December 9, 1849.—Bahraetch, ten miles north-east. We encamped on a fine sward, on the left bank of the Surjoo river, a beautiful clear stream. The cultivation very scanty, but the soil good, with water everywhere, within a few feet of the surface. Groves and single trees less numerous; and of villages and hamlets we saw none. Under good government, the whole country might, in a few years, be made a beautiful garden. The river Surjoo is like a winding stream in a park; and its banks might, everywhere, be cultivated to the water's edge. No ravines, jungle, or steep embankments. It is lamentable to see so fine a country in so wretched a state.
The Turae forest begins a few miles to the north of Bahraetch, and some of the great baronial landholders have their residence and strongholds within it. The Rajah of Toolseepoor is one of them. He is a kind-hearted old man, and a good landlord and subject; but he has lately been driven out by his young and reprobate son, at the instigation and encouragement of a Court favourite. The Rajah had discharged an agent, employed by him at Court for advocating the cause of his son while in rebellion against his father. The agent then made common cause with the son, and secured the interest of two powerful men at Court, Balkrishen Dewan and Gholam Ruza, the deputy minister, who has charge of the estates in the Hozoor Tehsel. The jurisdiction over the estate had been transferred from the local authorities to the Hozoor Tehsel; and, by orders from Court, the father's friends, the Bulrampoor and other Rajahs of the clan, were prevented from continuing the aid they had afforded to support the father's authority. The father unwilling to have the estate devastated by a contest with the band of ruffians whom his son had collected, retired, and allowed him to take possession. The son seized upon all the property the father had left, and now employs it in maintaining this band and rewarding the services of Court favourites. The Nazim of the district is not permitted to interfere, to restore rights or preserve order in the estate, nor would he, perhaps, do either, if so permitted, for he has been brought up in a bad school, and is not a good man. The pretext at Court is, that the father is deranged; but, though not wise, he is learned, and no man can be more sober than he is, or better disposed towards his sovereign and tenants. That he is capable of managing his estate, is shown by the excellent condition in which he left it.
Prethee Put, of Paska, is not worse than many of the tallookdars of Oude, who now disturb the peace of the country; and I give a brief sketch of his history, as a specimen of the sufferings inflicted on the people by the wild licence which such landholders enjoy under the weak, profligate, and apathetic government of Oude.
Keerut Sing, the tallookdar of Paska, on the left bank of the Ghagra, between Fyzabad and Byram-ghaut, was one of the Chehdwara landholders, and had five sons, the eldest Dirgpaul Sing, and the second Prethee Put, the hero of this brief history. Before his death, Keerut Sing made over the management of his estate to his eldest son and heir; but gave to his second son a portion of land out of it, for his own subsistence and that of his family. The father and eldest son continued to reside together in the fort of Dhunolee, situated on the right bank of the Ghagra, opposite Paska. Prethee Put took up his residence in his portion of the estate at Bumhoree, collected a gang of the greatest ruffians in the country, and commenced his trade, and that of so many of his class, as an indiscriminate plunderer. Keerut Sing and his eldest son, Dirgpaul, continued to pay the Government demand punctually, to obey the local authorities, and manage the estate with prudence.
Prethee Put, in 1836, attacked and took a despatch of treasure, consisting of twenty-six thousand rupees, on its way to Lucknow, from the Nazim of Bahraetch. In 1840 he attacked and took another of eighty-five thousand rupees, on its way to Lucknow from the same place. With these sums, and the booty which he acquired from the plunder of villages and travellers, he augmented his gang, built a fort at Bumhoree, and extended his depredations. In January 1842, his father, who had been long ill, died. The local authorities demanded five thousand rupees from the eldest son, Dirgpaul Sing, on his accession. He promised to pay, and sent his eldest son, Dan Bahader Sing, a lad of eighteen, as a hostage for the payment to the Nazim. Soon after, Prethee Pat attacked the fort of Dhunolee, in which his elder brother resided with his family, killed fifty-six persons, and made Dirgpaul, his wife, and three other sons prisoners. Dirgpaul's sister tried to conceal her brother under some clothes; but, under a solemn oath from Prethee Put, that no personal violence should be offered to him, he was permitted to take him. His wife and three sons were sent off to be confined under the charge of Byjonauth Bhilwar, zumeendar of Kholee, in the estate of Sarafraz Ahmud, one of his associates in crime, on the left bank of the Goomtee river.
Three days after, finding that no kind of torture or intimidation could make his elder brother sign a formal resignation of his right to the estate in his favour, he took him into the middle of the river Ghagra, cut off his head with his own hands, and threw the body into the stream. Deeming this violation of his pledge a dishonourable act his friend, Byjonauth, from whom he had demanded the widow and her three sons, released them all, to seek protection elsewhere, as he was not strong enough to resist Prethee Put himself. They found shelter with some friends of the family in another district, and Wajid Allee Khan, the Nazim of Bahraetch, in the beginning of November 1843, went with the best force he could muster, drove Prethee Pat out of Dhunolee and Paska, and put Dan Bahader Sing, the eldest son of Dirgpaul, and rightful heir, into possession. In the latter end of the same month, however, he was attacked by his uncle, Prethee Put, and driven out with the loss of ten men. He again applied for aid to the Nazim; but, thinking it more profitable to support the stronger party, he took a bribe of ten thousand rupees from Prethee Put, and recognized him as the rightful heir of his murdered brother. Dan Bahader collected a small party of fifteen men, and took possession of a small stronghold in the jungle of the Shapoor estate, belonging to Murtonjee, another of the Chehdwara tallookdars, where he was again attacked by his uncle in March 1844, and driven out with the loss of four out of his fifteen men. Soon after Prethee Put attacked and took another despatch of treasure, on its way to Lucknow from Bahraetch, consisting of eighteen thousand rupees. Soon after, in June, the Nazim, Ehsan Allee, sent a force with Dan Bahader, and re-established him in possession of the estate of Paska; but Ehsan Allee was soon after superseded in the contract by Rughbur Sing, who adopted the cause of the strongest, and restored Prethee Put, who continued to hold the estate for 1845.
In April 1847, Mahommed Hossein, one of the Tusseeldars under Rughbur Sing, seized and confined Prethee Put, once more put Dan Bahader in possession of the estate, and sent his uncle to Rughbur Sing. In November 1847, Incha Sing superseded his nephew, Rughbur Sing; and, thinking Prethee Put's the more profitable cause to adopt, he turned out Dan Bahader, and restored Prethee Put to the possession of the Paska estate, which he has held ever since. He has continued to pursue his system of indiscriminate plunder and defiance of the Government authorities, and has seized upon the estates of several of his weaker neighbours.
In 1848, he attacked and plundered the village of Sahooreea, belonging to Sarafraz Allee, Chowdheree of Radowlee, and this year he has done the same to the village of Semree, belonging to Rajah Bukhtawar Sing. He carried off fifty-two persons from this village of Semree, and confined them for two months, flogging and burning them with red-hot ramrods, till they paid the ransom of five thousand rupees required. He has this year plundered another village, belonging to the same person, called Nowtee, and its dependent hamlet of Hurhurpoora. He has also this year attacked, plundered, and burnt to the ground the villages of Tirkolee, in the Radowlee purgunnah, and Aelee Pursolee, in Bahraetch. The attack on Tirkolee took place in September last, and five of the inhabitants were killed; and in the attack on Aelee Pursolee, six of the zumeendars were killed in defending themselves. In this attack he was joined by the gang under Murtonjee. He also plundered and confined a merchant of Gowaris till he paid a ransom of seven hundred rupees; and about twenty-five days ago he attacked and plundered two persons from Esanugur, on their way to Ojodheea, on pilgrimage, and kept them confined and tortured till they paid a ransom of five hundred rupees.
Prethee Put has, as before stated, in collusion with local authorities, and by violence, seized upon a great portion of the lands of Hissampoor, and ruined and turned out the Syud proprietors, by whose families they had been held for many generations. He is bound to pay twenty thousand rupees a year; but has not, for many years, paid more than seven thousand.
