Saturday, 3 September 2016

Unknown facts of notorious looters Pindaris - British India

 The Indian subcontinent in the 17th and 18th centuries was beset with many dreadful events, the war among the Indian rulers and between the British forces and Indian rulers and the Indian natives had no time to give a sigh of relief as they were caught in the middle of these man-made disaster. The wars had a run on the economy of many  kingdoms. In the midst of  all these impending struggles, Indian rulers and the British had to tackle the menace of looting, plundering and a spate of murders carried out by  gangs, comprising different castes and religious faiths in certain regions. The British somehow managed to eradicate the Thugee problem - organised gang of professional robbers (1830) and murderers who had operated in the northern states for more than 600 years. Credit goes to  Governor-General of India, William Bentinck and his chief captain, William Henry Sleeman. Earlier, between 1817-1818, Lord Hastings, in coordination with other rulers, tolled the death knell for the menace of  notorious Pindaris. Who are Pindaris?
pindari sillahtar
In central India, Maharashtra and some other states in the 17th and 18th centuries there were groups of plunderers and looters. Widely known as Pindaris, they specialized in raiding the security -deficient villages en mass in thousands on horse back. Their operations were different from those of the  thugee groups. Pindaris began to flourish a few centuries ago, because  of prevalence of   political, social and economic  instability and chaos in many parts of India.

The Pindaris (also spelled Pendharis), according to some  definitions, were  irregular horsemen  whose main occupation was plundering and they had a sort of alliance with the Maratha armies in central India during the 18th century. They operated across 
the  Maratha states  under the protection of the Maratha chiefs, acting as  agents for supplying all the commissariat (providing food , equipment and transport) required by their armies. The word Pindari seems to be the derivative of pinda, an intoxicating drink, or of Pandhar, a village in Nimar. Another possible derivation is from pindā-paṛna (to follow close by) or pindā-basne (to stick close to). They did  not belong to one community or tribe  There were an assortment of  different tribes who congregated with a sole purpose of  plundering the territories  Earlier, they were attached to 
the Muslim armies, went  along with them and  shared the loot. When the supremacy and power of the Moguls and later Marathas began to go down hill, the Pindaris became active on their own during the 18th century. 

Unknown facts of Pindaris:

01. The Pindaris operated in groups under a  self-chosen leader, and each group was usually attached to one or other of the Maratha leaders.earlier they were with the Muslim rulers. The majority of their leaders were Muslims, but they recruited from all classes.

02. The main fact about them is they never received any payment from the  ruler, rather they were given the privilege of plundering the areas on their own account.

03.  Earlier they were free-loaders in the army of  Marathas, doing small jobs  and marched in the rearguard as non-combatants. For their work, however, they took a cut in the war booty. After the war, back home,  they  quietly engaged in agricultural work in  their fields. After the Marathas became powerless, Pindaris became the law unto themselves and acted independently.

04. The organization and structure of the Pindaris had taken a different shape, this was because  of many soldiers of Indian rulers joined them.

05.  B. E. I. company  established their hegemony in many 
territories and had a grip on the local rulers. At one stage, they had to depend on the British army for security; consequently the ruler's soldiers lost their job. In order to  make a living, they joined the Pindart gang and took to  a life of loot and plunder.In the  wake up of the Maratha rulers' battles the against  British forces led by  Sir Arthur Wellesley and Lord Lake in 1802-04, the Pindaris made Malwa  as their center  of operation and were secretly supported by the  Maratha Dynasties like Sindhia and Holkar. 

06. The pindaris were a band of people of every caste and had a multi-religious and multi-cultured  character. Moreover, they no longer remained under the authority of any state or ruler and organized themselves under their own leadership and settled only in those areas which were safe for their nefarious activities.

07.  Normally, they chose their raids during festival times and avoided  places that had armies. They chose safe  routes where they were in no danger of being attacked by any army. The also meticulously chalked out their escape route in case of contingency.

08. They would choose new territories only after exhausting the older areas of operations.

09. While going on a mission, they won't take risk, if they were not familiar with the areas and terrains . While on raids, they would branch out, taking different routes and after the mission was over, they would  meet at a per-determined rendezvous point. 

10. They traveled  in groups made of 1000 to 2000 pindaris on horse back. Their main weapon was a long spear and some would carry a gun. They  carried light food items and horse gram or grass for the horses. They would cover 40 to 50 km a day and rest for the night in a safe place.

11. Their modus operandi was simple; sudden, lightening attack on the  villages without any army. Their intention was to loot, not to kill the people.They would target only valuable items that could be carried away. If need be, they would resort to killing.

12. As for the rich people, they were mean and  would squeeze as much as they could, by way of torturing the family members.

13. They normally forced the villagers to provide them with food and to take care of their horses.

14.  After a successful mission, they would get back to their base and share their bounty with the leader who was entitled to 20% to 25% cut. Each Pindari would get his decent share.  

15. It had been their custom to assemble in November every year to plan raids into towns and villages under the British control.  Prior to the raids, they would survey the territories and plan accordingly 

16. In the early 1800s, Pindaris conducted  a major raid  upon the Masulipatam coast(in present Andhra) and went on a plundering spree ever seen before.  This resulted in the looting of 339, villages, killing or wounding  682 innocent people, torturing 3600 and carrying off stolen property worth a quarter of a million pounds.They made innumerable villages bleed. They left behind a trail of chaos, destruction  and wailing of scores of victims.

17.  In 1808-09  they raided Gujarat and in 1812 Mirzapur. In the  Central India and in other places, Pindaris caused havoc and the people were living in constant fear because of their remote location and lack of security. In 1814 they grew in stature and there were about 25,000 to 30,000 horsemen. 

As for the British administration under the B.E. I. Company, the problem of Pindaris was a pain in their neck and they realized that the people under their territories were losing trust in them as they were terribly scared of Pindaris. The British, having  finally declared war against the Pindaris in 1817 an they were routed almost at once as they were not accustomed to regular warfare.