Analyse the role of zamindars during the Mughal period.
The landed proprietors who owned extensive lands during the Mughal period were called Zamindars. They considered the lands as their personal property (milkiyat) as they could sell, give or mortgage it and cultivated it with the help of hired labour. They enjoyed an elevated status in society, even though they did not directly participate in the agricultural production process. Zamindars predominantly belonged to the upper castes. Their superior status allowed them to enjoy many social and economic privileges.
Economic role – part of the authority of the Zamindars occurred as they collected revenue on behalf of the state, a service for which they were compensated financially. The inhabitation and development of agriculture land along with the monetisation of the village economy was spearheaded by them. They also aided cultivators by providing them with cash loans and other means of cultivation. The Zamindars also established village markets or haats where they sold the surplus from the milkiyat lands. These haats were also utilized by other farmers to sell their surplus produce.
Military role – the Zamindars also controlled society by having control over military resources. Most zamindars had armed contingents comprising units of cavalry, artillery and infantry at their disposal. They also had fortresses called gilachas.
Social role – if one observes the social relations prevalent in the village during the Mughal period as a pyramid, the Zamindars occupied the topmost position. This position was gained by them owing to their superior status and military power.
The Zamindars were an exploitative class. They often acquired their property through the disposition of weaker people, and colonisation of lands. But their relationship with the peasantry had an element of reciprocity, paternalism and patronage. This enabled them to get peasant support in case they revolted against the state.