Mahommed Hossein, the present Nazim of the Gonda Bahraetch districts, describes the capture of Prethee Put by himself, as follows:-"In 1846, the purgunnahs of Gowaris and Hissampoor were reduced to a state of great disorder by the depredations of Prethee Put, and the roads leading through them were shut up. He had seized Syud Allee Asgar, the tallookdar of Aleenughur, in the Hissampoor purgunnah, taken possession of his estate, and driven out, or utterly ruined, all the landholders and cultivators. He tried, by all kinds of torture, to make Allee Asgar sign, in his favour, a deed of sale; but his family found means to complain to the Durbar, and Rughbur Sing, the Nazim, was ordered to seize him and rescue his prisoner. I was sent to manage the two purgunnahs, seize the offender, and rescue Allee Asgar. When I approached the fort of Bumhoree, where he kept his prisoner confined, Prethee Put put him in strong irons, left him in that fort, and, with his followers, passed over the Ghagra, in boats, to his stronger fort of Dhunolee, on the right bank. I took possession of Bumhoree without much resistance, rescued the prisoner, and restored him to the possession of his estate, and put all the rest of the lands held by Prethee Put under the management of Government officers. Two months after, seeing my force much reduced by these arrangements, he came at the head of a band of seventeen hundred men to attack me in the village of Dhooree Gunge. The place was not defended by any wall, but we made the best of it, drove him back, and killed or wounded about fifty of his men, with the loss on our side, in killed or wounded, of about twenty-three.
"I kept Prethee Put confined for two months, when Rughbur Sing sent for him, on pretence that he wished to send him to Lucknow. He kept him till the end of the year, when he was superseded in the contract by his uncle, Incha Sing, who released Prethee Put at the intercession of Maun Sing, the brother of Rughbur Sing, who expected to make a good deal out of him." Prethee Put, of Paska, was attacked on the morning of the 26th of March, 1850, in his fort of Dhunolee, by a force under the command of Captains Weston, Thompson, Magness, and Orr; and, on their approach, he vacated the fort, separated himself from his gang, and took shelter in the house of a Brahmin. He was then traced by a party from Captain Magness's corps; and, as he refused to surrender, he was cut down and killed. His clan, the Kulhunsies, refused to take the body for interment. The head had been cut off to be sent to Lucknow as a trophy, but Captain Weston opposed this, and it was replaced on the body, which was sewn up in a winding-sheet and taken into the river Ghagra by some sipahees, as the best kind of interment for a Hindoo chief of his rank. The persons employed in the ceremony were Hindoos, who knew nothing of Prethee Put's history; but it was afterwards found that the place where the body was committed to the stream was that on which he had killed his eldest brother, and thrown his body into the river from his boat. This was a remarkable coincidence, and tended to impress upon the minds of the people around a notion that his death was effected by divine interposition. All, except his followers, were rejoiced at the death of so atrocious a character. Dan Bahader, the eldest son of the brother he had murdered, being poor and unable to pay the usual fees and gratuities to the minister and court favourites, was not, however, permitted to take possession of his patrimonial estate, and he died in December, 1850, in poverty and despair. Dhunolee and Bhumoree have been levelled with the ground.
December 9, 1849.—In the news-writer's report of the 3rd December, 1849, it is stated—"that Ashfakos Sultan, Omrow Begum, one of the King's wives, reported to his Majesty, that a man named Sadik Allee had come to Lucknow while the King was suffering from palpitations of the heart, and, in the disguise of a Durveish, hired a house in Muftee Gunge, and taken up his residence in it. He there gave himself out as one of the Kings of the Fairies (Amil-i-Jinnut); and the fakeer, to whom his Majesty's confidential servants, the singers, had taken him to be cured of his disease, was no other than this Sadik Allee. The King, on hearing this, sent for Sadik Allee, who was seized and brought before him on the 2nd December. He confessed the imposture, but pleaded that he had practised it merely to obtain some money, and that the singers were associated with him in all that he did. The King soothed his apprehensions, and conferred upon him a dress of honour, consisting of a doshala and roomul, and then made him over to the custody of Ashfak-os Sultan. At night the King sent for the minister, and, summoning Sadik Allee, bid him dress himself exactly as he was dressed on the night he visited him, and prepare a room in the palace exactly in the same manner as he had prepared his own to receive his Majesty on that night. He chose a small room in the palace, and under the ceiling he suspended a second ceiling, so that no one could perceive how it was fixed on, and placed himself between the two. When all was ready the King went to the apartment with the minister, accompanied by Ruzee-od Dowlah, the head singer. When the door of the apartment was closed, they first heard a frightful voice, without being able to perceive whence it came. Neither the minister nor the King could perceive the slightest opening or fissure in the ceiling. They then came out and closed the door, but immediately heard from within the peaceful salutation of 'salaam aleekom,' and the man appeared within as King of the Fairies, and presented his Majesty with some jewels and other offerings. All was here enacted precisely as it had been acted on the occasion of the King's visit to Muftee Gunge. Turning an angry look upon Ruzee-od Dowlah, the King said, 'All the evil that I have so often heard of you, men of Rampoor, I have now with my own eyes seen realized;' and, turning to the minister, he said, 'How often have these men spoken evil of you before me!' Ruzee-od Dowlah then said, 'If your Majesty thinks me guilty, I pray you to punish me as may seem to you proper; but I entreat you not to make me over to the minister.' The King, without deigning any reply, summoned Hajee Shureef, and told him to place mounted sentries of his own corps of cavalry over the door of Saadut Allee Khan's mausoleum, in which these singers resided, and infantry sentries in the apartments with them, with strict orders that no one should be permitted to go out without, being first strictly searched. The sister of Ruzee-od Dowla could nowhere be found, and was supposed to have made her escape."
The King had several interviews of this kind with his Majesty, the King of the Fairies, who described the symptoms from which he suffered, and prescribed the remedies, which consisted chiefly of rich offerings to the Fairies, who were to relieve him. He frequently received letters from the Fairy King to the same effect, written in an imperious style, suited to the occasion. The farce was carried on for several months, and the King at different times is supposed to have given the Fairy King some two lacs of rupees, which he shared liberally with the singers.
I had heard of the affair of the Durveish from the minister, through his wakeel, and from Captain Bird, the first Assistant, in a letter. I requested that he would ask for an audience, and congratulate his Majesty on the discovery of the imposture, and offer any assistance that he might require in the banishment of the impostors. He was received by the King in the afternoon of the 6th. He expressed his regret that the King should have been put to so much trouble by the bad conduct of those who had received from him all that a king could give-wealth, titles, and intimate companionship; hinted at the advantage taken of this by Ruzee-od Dowlah, in his criminal intercourse with one of his Sultanas, Surafraz Muhal; and earnestly prayed him to put an end to the misery and disgrace which these men had brought and were still bringing on himself, his house, and his country. The King promised to have Ruzee-od Dowlah, his sister, and Kotub-od Dowlah, banished across the Ganges; but stated, that he could do nothing against Sadik Allee, however richly he deserved punishment, since he had pledged his royal word to him, on his disclosing all he knew about the imposition. The King asked captain Bird, whether he thought that he had felt no sorrow at parting with Surafraz Muhal, with whom he had lived so intimately for nine years; that he had, he said, cast her off as a duty, and did Captain Bird think that he would spare the men who had so grossly deceived him, caused so much confusion in his kingdom, and ill-feeling towards him, on the part of the British Government and its representative? His Majesty added, "I cherished low-bred men, and they have given me the low-bred man's reward, had I made friends of men of birth and character it would have been otherwise;" and concluded by saying, that he could not touch the money he had given to these fellows, because people would say that he had got rid of them merely to recover what he had bestowed upon them.*
[* When he afterwards confined and banished them in June and July 1850, he took back from them all that they had retained; but they had sent to their families and friends, property to the value of many lacs of rupees.]
The King, in the latter end of November, divorced Surafraz Muhal, and sent her across the Ganges, to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. She had long been cohabiting with the chief singer, Gholam Ruza, and was known to be a very profligate woman. She is said to have given his Majesty to understand that she would not consent to remain in the palace with him without the privilege of choosing her own lovers, a privilege which she had freely enjoyed before she came into it, and could not possibly forego.
