Sunday, 12 April 2015

Indian Thugs - British India - Thugs 01

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The term Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) and other criminal acts were introduced during the colonial period  in 1700's and CTA has a strange historical legal background.
Way laying, highway and bank robberies, the recent  snatching of gold chains from women by motor-bike riding culprits, burglary, house breaking and a variety of criminal activities are a nuisance to the  civil society and the law enforcement people world over. They often scratch their brain to solve these ever increasing public criminal activities that continue without a break. The trained gangs use different strategies to strike a high security bank or a jewelery shop. After the heist, they leave the place without leaving any clue whatsoever. Probably old timers would have seen thrilling robbery movies like Robert Red Ford-Paul Newman starer Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and also several Hollywood heist movies - some may be based on real stories, etc. Dealing with professional criminals has been a tough job since several centuries. It needed resources, right planning and large posse of trained cops or bounty hunters to search  several remote places.
Cops and thugs.www.pinterest.com
When the British colonists had settled down in India in 1600's, after their long stay here,  as their jobs took them to interior parts of under developed places, they faced a unique problem: criminal activities of various kinds particularly in isolated areas and places on the fringe of thick jungles. The thick huge tree covered jungles became a natural 'habitat for the thugs!!  

The differentiation of wandering criminal tribes (Thugs, vagrants, itinerants, traveling tradesmen, nomads and gypsies) seemed impossible, so they were all, including eunuchs (hijras) grouped together under a common term. Their subsequent generations were groomed as hard core criminals and their descendants were merely a "law and order problem" for the state. The foreign caravans had to crisscross the country side frequently, the lives of common people as well as British company officials were in perpetual danger in certain interior parts of the sub continent. This term ''thug'' for a particular kind of murder and robbery of travelers is widely used in South Asia and particularly in India. In those olden days - centuries ago  in certain villages, a gang  of sturdy, well-built  professional robbers carrying huge torch on horse back used to strike, after midnight,a targeted village or villages in lightning speed and loot as much as they could leaving behind a trail of destruction of properties, cries of injured people and utter confusion. Some times individual robbers or thugs with oil applied all over his body(to avoid being caught) would strike affluent houses at night  and got away with the hordes. Rarely such robberies ended in murders.
 

The British had difficulties in dealing  such criminals because they were operating in remote areas and also cleverly they would keep changing places or hideouts.In the meantime the  loss of lives  also grew to a significant amount.  But the murders were clueless. The first  Act of Crime came into force, with the assent of the Governor-General of India on 12 October, 1871 and  enacted in the same year  as the Criminal Tribes Act,1871 applied mostly in North India.  Under the act, ethnic or social communities in India which were defined as "addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offenses -
19th century old Indian thugs. 2ndlook.wordpress.com 
Set of Thieves and Ruffians or Thugs Bad Guys Characters.www.123rf.co
"such as thefts, were  regularly registered by the government. Since they were described as 'habitually criminal,' restrictions on their movements were also imposed; adult male members of such groups were forced to report weekly to the local police. This Act  later covered  Bengal Presidency and other areas in 1876 and later  Madras Presidency (1911) as well. After several amendments and modifications, finally the Criminal Tribes Act, 1924 incorporated all of them.


Many people may not be aware of the origin of this frequently used English word -''Thug''( Hindi: Nepali  thagi;  Sanskrit: sthaga; Sindhi: Kannada: thakka refers to the acts of Thugs, an organized gang of professional assassins) which is of Indian origin introduced during the British rule. In the 1830s William Bentinick, Governor-General of India, and  chief captain William Henry Sleeman were after them to suppress their criminal activities.
 

The Criminal law was created to target the group called Thugs, dangerous, groups of people who were literally barbaric and unscrupulous. This cult  was devoted to Kali - a Hindu Goddess of war or destroyer. According to the Hindu mythology Goddess Kali kills the evil people to protect the good. Paradoxically, these habitual criminals were doing just the opposite. Can you imagine these thugs, it is believed, mercilessly murdered million people in a span of 100 years 1740 to 1840. Some of these groups would become friendly with rich strangers or rich travelers on the move from one place to another. Once they gained the trust of the strangers, they would kill them mercilessly and dispose off the dead body in isolated areas or in the thick jungles  with out any traces of body identification (in serial killer Ted Bundy,USA style). After a brief  break, they would be out for the next criminal job. These notorious people were called ''Phansigar''(using a noose). Though, the 'thuggee' problem existed with no solution in sight, some historians say, because of many tribal people and their chiefs' participation in 1857 ''Sepoy Revolt'' against the British, they were labeled as traitors and caused constant trouble to the authorities through their frequent acts of rebellion.They also argue these poor, low caste  nomadic people living on the fringes of the society had bare subsistence, often wandering to survive as petty traders, migrant workers, gypsies, hill and forest dwelling tribes, which did not conform to the British colonial idea of civilized living of settled agriculture and waged labor. Here habitual criminals became an ethnic group instead of a social group.

In fact Indian professional criminals -thugs of yore centuries ago were  evil-minded people just out of the Hades.
Ref:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thuggee