Suppression of Thugs by Lord William Bentinck

The name of Lord William Bentinck is still cherished in India for suppression of the Thugs.

Thugs were the hereditary assassins whose profession was to deceive people and strangle them to death with their Pugree or handkerchief. They used to travel in Gangs, disguised as merchants or pilgrims. They were bound together by an oath on the rites of their deity goddess Kali.

  • The word “Thug” is derived from “Sthag” of Sanskrit, which means “sly”.
  • Rather than ordinary thieves, they were the bands of the people who were first recorded by Barni, when he mentions that Firoz Shah Tughlaq captured the Thugs. But none of them was killed and Sultan put them in boats and sent them to Lakhnauti where they were set free, so that they don’t trouble the “Delhites”.
  • In suppression of Thugs, along with William Bentinck, one more name is cherished. This able officer was William Henry Sleeman. Initially he was a soldier and later became the administrator.
  • In 1835, the ‘Thuggee and Dacoity Dept’ was created by William Bentinck and William Henry Sleeman was made its superintendent. He was later promoted as its Commissioner in 1839.

The rigorous operations under Sleeman led to capture of 1400 Thugs who were hanged by the government or transported for life.

  • A special prison was established at Jabalpur for Thugs.

The reason of this success was the awareness creation by the Government. The department started disseminating information about the Thugee and at every Police Station or Thana, the information about the new techniques by the Thugs would be sent. The travelers were warned.

  • Since, Thugs could be recognized only by evidence, the department started “King’s Evidence Programme“. In this programme the Thugs, who turned evidences of the and provided into about the Gang members & peers would be provided protection and incentives.
  • This was used by the government to break the code of silence, which kept the members of the gang silent.

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