Bahraetch—Shrine of Syud Salar—King of the Fairies and the Fiddlers—Management of Bahraetch district for forty-three years— Murder of Amur Sing, by Hakeem Mehndee—Nefarious transfer of khalsa lands to Tallookdars, by local officers—Rajah Dursun Sing— His aggression on the Nepaul Territory—Consequences—Intelligence Department—How formed, managed, and abused—Rughbur Sing's management of Gonda and Bahraetch for 1846-47—Its fiscal effects—A gang-robber caught and hung by Brahmin villagers—Murder of Syampooree Gosaen—Ramdut Pandee—Fairies and Fiddlers—Ramdut Pandee, the Banker—the Rajahs of Toolseepoor and Bulrampoor—Murder of Mr. Ravenscroft, of the Bengal Civil Service, at Bhinga, in 1823.
Bahraetch is celebrated for the shrine of Syud Salar, a martyr, who is supposed to have been killed here in the beginning of the eleventh century, when fighting against the Hindoos, under the auspices of Mahmood Shah, of Ghuznee, his mother's brother. Strange to say, Hindoos as well as Mahommedans make offerings to this shrine, and implore the favours of this military ruffian, whose only recorded merit consists of having destroyed a great many Hindoos in a wanton and unprovoked invasion of their territory. They say, that he did what he did against Hindoos in the conscientious discharge of his duties, and could not have done it without God's permission—that God must then have been angry with them for their transgressions, and used this man, and all the other Mahommedan invaders of their country, as instruments of his vengeance, and means to bring about his purposes: that is, the thinking portion of the Hindoos say this. The mass think that the old man must still have a good deal of interest in heaven, which he may be induced to exercise in their favour, by suitable offerings and personal applications to his shrine.
The minister reports to the Resident on the 9th, that the King had relented, and wished to retain the singer, Ruzee-od Dowlah, and his sister, and Kotub Allee, at Lucknow, with orders never to approach the presence. Captain Bird, in a letter, confirms this report.
December 11, 1849.—Left Bahraetch and came south-east to Imaleea, on the road to Gonda, over a plain in the Pyagpoor estate, almost entirely waste. Few groves or single trees to be seen; scarcely a field tilled or house occupied; all the work of the same atrocious governor, Rughbur Sing. No oppressor ever wrote a more legible hand.
The brief history of the management of this district for the last forty-three years, is as follows. The district consisted in 1807, of
Khalsa Lands Present Khalsa Lands Bahraetch . . . 2,50,000 4,000 Hissampoor . . . 2,00,000 40,000 Hurhurpoor . . . 1,25,000 10,000 Buhareegunge . . . 1,50,000 15,000 7,25,000 69,000
The contract was held by Balkidass Kanoongoe, for five years, from 1807 to 1811, when he died, and was succeeded in the contract by his son, Amur Sing, who held it till 1816. In the end of that year, or early in 1817, Amur Sing was seized, put into confinement, and murdered by Hakeem Mehndee, who held the contract for 1817 and 1818. In the year 1816, Hakeem Mehndee, who held the contract for the Mahomdee district, at four lacs of rupees a-year, and that for Khyrabad at five, heard of the great wealth of Amur Sing, and the fine state to which he and his father had brought the district by good management; and offered the Oude government one lac of rupees a- year more than he paid for the contract for the ensuing year. Hakeem Mehndee resided chiefly at the capital of Lucknow, on the pretence of indisposition, while his brother, Hadee Allee Khan, managed the two districts for him. He had acquired a great reputation by his judicious management of these two districts, and become a favourite with the King, by the still more skilful management of a few male and female favourites about his Majesty's person. The minister, Aga Meer, was jealous of his growing fame and favour, and persuaded the King to accept the offer, in the hope that he would go himself to his new charge, in order to make the most of it. As soon as he heard of his appointment to the charge of Bahraetch, Hakeem Mehndee set out with the best body of troops he could collect, and sent on orders for Amur Sing to come out and meet him. He declined to do so until he got the pledge of Hadee Allee Khan, the Hakeem's brother, for his personal security. This mortified the Hakeem, and tended to confirm him in the resolution to make away with Amur Sing, and appropriate his wealth. Both Hakeem Mehndee and his brother are said to have sworn on their Koran that no violence whatever should be offered to or restraint put upon him; and, relying on these oaths and pledges, Amur Sing met them on their approach to Bahraetch.
After discussing affairs and adjusting accounts for some months at Bahraetch, the Hakeem, by his courteous manners and praises of his excellent management, put Amur Sing off his guard. When sitting with him one evening in his tents, around which he had placed a select body of guards, he left him on the pretext of a sudden call, and Amur Sing was seized, bound, and confined. Meer Hyder and Baboo Beg, Mogul troopers, were placed in command of the guards over him, with orders to get him assassinated as soon as possible. Sentries were, at the same time, placed over his family and wealth. At midnight he was soon after strangled by these two men and their attendants. Baboo Beg was a very stout, powerful man; and he attempted to strangle him with his own hands, while his companions held him down; but Amur Sing managed to scream out for help, and, in attempting to close his mouth with his left hand, one of his fingers got between Amur Sing's teeth, and he bit off the first joint, and kept it in his mouth. His companions finished the work; and Baboo Beg went off to get his fingers dressed without telling any one what had happened. In the morning Hakeem Mehndee gave out, that Amur Sing had poisoned himself, made the body over to his family, and sent off a report of his death to the minister, expressing his regret at Amur Sing's having put an end to his existence by poisoning, to avoid giving an account of his stewardship. The property which Hakeem Mehndee seized and appropriated, is said to have amounted, in all, to between fifteen and twenty lacs of rupees!
Amur Sing's family, in performing the funeral ceremonies, had to open his mouth, to put in the usual small bit of gold, Ganges water, and leaf of the toolsee-tree; and, to their horror, they there found the first joint of a man's finger. This confirmed all their suspicions, that he had been murdered during the night, and they sent off the joint of the finger to the minister, demanding vengeance on the murderer. Aga Meer was delighted at this proof of his rival's guilt, and would have had him seized and tried for the murder forthwith, but Hakeem Mehndee gave two lacs of rupees, out of the wealth he had acquired from the murder, to Rae Doulut Rae, Meer Neeaz Hoseyn, Munshee Musaod, Sobhan Allee Khan, and others, in the minister's confidence; and they persuaded him, that he had better wait for a season, till he could charge him with the more serious offence of defalcations in the revenue, when he might crush him with the weight of manifold transgressions.
They communicated what they had done to Hakeem Mehnde, who, by degrees, sent off all his disposable wealth to Shabjehanpoor and Futtehghur, in British territory. In April 1818, the Governor-General the Marquess of Hastings passed through the Khyrabad and Bahraetch districts, attended by Hakeem Mehndee, on a sporting excursion, after the Mahratta war; and the satisfaction which he expressed to the King with the Hakeem's conduct during that excursion, added greatly to the minister's hatred and alarm. He persuaded his Majesty to demand from Hakeem Mehndee an increase of five lacs of rupees upon nine lacs a- year, which he already paid for Mahomdee and Khyrabad; and resolved to have him tried for the murder of Amur Sing, as soon as he could get him into his power. Hakeem Mehndee knew all this from the friends he had made at Court, refused to keep the contract at the increased rate, and, on pretence of settling his accounts, went first to Seetapoor from Bahraetch, and thence over the border to Shahjehanpoor, with all his family, and such of the property as he had not till then been able to send off. The family never recovered any of the property he had taken from Amur Sing, nor was any one of the murderers ever punished, or called to account for the crime.
On the departure of Hakeem Mehndee, Hadee Allee Khan (not the brother of Hakeem Mehndee, but a member of the old official aristocracy of Oude) got the contract of the district of Bahraetch with that of Gonda, which had been held in Jageer by and for the widow of Shoja-od Dowlah, the mother of Asuf-od Dowlah, commonly known by the name of the Buhoo Begum, of Fyzabad, where she resided. Hadee Allee Khan held the contract of these two districts for nine years, up to 1827. He was succeeded by Walaeut Allee Khan, who held the contract for only half of the year 1828, when he was superseded by Mehndoo Khan, who held it for two years and a half, to the end of 1830, when Hadee Allee Khan again got the contract, and he held it till he died in 1833. He was succeeded by his nephew, Imdad Allee Khan, who held the contract till 1835.
