Friday, February 18, 2011
Black Hole of Calcutta (contd-2)
Holwell wrote an account of the incident in which he claimed that of 146 prisoners, 123 suffocated when imprisoned in the 14ft x18 ft room. His version of events, which was not challenged by other survivors, was widely accepted at the time in Britain.
Sir William Meredith, during the parliamentary inquiry into Robert Clive's actions in India, vindicated Siraj ud-Daulah of any charges surrounding the Black Hole incident.
" It is true , that when he took Calcutta a very lamentable event occurred, I mean the the story of the Black Hole, but that catastrophe can never be attributed to the intention, for it was without the knowledge of the prince.I remeber a similar incident happening in St. Martin's roundhouse, but it should appear very ridiculous, were I, on that account , to attribute any guilt or imputation of cruelty to the memory of the late king,in whose reign it happened.A peace was however agreed upon with Siraj ud-daulah, and the persons who went as ambassadors to confirm that peace, formed the conspiracy , by which he was deprived of his kingdom and life."
Controversy about Holwell's Account :
Holwell claims that one hundred and twenty three died out of one hundred and forty six held. While his account was not questioned in Britain at the time, other contemporary accounts claimed a larger number and differed on other details such as the room size and whether there was a window. In 1915, British scholar J.H. Little challenged Holwell's claims in his article, "The Black Hole- the question of Holwel's Veracity.", arguing that Holwell was an unreliable witness and his veracity is questionable. Little went so far as to label Holwell's version "a gigantic hoax". Other historians, including Indian scholar Brijen Gupta, disagreed with Little's strong belief, but neverthless downplayed Holwell's account.
The following arguments have been listed against Holwell's account.
Absence of any independent confirmation : It is stated that apart from Holwell' account no other source mentioned such an incident. Historian R.C.Majumdar in his An advance history of India says that Holwell's story is entirely baseless.