulpur Estate stretched over a considerable area, with a substantial sum of taxes being collected annually.

Her niece, Sadiqua Begum, who had been wed in Kishanganj, relayed to Main Media the origins of her paternal grandfather’s family, originating from Murshidabad, while her maternal grandfather, Raja Hashim Ali, hailed from the Jolly Estate. Raja Hashim Ali’s wife, Hafizunnisa, earned mention in L.S.S. O’Malley’s ‘District Gazetteers Purnea.’

Ancient Ruins, Cannons, and a Centuries-Old Mosque

Within the village, an intriguing discovery awaited us – two cannons resting on the ground, mere meters from Rasulpur’s Jama Masjid. These cannons had been unearthed just days before during road construction efforts, accompanied by the recovery of dozens of cannonballs from the nearby vicinity.

The Jama Masjid of Rasulpur Estate is believed to have stood for approximately 370 years. The mosque’s iron grill gate bears the inscription “1650” as its year of foundation, a date discovered in the old estate documents. While it was once displayed on the mosque’s main door, the ravages of time have since obscured it.

The mosque in Rasulpur bore a striking resemblance in architectural style to other estate mosques in the Seemanchal region. In terms of size, it closely mirrored the mosque of ‘Purani Deorhi,’ located approximately 2 kilometers west of Halim Chowk in Kishanganj.

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Just a short walk from Rasulpur’s mosque, remnants of a once grand palace, known as Kelabaadi, were visible. This palace had long served as the iconic residence of the landlords of West Deorhi.

Slightly to the east, an elevated structure with the appearance of a square minaret caught our attention. Syed Zahid Hussain, a retired teacher and a descendant of West Deorhi’s landlords, elucidated that this building was believed to have been used by people from South Deorhi to gain a vantage point for surveying the surrounding areas. Some also referred to this structure as ‘Hawakhana.’

Syed Zahid Hussain continued, shedding light on the migration patterns of many West Deorhi landlords, explaining that a significant number had relocated further north, establishing various settlements, many of which are now situated in present-day Pakistan.

In Rasulpur village, you can find descendants of North Deorhi’s landlords, with one family residing in the Kishanganj district. The majority of these individuals are engaged in labor-class occupations.

The year 1947 marked India’s independence, and soon after, the Government of Bihar introduced the ‘Bihar Abolition of Zamindari Bill.’ The following year, the first amendment was made to this legislation, and in 1950, it was replaced by the ‘Bihar Land Reforms Act.’ This pivotal legislation effectively brought an end to the Zamindari system in the state.

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Syed Jafar Imam, born in Kishanganj, began his journey in journalism from Delhi in 2017. He has worked for Public Vichar, A.M. 24 Bihar, Scribblers India, Swan Tree Foundation, and Jamia Patrika. Since the publication of his book "A Panic Attack On The Subway" in 2021, he has been vocal on social media about mental health issues.

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