Rajah Dursun Sing superseded him in 1836, and was the next year superseded by the widow of Hadee Allee, named "Wajee-on-Nissa Begum," who held the contract for one year and a half to 1838. For the remainder of 1838, the contract was held by Fida Allee Khan and Ram Row Pandee jointly; and for 1839, by Sunker Sahae Partuk. For 1840, it was held by Sooraj-od Dowlah, and for 1841 and up to September 1843, Rajah Dursun Sing held it again. For 1844 and 1845, Ehsan Allee and Wajid Allee held it. For 1846 and 1847, Rughbur Sing, one of the three sons of Rajah Dursun Sing, held it. For 1848, it was held by Incha Sing, brother of Dursun Sing; and for 1849, it has been held by Mahummud Hasun. The Gonda district consisted of the purgunnahs of Gonda and Nawabgunge, and a number of tallooks, or baronial estates.
Under the paternal government of Balukram and his son, Amur Sing, hereditary canoongoes of the district, life and property were secure, the assessment moderate, and the country and people prosperous. It was a rule, strictly adhered to, under the reign of Saadut Allee Khan, from 1797 to 1814, never under any circumstances to permit the transfer of khalsa or allodial lands (that is, lands held immediately under the Crown) to tallookdars or baronial proprietors, who paid a quit-rent to Government, and managed their estates with their own fiscal officers, and military and police establishments. Those who resided in or saw the district at that time, describe it as a magnificent garden; and some few signs of that flourishing state are still to be seen amidst its present general desolation.
The adjoining district of Gonda became no less flourishing under the fostering care of the Buhoo Begum, of Fyzabad, who held it in Jageer till her death, which took place 18th December, 1815. Relying upon the pledge of the British Government, under the treaty of 1801, to protect him against all foreign and domestic enemies, and to put down for him all attempts at insurrection and rebellion by means of its own troops, without any call for further pecuniary aid, Saadut Allee disbanded more than half his army, and reduced the cost, while he improved the efficiency of the other half, to bring his expenditure within his income, now so much diminished by the cession of the best half of his dominions to the British Government. He assessed, or altogether resumed, all the rent-free lands in his reserved half of the territory; and made all the officers of his two lavish and thoughtless predecessors,* disgorge a portion of the wealth which they had accumulated by the abuse of their confidence; and, at the same time, laboured assiduously to keep within bounds the powers and possessions of his landed aristocracy.
[* Asuf-od Dowlah and Wuzeer Allee.]
Hakeem Mehndee exacted from the landholders of Bahraetch two annas in the rupee, or one-eighth, more than the rate they had hitherto paid; and his successor, Hadee Allee, exacted an increase of two annas in the rupee, upon the Hakeem's rate. It was difficult to make the landholders and cultivators pay this rate, and a good deal of their stock was sold off for arrears; and much land fell out of cultivation in consequence. To facilitate the collection of this exorbitant rate, and at the same time to reduce the cost of collection, he disregarded systematically the salutary rule of Saadut Allee Khan, who had died in 1814, and been succeeded by his do-nothing and see-nothing son, Ghazee-od Deen Hyder; and transferred the khalsa estates of all defaulters to the neighbouring tallookdars, who pledged themselves to liquidate the balances due, and pay the Government demand punctually in future. This arrangement enabled him to reduce his fiscal, military, and police establishments a good deal for the time, and his tenure of office was too insecure to admit of his bestowing much thought on the future.
As soon as these tallookdars got possession of khalsa villages, they plundered them of all they could find of stock and other property; and, with all possible diligence, reduced to beggary all the holders and cultivators who had any claim to a right of property in the lands, in order to prevent their ever being again in a condition to urge such claims in the only way in which they can be successfully urged in Oude—cut down all the trees planted by them or their ancestors, and destroyed all the good houses they had built, that they might have no local ties to link their affections to the soil. As the local officers of the Oude government became weak, by the gradual withdrawal of British troops, from aiding in the collection of revenue and the suppression of rebellion and disorder, and by the deterioration in the character of the Oude troops raised to supply their places, the tallookdars became stronger and stronger. They withheld more and more of the revenue due to Government, and expended the money in building forts and strongholds, casting or purchasing cannon, and maintaining large armed bands of followers. All that they withheld from the public treasury was laid out in providing the means for resisting the officers of Government; and, in time, it became a point of honour to pay nothing to the sovereign without first fighting with his officers.
Hadee Allee Khan's successors continued the system of transferring khalsa lands to tallookdars, as the cheapest and most effectual mode of collecting the revenue for their brief period of authority. The tallookdars, whose estates were augmented by such transfers, in the Gonda Bahraetch district, are Ekona, Pyagpoor, Churda, Nanpoora, Gungwal, Bhinga, Bondee, Ruhooa, and the six divisions of the Gooras, or Chehdwara estate. The hereditary possessions of the tallookdars, and, indeed, all the lands in the permanent possession of which they feel secure, are commonly very well cultivated; but those which they acquire by fraud, violence, or collusion, are not so, till, by long suffering and "hope deferred," the old proprietors have been effectually crushed or driven out of the country. The old proprietors of the lands so transferred to the tallookdars of the Gonda Baraetch districts from time to time had, under a series of weak governors, been so crushed or driven out before 1842, and their lands had, for the most part, been brought under good tillage.
The King of Oude, in a letter, dated the 31st of August 1823, tells the Resident, "that the villages and estates of the large refractory tallookdars are as flourishing and populous as they can possibly be; and there are many estates among them which yield more than two and three times the amount at which they have been assessed; and even if troops should be stationed there, to prevent the cultivation of the land till the balances are liquidated, the tallookdars immediately come forward to give battle; and, in spite of everything, cultivate the lands of their estates, so that their profits from the land are even greater than those of the Government." This picture is a very fair one, and as applicable to the state of Oude now as in 1823.
But if a weak man, by favour, fraud, or collusion, gets possession of a small estate, as he often does, the consequences are more serious than where the strong man gets it. The ousted proprietors fight "to the death" to recover possession; and the new man forms a gang of the most atrocious ruffians he can collect, to defend his possession. He cannot afford to pay them, and permits them to subsist on plunder. In the contest the estate itself and many around it become waste, and the fellow who has usurped it, often—nolens-volens—becomes a systematic leader of banditti; and converts the deserted villages into strongholds and dens of robbers. I shall have occasion to describe many instances of this kind as I proceed in my Diary.
Dursung Sing was strong both in troops and Court favour, and he systematically plundered and kept down the great landholders throughout the districts under his charge, but protected the cultivators, and even the smaller land proprietors, whose estates could not be conveniently added to his own. When the Court found the barons in any district grow refractory, under weak governors, they gave the contract of it to Dursun Sing, as the only officer who could plunder and reduce them to order. During the short time that he held the districts of Gonda and Bahraetch in 1836, he did little mischief. He merely ascertained the character and substance of the great landholders, exacted from the weaker all that they could pay, and "bided his time." When he resumed the charge in 1842, the greater landholders had become strong and substantial; and he was commanded by the Durbar to coerce and make them pay all the arrears of revenue due, or pretended to be due, by them.
Nothing loth, he proceeded to seize and plunder them all, one after the other, and put their estates under the management of his own officers. The young Rajah of Bulrampoor had gone into the Goruckpoor district, to visit his friend, the Rajah of Basee, Mahpaul Sing, when Dursun Sing marched suddenly to his capital at the head of a large force. The garrison of the small stronghold was taken by surprise; and, in the absence of their chief, soon induced to surrender, on a promise of leave to depart with all their property. They passed over into a small island in the river, which flows close by; and as soon as Dursun Sing saw them collected together in that small space, he opened his guns and musketry upon them, and killed between one and two hundred. The rest fled, and he took possession of all their property, amounting to about two hundred thousand rupees. The Rajah was reduced to great distress; but his personal friend, Matabur Sing, the minister of Nepaul, aided him with loans of money; and gave him a garden to reside in, about five hundred yards from the village of Maharaj Gunge, in the Nepaul territory, fifty-four miles from Bulrampoor, where Dursun Sing remained encamped with his large force.
