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Monday, May 26, 2014

Founding the empire in Malabar - some early hiccups

Calicut City today
After the defeat of Tipu Sultan, East India Company became the undisputed rulers of Malabar province (barring Wayanad for which they had to wage another war). However, the establishment of undisputed sovereignty over the new land took a while. The British had only the Bengal model to follow and decided to adopt the permanent settlement pattern, although the Zamindari system was alien to the Malabar psyche. The fact that Malabar was initially under the Bombay province and was later transferred to the Madras Presidency also delayed the setting up of a regular administrative structure. This led to multiple roles for the limited number of civil servants who were put in charge of bringing the new province under the Company rule. 
Understandably, this had led to some anomalous situations when Company officials also doubled up as private traders (much after the Company had forbidden private trade by its employees). We bring to light a decree of the Calicut Court in Original Suit No.9 of 1826 which had to deal with such a situation.
Calicut Court was then called the Court of Sadar Adaulat (Provincial Court in the Western Division).  Mr. A.D. Campbell, the Registrar and Judge was called upon to decide a dispute between Kallingal Rarichan (perhaps the descendant of K. Kunhikoru) and one Mr. John Fell Esq., late Conservator of Forests and Commercial Agent in Malabar of the Bombay Government. 
Mr. Fell had been appointed by the Bombay Government on the 3rd of June 1814 to be "Conservator of the Forests and occasional Commercial Agent in Malabar". It appeared that the late Kallingal 'Kunhiakoroo' owed a sum of Rs. 11, 44, 300 on account of advance paid for supply of pepper to the Bombay Government.
The lower court had upheld part of the claim and had ordered the recovery of Rs. 1, 21, 658. The case itself was a routine civil dispute which would not have merited attention but for the 'obiter dicta' by the learned Judge which throws light on the practical issues in setting up a new administration in Malabar. The Judge observed thus:
A few remarks are necessary before entering on the items of account, upon which the parties are at issue. ...the judges cannot in silence pass over the obvious incongruity of a public officer, on behalf of the Bombay Government founding a formal complaint in a public suit instituted on their account on the fact of the late Kallingal Kunhia Koroo having ' engaged to the supply the quantity of pepper required by the Government', when his Vakeel expressly admits that it was two distinct persons named Poker and Bapu respectively who entered into those engagements and that the said deceased was merely the surety for them.
... besides the pepper transactions on account of the Bombay Government into which Mr. Fell entered with the late Kallingal Kunhia Koroo and which alone forms the subject of the present suit, it is evident both from the pleadings of Mr. Fell and the testimony on record that he entered into extensive private dealings with that person and even traded privately with the deceased in pepper at the very period the engagements to the Bombay Government whom Mr. Fell represented, were in operation. 
It is possible that the learned Judge was emboldened by the fact that by the time of the judgment, the administrative control of Malabar had passed from Bombay Government to Fort St. George Government at Madras.

( We are grateful to the District Judge, Calicut for providing access to the court archives).


  1. Very interesting. Kalingla Kunhikoru Moppan was the "last"of the known "Moopan".He was my maternal uncle's father in law.His father was Rarichan Moopan who donated the area for Sri Sunderesa Temple in Calicut.KunhiKoru Moopan donated the Mananchira Maidan area under his custody to the Calicut people for sports activiy.The land of Calicut Rly .station and the present commonwealth premises were given on 99 years to South Indian Railway company and to Basel Mission, that is what the family legend says

  2. Thanks CHF..
    Slowly the forgotton and lost stories are coming out one by one...and that will give a new life to an ancient city..
    Premnath - when you walk around SM street area, you must lift your collar...

  3. Thanks CHF..
    actually the period at calicut after the British took control has never really been put to paper and documents like this provide the meat for an account of the times..
    btw - i had commented earlier on this

  4. very interesting hidden or rather intentionally forgotten history of Calicut and the Donner Kalingla Kunhikoru Moppan and Rarichan Moopan !! It's time to give the rightful respect to these forgotten great souls.

  5. Where was the kallingal madam in Calicut.


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