The Rajah had filled this garden with small huts for the accommodation of his family and followers during the season of the rains, and surrounded it with a deep ditch, knowing the unscrupulous and enterprising character of his enemy. In September 1843, Dursun Sing, having had the position and all the road leading to it well reconnoitred, marched one evening, at the head of a compact body of his own followers, and reached the Rajah's position at daybreak the next morning. The garden was taken by a rush; but the Rajah made his escape with the loss of thirty men killed and wounded. Dursun Sing's party took all the property the Rajah and his followers left behind them in their flight, and plundered the small village of Maharaj Gunge; but in their retreat they were sorely pressed by a sturdy landholder of the neighbourhood, who had become attached to his young sporting companion, the Rajah, and whose feeling of patriotism had been grievously outraged by this impudent invasion of his sovereign's territory; and they had five sipahees and one trooper killed. The Bulrampoor Rajah had been plundered in the same treacherous manner in 1839, by the Nazim, Sunkersahae and Ghalib Jung, his deputy or collector. He had invited them to a feast, and they brought an armed force and surrounded and plundered his house and capital. He escaped with his mother into British territory; and tells me, that he was a lad at the time, and had great difficulty in making his mother fly with him, and leave all her wardrobe behind her.
The Court of Nepaul complained of this aggression on their territory, and demanded reparation. The Governor-General Lord Ellenborough called upon the Oude government, in dignified terms, to make prompt and ample atonement to that of Nepaul. "Promptness," said his Lordship, "in repairing an injury, however unintentionally committed is as conducive to the honour of a sovereign, as promptness in demanding reparation where an injury has been sustained." The Nepaul Court required, that Dursun Sing should be seized and sent to Nepaul, to make an apology in person to the sovereign of that state; should be deprived of all his offices, with an assurance, on the part of Oude, that he should never be again employed in any office under that government; and, that the amount of injury sustained by the subjects of Nepaul should be settled by arbitrators sent to the place on the part of both States, and paid by the Oude government. The Governor- General did not insist upon Oude's complying with the first of these requirements; but Dursun Sing was dismissed from all employments, arbitrators were sent to the place, and the Oude government paid the nine hundred and fourteen rupees, which they decided to be due to the subjects of Nepaul.
Dursun Sing at first fled in alarm into the British territory, as the Nepaul government assembled a large force on the border, and appeared to threaten Oude with invasion; while the Governor-General held in readiness a large British force to oppose them; and he knew not what the Oude government, in its alarm, might do to the servant who had wantonly involved it in so serious a scrape. His brother, Bukhtawar Sing, the old courtier, knew that they had enemies, or interested persons at Court, who would take advantage of the occasion to exasperate the King, and persuade him to plunder them of all they had, and confiscate their estates, unless Dursun Sing appeared and pacified the King by his submission, and aided him in a judicious distribution of the ready money at their command; and he prevailed upon him to hasten to Court, and throw himself at his Majesty's feet.
He came, acknowledged that he had been precipitate in his over-zeal for his Majesty's service; but pleaded, in excuse, that the young Rajah of Bulrampore had been guilty of great contumacy, and owed a large balance to the Exchequer, which he had been peremptorily commanded to recover; and declared himself ready to suffer any punishment, and make any reparation or atonement that his master, the King, might deem proper. The British and Nepaul governments had expressed themselves satisfied; but other parties had become deeply interested in the dispute. The King, with many good qualities, was a very parsimonious man, who prided himself upon adding something every month to his reserved treasury; and he thought, that advantage should be taken of the occasion, to get a large sum out of so wealthy a family. Three of his wives, Hoseynee Khanum, Mosahil Khanum, and Sakeena Khanum, had at the time great influence over his Majesty, and they wished to take advantage of the occasion, not only to screw out of the family a large sum for the King and themselves, but to confiscate the estates, and distribute them among their male relations. The minister, Menowur-od Dowlah, the nephew and heir of Hakeem Mehndee, who has been and will be often mentioned in this Diary, thought that, after paying a large sum to gratify his Majesty's ruling passion, and enable him to make handsome presents to the three favourites, Dursun Sing ought to be released and restored to office, for he was the only man then in Oude capable of controlling the refractory and turbulent territorial barons; and if he were crushed altogether for subduing one of them, the rest would all become unmanageable, and pay no revenue whatever to the Exchequer. He, therefore, recommended the King to take from the two brothers the sum of twenty-five lacs of rupees, leave them the estates, and restore Dursun Sing to all his charges, as soon as it could be done without any risk of giving umbrage to the British Government.
The King thought the minister's advice judicious, and consented; but the ladies called him a fool, and told him, that the brothers had more than that sum in stores of seed-grain alone, and ought to be made to pay at least fifty lacs, while the brothers pleaded poverty, and declared that they could only pay nineteen. The minister urged the King, to take even this sum, give two lacs to the three females, and send seventeen to the reserved treasury; and called upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give in his accounts of the actual balance due by the two brothers, on their several contracts, for the last twenty-five years. He, being on good terms with the minister, and anxious to meet his wishes, found a balance of only one lac and thirty-two thousand due by Dursun Sing, and one of only fifteen lacs due by his brother, Bukhtawar Sing, in whose name the contracts had always been taken up to 1842. The King, sorely pressed by the females, resolved to banish Dursun Sing, and confiscate all his large estates; but the British Resident interposed, and urged, that Dursun Sing should be leniently dealt with, since he had made all the reparation and atonement required. The King told him, that Dursun Sing was a notorious and terrible tyrant, and had fearfully oppressed his poor subjects, and robbed them by fraud, violence, and collusion, of lands yielding a rent-roll of many lacs of rupees a-year; and, that unless he were punished severely for all these numerous atrocities, his other servants would follow his example, and his poor subjects be everywhere ruined!
The Resident admitted the truth of all these charges; but urged, in reply, that the Oude government had, in spite of all these atrocities, without any admonition, continued to employ him with unlimited power in the charge of many of its finest districts, for twenty-five or thirty years; and, that it would now be hard to banish him, and confiscate all his fine estates, when his Majesty had so lately offered, not only to leave them all untouched, but to restore him to all his charges, on the payment of a fine of twenty-five lacs. The King was perplexed in his desire to please the Resident, meet the wishes of his three ladies, and add a good round sum to his reserved treasury; and at last closed all discussions by making Dursun Sing pay the one lac and thirty-two thousand rupees, found to be due by him, and sending him into banishment; holding Bukhtawar Sing responsible for the fifteen lacs due by him, and seizing upon his estates, and putting them under the management of Hoseyn Allee, the father of Hoseynee Khanum, the most influential of the three favourites, till the whole should be paid. She satisfied herself that she should be able to make the banishment of the man and the confiscation of the estate perpetual; and, before he set out, she secured the transfer of the strong fort of Shahgunge, with all its artillery and military stores, from Dursun Sing's to the King's troops. Dursun Sing went into banishment on the 17th of March 1844; but before he set out he addressed a remonstrance to the British Resident, stating—"that he had paid all that had been found to be due by him to the Exchequer, and made every atonement required for the offence charged against him; but had, nevertheless, been ordered into banishment—had all his charges taken from him, and his lands, houses, gardens, &c., worth fifty lacs, taken from him, and made over to strangers and Court favourites."
Hoseyn Allee had promised to pay to the Exchequer one lac of rupees a-year for these estates more than Dursun Sing had paid. He had paid annually for the Mehdona estates two lacs and eight thousand two hundred and seventy-six; and for the Asrewa estates, in the same district of Sultanpoor, one lac thirty-one thousand and eighty-nine- total, three lacs and thirty-nine thousand three hundred and sixty- five; and they probably yielded to him an annual rent of nearly double that sum, or at least five lacs of rupees. Hoseyn Allee, however, found it impossible to fulfil his pledges. The landholders and cultivators would not be persuaded that the sovereign of Oude could long dispense with the services of such a man as Dursun Sing, or bring him back without restoring to him his landed possessions; or that he would, when he returned, give them credit for any payments which they might presume to make to any other master during his absence. They, therefore, refused to pay any rent for the past season, and threatened to abandon their lands before the tillage for the next season should commence, if any attempt were made to coerce them. All the great revenue contractors and other governors of districts declared their inability to coerce the territorial barons into paying anything, since they had lost the advantage of the prestige of his great name; and the minister found that he must either resign his office or prevail upon his sovereign to recall him. The King, finding that he must either draw upon his reserved treasury or leave all his establishments unpaid under such a falling off in the revenue, yielded to his minister's earnest recommendation, and in May 1844, consented to recall Dursun Sing from our district of Goruckpoor, in which he had resided during his banishment.
On the 10th of that month he was taken by the minister to pay his respects to his Majesty, who, on the 30th, conferred upon him additional honours and titles, and appointed him Inspector-general of all his dominions, with orders "to make a settlement of the land revenue at an increased rate; to cut down all the jungles, and bring all the waste lands into tillage; to seize all refractory barons, destroy all their forts, and seize and send into store all the cannon mounted upon them; to put down all disturbances, protect all high roads, punish all refractory and evil-minded persons; to enforce the payment of all just demands of his sovereign upon landholders of all degrees and denominations; to invite back all who had been driven off by oppression, and re-establish them on their estates, or punish them if they refused to return; to ascertain the value of all estates transferred from the jurisdiction of the local authorities to the 'Hozoor Tehsel,' without due inquiry; and report, for the consideration of his Majesty and his minister, any nankar or rent- free lands, assigned, of late years, by Amils and other governors of districts; to enforce the payment of all recoverable balances, due on account of past years; to muster the troops, and report, through the commander-in-chief, all officers and soldiers borne on the muster- rolls, and paid from the treasury, but in reality dead, absent without leave, or unfit for further service;" in short, to reform all abuses, and make the government of the country what the King and his minister thought it ought to be. Dursun Sing assured them that he would do his best to effect all the objects they had in view; and, after recovering possession of his estates, and conciliating, by suitable gratuities, all the reigning favourites at Court, he went to work heartily at his Herculean task after his wonted way. But he, soon after, became ill, and retired to his residence at Fyzabad, where he died on the 20th of August, 1844, leaving his elder brother, Bukhtawar Sing—my Quartermaster-general—at Court; and his three sons, Ramadeen, Rughbur Sing, and Mann Sing, to fight among themselves for his landed possessions and immense accumulated wealth.
The minister was a man of good intentions; and, having inherited an immense fortune from his uncle, Hakeem Mehndee, he cared little about money; but he was an indolent man, and indulged much in opiates, and his object was to reform the administration at the least possible cost of time and trouble to himself. He had, he thought, found the man who could efficiently supervise and control the administration in all its branches; and he invested him with plenary powers to do so. Of the duty, on his part and that of his master; efficiently to supervise and control the exercise of these plenary powers on the part of the man of their choice, in order to prevent their being abused to the injury of the state and the people; or of the necessity of taking from Court favourites the nomination of officers to the charge of all districts and all fiscal and judicial Courts, and to the command of all corps and establishments, in order to render them efficient and honest, and prevent justice from being perverted, and the revenues of the state from being absorbed on their way to the treasury, they took no heed. Court favourites retained their powers, and the King and his minister relied entirely, as heretofore, upon the reports of the news-writers, who attend officially upon all officers in charge of districts, fiscal and judicial Courts, corps and establishments of all kinds, for the facts of all cases on which they might have to pass orders; and remained as ignorant as their predecessors of the real state of the administration and the real sufferings of the people, if not of the real losses to the Exchequer.
The news department is under a Superintendent-general, who has sometimes contracted for it, as for the revenues of a district, but more commonly holds it in amanee, as a manager. When he contracts for it he pays a certain sum to the public treasury, over and above what he pays to the influential officers and Court favourites in gratuities. When he holds it in amanee, he pays only gratuities, and the public treasury gets nothing. His payments amount to about the same in either case. He nominates his-subordinates, and appoints them to their several offices, taking from each a present gratuity and a pledge for such monthly payments as he thinks the post will enable him to make. They receive from four to fifteen rupees a-month each, and have each to pay to their President, for distribution among his patrons or patronesses at Court from one hundred to five hundred rupees a-month in ordinary times. Those to whom they are accredited have to pay them, under ordinary circumstances, certain sums monthly, to prevent their inventing or exaggerating cases of abuse of power or neglect of duty on their part; but when they happen to be really guilty of great acts of atrocity, or great neglect of duty, they are required to pay extraordinary sums, not only to the news-writers, who are especially accredited to them, but to all others who happen to be in the neighbourhood at the time. There are six hundred and sixty news-writers of this kind employed by the King, and paid monthly three thousand one hundred and ninety-four rupees, or, on an average, between four and five rupees a-month each; and the sums paid by them to their President for distribution among influential officers and Court favourites averages above one hundred and fifty thousand rupees a-year. Many, whose avowed salary is from four to ten rupees a-month, receive each, from the persons to whom they are accredited, more than five hundred, three-fourths of which they must send for distribution among Court favourites, or they could not retain their places a week, nor could their President retain his. Such are the reporters of the circumstances in all the cases on which the sovereign and his ministers have to pass orders every day in Oude. Some of those who derive part of their incomes from this source are "persons behind the throne, who are greater than the throne itself." The mother of the heir-apparent gets twelve thousand rupees a-year from it.
But their exactions are not confined to government officers of all grades and denominations; they are extended to contractors of all kinds and denominations, to him who contracts for the supply of the public cattle with grain, as well as to him who contracts for the revenue and undivided government of whole provinces; and, indeed, to every person who has anything to do under, or anything to apprehend from, government and its officers and favourites; and, in such a country, who has not? The European magistrate of one of our neighbouring districts one day, before the Oude Frontier Police was raised, entered the Oude territory at the head of his police in pursuit of some robbers, who had found an asylum in one of the King's villages. In the attempt to secure them some lives were lost; and, apprehensive of the consequences, he sent for the official news- writer, and gratified him in the usual way. No report of the circumstances was made to the Oude Durbar; and neither the King, the Resident, nor the British Government ever heard anything about it. Of the practical working of the system, many illustrations will be found in this Diary.
The Akbar, or Intelligence Department, had been farmed out for some years, at the rate of between one and two lacs of rupees a-year, when, at the recommendation of the Resident, the King expressed his willingness to abolish the farm, and intrust the superintendence to men of character and ability, to be paid by Government. This resolution was communicated to Government by the Resident on the 24th of April, 1839; and on the 6th of May the Resident was instructed to communicate to his Majesty the satisfaction which the Governor- General derived on hearing that he had consented to abolish this farm, which had produced so large a revenue to the state. This was considered by the Resident to be a great boon obtained for the people of Oude, as the farmers of the department consented to pay a large revenue, only on condition that they should be considered as the only legitimate reporters of events—the only recognised masters in the Oude Chancery; and, as the Resident observed, "they choked up all the channels the people had of access to their sovereign;" but they have choked them up just as much since the abolition of the farm, and have had to pay just as much as before.
A brief sketch of the proceedings of Rughbur Sing, the son of Dursun Sing, in his government of these districts of Gonda and Baraetch, for the years 1846 and 1847, may here be given as further illustration of the Oude government and its administration, in this part of the country at least. It had not suffered very much under his uncle's brief reign in 1842 and 1843, and the governors who followed him, up to 1846, were too weak to coerce the Tallookdars, or do much injury to their estates. Rughbur Sing had a large body of the King's troops to aid him in enforcing from them the payment of the current revenue and balances, real or pretended, for past years; and a large body of armed retainers of his own to assist him in his contest with his brothers for the possessions of the Mehdona and Asrewa estates, which had been going on ever since the death of their father.
I have stated that Rughbur Sing held in contract the districts of Gonda and Bahraetch for the years 1846 and 1847, and shown to what a state of wretchedness he managed to reduce them in that brief period. In 1849, some months after I took charge of my office, I deputed a European gentleman of high character, Captain Orr, of the Oude Frontier Police, to pass through these districts, and inquire into and report upon the charges of oppression brought against him by the people, as his agents were diligently employed at Lucknow in distributing money among the most influential persons about the Court, and a disposition to restore him to power had become manifest. He had purchased large estates in our districts of Benares and Goruckpoor, where he now resided for greater security, while he had five thousand armed men, employed under other agents, in fighting with his brother, Maun Sing, for the possession of the bynamah estates, above described, in the Sultanpoor district. In this contest a great many lives were lost, and the peace of the country was long and much disturbed, but, after driving all his brother's forces and agents out of the district. Maun Sing retained quiet possession of the estates. This contest would, however, have been again renewed, and the same desolating disorders would have again prevailed, could Rughbur Sing's agents at the capital, by a judicious distribution of the money at their disposal, have induced the Court to restore him to the government of these or any other districts in Oude.
On the 23rd of July 1849, Captain Orr sent in his report, giving a brief outline of such of the atrocities committed by Rughbur Sing and his agents in these districts as he was able, during his tour, to establish upon unquestionable evidence; but they made but a small portion of the whole, as the people in general still apprehended that he would be restored to power by Court favour, and wreak his vengeance upon all who presumed to give evidence against him; while many of the most respectable families in the districts were ashamed to place on record the suffering and dishonour inflicted on their female members; and still more had been reduced by them to utter destitution, and driven in despair into other districts. To use his own words—"The once flourishing districts of Gonda and Bahraetch, so noted for fertility and beauty, are now, for the greater part, uncultivated; villages completely deserted in the midst of lands devoid of all tillage everywhere meet the eye; and from Fyzabad to Bahraetch I passed through these districts, a distance of eighty miles, over plains which had been fertile and well cultivated, till Rughbur Sing got charge, but now lay entirely waste, a scene for two years of great misery ending in desolation."
Rajah Hurdut Sahae, the proprietor of the Bondee estate, was the head of one of the oldest Rajpoot families in Oude. Having placed the most notorious knaves in the country as revenue collectors over all the subdivisions of his two districts, Rajah Rughbur Sing, in 1846, demanded from Hurdut Sahae an increase of five thousand rupees upon the assessment of the preceding year. The Rajah pleaded the badness of preceding seasons, and consequent poverty of his tenants and cultivators; but at last he consented to pay the increase, and on solemn pledges of personal security he collected all his tenants, to take upon themselves the responsibility of making good this demand. To this they all agreed; but they had no sooner done so, than Rughbur Sing's agent, Prag Pursaud, demanded a gratuity of seven thousand rupees for himself, over and above the increase of five thousand upon the demand of the preceding year. The Rajah would not agree to pay the seven thousand, but went off to request some capitalists to furnish securities for the punctual payment of the rent.
The agent sent off secretly to Rughbur Sing to say, that unless he came at the head of his forces he saw no chance of getting the revenues from the Rajah or his tenants, who were all assembled and might be secured if he could contrive to surprise them. Rughbur Sing came with a large force at night, surrounded his agent's camp, where the tenants and the Rajah's officers were all assembled, and seized them. He then sent out parties of soldiers of from one hundred to two hundred each, to plunder all the towns and villages on the estate, and seize all the respectable residents they could find. They plundered the town of Bondee, and pulled down all the houses of the Rajah, and those of his relatives and dependents; and, after plundering all the other towns and villages in the neighbourhood, they brought in one thousand captives of both sexes and all ages, who were subjected to all manner of torture till they paid the ransom demanded, or gave written pledges to pay. Five thousand head of cattle were, at the same time, brought in and distributed as booty.
The Rajah made his escape, but his agents were put to the same tortures as his tenants. Rughbur Sing, among other things, commanded them to sign a declaration, to the effect that his predecessor and enemy, Wajid Allee Khan, had received from them the sum of thirty thousand rupees more than he had credited to his government, but this they all refused to do. Rughbur Sing remained at Bondee for six weeks, superintending personally all these atrocities; and then went off, leaving, as his agent, Kurum Hoseyn. He continued the tortures upon the tenants and officers of the Rajah, and the captives collected in his camp. He rubbed the beards of the men with moist gunpowder; and, as soon as it became dry in the sun, he set fire to it. Other tortures, too cruel and indecent to be named, were inflicted upon four servants of the Rajah, Kunjun Sing, Bustee Ram, Admadnt Pandee, and Bhugwant Rae, and upon others, who were likely to be able to borrow or beg anything for their ransom.
Finding that the tenants did not return, and that the estate was likely to be altogether deserted, unless the Rajah returned, Kurum Hoseyn was instructed by Rughbur Sing to invite him back on any terms. The poor Rajah, having nothing in the jungles to which he had fled to subsist upon, ventured back on the solemn pledge of personal security given by Pudum Sing, a respectable capitalist, whom the collector had induced, by solemn oaths on the holy Koran, to become a mediator; and, as a token of reconciliation and future friendship, the Rajah and collector changed turbans. They remained together for five months on the best possible terms, and the Rajah's tenants returned to their homes and fields. All having been thus lulled into security, Rughbur Sing suddenly sent another agent, Maharaj Sing, to supersede Kurum Hoseyn, and seize the Rajah and his confidential manager, Benee Ram Sookul. They, however, went off to Balalpoor, forty miles distant from Bondee, and kept aloof from the new collector, till he prevailed upon all the officers, commanding corps and detachments under him, to enter into solemn written pledges of personal security. The Rajah had been long suffering from ague and fever, and had become very feeble in mind and body. He remained at Balalpoor; but, under the assurance of these pledges from military officers of rank and influence, Benee Ram and other confidential officers of the Rajah came to his camp, and entered upon the adjustment of their accounts.
When he found them sufficiently off their guard, Maharaj Sing, while sitting one evening with Benee Ram, who was a stout, powerful man, asked him to show him the handsome dagger which he always wore in his waistband. He did so, and as soon as he got it in his hand, the collector gave the concerted signal to Roshun Allee, one of the officers present, and his armed attendants, to seize him. As he rose to leave the tent he was cut down from behind by Mattadeen, khasburdar; and the rest fell upon him and cut him to pieces in presence of the greater part of the officers who had given the solemn pledges for his personal security. Not one of them interposed to save him. Doulut Rae, another confidential servant of the Rajah, however, effected his escape, and ran to the Rajah, who prepared to defend himself at Balalpoor, where Maharaj Sing tried, in vain, to persuade his troops' to attack him. For two months the towns and villages were deserted, but the crops were on the ground, and guarded by the Passee bowmen, who are usually hired for the purpose.
Beharee Lal, the principal agent of Rughbur Sing in these districts, now wrote a letter of condolence to the Rajah, on the death of his faithful servant, Benee Ram—told him that he had dismissed from all employ the villain Maharaj Sing, and appointed to his place Kurum Hoseyn, who would make all reparation and redress all wrongs. This letter he sent by a very plausible man, Omed Rae, the collector of the Rahooa estate. Kurum Hoseyn resumed charge of his office, and went unattended to the Rajah, with whom he remained some days feasting, and swearing on the Koran, that all had been without his connivance or knowledge, and that he had come back with a full determination to see justice done to his friend, the Rajah, and his landholders and cultivators in everything. Having thus soothed the poor old Rajahs apprehensions, he prevailed on him to go back with him to Bondee, where he behaved for some time with so much seeming frankness and cordiality, and swore so solemnly on the Koran to respect the persons of all men who should come to him on business, that the Rajah's tenants and agents lost all their fears, and again came freely to his camp. The Rajah now invited all his tenants as before, to enter into engagements to pay their rents to officers appointed by the collector as jumogdars; and the people had hopes of being permitted to gather their harvests in peace. Kurum Hoseyn now suggested to Beharee Lal, to come suddenly with the largest force he could collect, and seize the many respectable men who had assembled- at his invitation.
He made a forced march daring the night, appeared suddenly at Bondee with a large force, and seized all who were there assembled, save the Rajah and his family, who escaped to the jungles. Detachments of from one hundred to two hundred were sent out as before, to plunder the country, and seize all from whom anything could be extorted. All the towns and villages on the estate were plundered of everything that could be found, and fifteen hundred men, and about five hundred women and children, were brought in prisoners, with no less than eighty thousand animals of all kinds. There were twenty-five thousand head of cattle; and horses, mares, sheep, goats, ponies, &c., made up the rest. All with the men, women, and children were driven off, pell- mell, a distance of twenty miles to Busuntpoor, in the Hurhurpoor district, where Beharee Lal's headquarter had been fixed. For three days heavy rain continued to fall. Pregnant women were beaten on by the troops with bludgeons and the butt-ends of muskets and matchlocks. Many of them gave premature birth to children and died on the road; and many children were trodden to death by the animals on the road, which was crowded for more than ten miles.
Rughbur Sing and his agents, Beharee Lal, Kurum Hoseyn, Maharaj Sing, Prag Sing, and others, selected several thousand of the finest cattle, and sent them to their homes; and the rest were left to the officers and soldiers of the force to be disposed of; and, for all this enormous number of animals, worth at least one hundred thousand rupees, the small sum of one hundred and thirty rupees was credited in the Nazim's accounts to the Rajah's estate. At Busuntpoor the force was divided into two parties, for the purpose of torturing the surviving prisoners till they consented to sign bonds, for the payment of such sums as might be demanded from them. Beharee Lal presided over the first party, in which they were tortured from day- break till noon. They were tied up and flogged, had red-hot ramrods thrust into their flesh, their tongues were pulled out with hot pincers and pierced through; and, when all would not do, they were taken to Kurum Hoseyn, who presided at the other party, to be tortured again till the evening. He sat with a savage delight, to witness this brutal scene and invent new kinds of torture. No less than seventy men, besides women and children, perished at Busuntpoor from torture and starvation; and their bodies were left to rot in the mud, and their friends were afraid to approach them. Bustee's body was stolen at night by his son, and Guyadut's was sold to his family by the soldiers.
Among the persons of respectability who died under the tortures, several are named below.* Buldee Sing, the husband of the Rajah's sister, took poison and died; and Ramdeen, a Brahmin of great respectability, stabbed himself to death, to avoid further torture and dishonour. For two months did these atrocities continue at Busuntpoor; and during that time the prisoners got no food from the servants of Government. All that they got was sent to them by their friends, or by the charitable peasantry of the country around; and when sweetmeats were sent to them as food, which the most scrupulous could eat from any hand, the soldiers often snatched them from them and ate them themselves, or took them to their officers. The women and children were all stripped of their clothes, and many died from cold and want of sustenance. It was during the months of September and October that these atrocities were perpetrated. The heavy rain had inundated the country, and the poor prisoners were obliged to lie naked and unsheltered on the damp ground.
[* 1. Byjonauth, the Rajah's accountant. 2. Gijraj Sing, Rajpoot. 3. Sheopersaud. 4. Rampersaud. 5. Jhow Lal. 6. Guyadut. 7. Duyram. 8. Budaree Chobee. 9. Mungul Sing, Rajpoot. 10. Seodeen Sing, ditto. 11. Akber Sing. 12. Bustee, a farmer.]
Apreel Sing, a respectable Jagheerdar of Bondee, was tortured till he consented to sell his two daughters, and pay the money; and a great many respectable females, who were taken from Bondee to Busuntpoor, have never been heard of since. Whether they perished or were sold their friends have never been able to discover. The sipahees and other persons, employed to torture, got money from their victims or their friends, who ventured to approach, or from the pitying peasantry around; and all laughed and joked at the screams of the sufferers. Several times, during the two months, Rughbur Sing paid off heavy arrears, due to his personal servants, by drafts on his agents for prisoners, to be placed at the disposal of the payee, ten and twenty at a time. It is worthy of remark, that an old Subadar of one of our regiments of Native Infantry, who was then at home in furlough, happened to pass Busuntpoor with his family, on his way to Guya, on a pilgrimage. He and his family had saved what was to them a large sum, to be spent in offerings, for the safe passage of his deceased relatives through purgatory. On witnessing the sufferings of the poor prisoners at Busuntpoor, he and his family offered all they had for a certain number of women and children, who were made over to them. He took them to their homes, and returned to his own, saying, that he hoped God would forgive them for the sake of the relief which they had afforded to sufferers.
In the latter end of October, Beharee Lal took off all the force that could be spared, to attack the Rajah of Bhinga, and plunder his estate in the same manner; and Kurum Hoseyn took another to plunder Koelee, Murdunpoor, Budrolee, and some other villages of the Bondee estate, which had suffered least in the last attack. He collected two thousand plough-bullocks, and sold them for little to Nuzur Allee and Sufder Allee, who commanded detachments under him. He soon after made an attack upon Sookha and other villages, in the vicinity of Busuntpoor, and collected between twenty and thirty thousand head of cattle; but, on his way back, he was attacked by a party of twenty brave men (under a landholder named Nabee Buksh, whom he wished to seize), and driven back to his camp at Busuntpoor, with the loss of all his booty. He attempted no more enterprises after this check. The tortures ceased, and ten days after he ran off, on hearing that Rughbur Sing had been deprived of his charge by orders from Lucknow. At this time one hundred and fifty prisoners remained at Busuntpoor, and they were released by Incha Sing, the successor and uncle of Rughbur Sing.
The Akhbar Naveeses, so far from admonishing the perpetrators of these atrocities, were some of them among the most active promoters of them. Jorakhun, the news-writer at Bondee, got one anna for every prisoner brought in; and from two to three rupees for every prisoner released. He got every day subsistence for ten men from Kurum Hoseyn. All the news-writers in the neighbourhood got a share of the booty in bullocks, cows, and other animals. Two chuprassies are said to have come from Government, and remained at Busuntpoor for nearly the whole two months, while these tortures were being inflicted, without making any report of them. When the order for dismissing Rughbur Sing came from the Durbar, Maharaj Sing went off, saying, that he would soon smother all complaints, in the usual way, at Lucknow.
In September 1847, Rughbur Sing's agents, with a considerable force, encamped at Parbatee-tolah, in the Gonda district, and made a sudden attack upon the fine town of Khurgoopoor. After plundering the town, the troops seized forty of the most respectable merchants and shopkeepers of the place, and made them over to Rughbur Sing's agents, at the rate agreed upon, of so much a head, as the perquisites of the soldiers; and these agents confined and tortured them till they each paid the ransom demanded, and rated according to their supposed means. The troops did the same by Bisumberpoor, Bellehree Pundit, Pyaree, Peepree, and many other towns and villages in the same district of Gonda. A trooper and his son, who tried to save the honour of their family, by defending the entrance to their house, were cut down and killed at Khurgapoor; and in Bisumberpoor one of the soldiers, with his sword, cut off the arm of a respectable old woman, in order the more easily to get her gold bracelets. The poor woman died a few hours afterwards. The only relative of the poor old woman who could have assisted her was seized, with forty other respectable persons, and taken off to the camp at Parbatee-tola, where they were all tortured till they paid the ransom demanded, and a gratuity, in addition, to the soldiers who had seized them. One of the persons died under the tortures inflicted upon him.
In the Gungwal district similar atrocities were committed by Rughbur Sing's agents and their soldiers. These agents were Gouree Shunkur and Seorutun Sing. The district formed the estate of Rajah Sreeput Sing, who resided with his family in the fort of Gungwal. The former Nazim, Suraj-od Dowlah, had attacked this fort on some frivolous pretence; and, having taken it by surprise, sacked the place and plundered the Rajah and his family of all they had. The Rajah died soon after of mortification, at the dishonour he and his family had suffered, and was succeeded by his son, Seetul Persaud Sing, the present Rajah, who was now plundered again, and driven an exile into the Nepaul hills. The estate was now taken possession of by the agents, Goureeshunker and Seorutun Sing. Seorutun Sing seized a Brahmin who was travelling with his wife and brother, and, on the pretence that he must be a relation of the fugitive Rajah, had him murdered, and his head struck off on the spot. The wife took the head of her murdered husband in her arms, wrapped it up in cloth, and, attended by his brother, walked with it a distance of fifty miles to Ajoodheea, where Rughbur Sing was then engaged in religious ceremonies. The poor woman placed the head before him, and demanded justice on her husband's murderers. He coolly ordered the head to be thrown into the river, and the woman and her brother-in-law to be driven from his presence. Many other respectable persons were seized and tortured on similar pretext of being related to, or having served or assisted, the fugitive Rajah. Moistened gunpowder was smeared thickly over the beards of the men, and when dry set fire to; and any friend or relatives who presumed to show signs of pity was seized and tortured, till he or she paid a ransom. All the people in the country around, who had moveable property of any kind, were plundered by these two atrocious agents, and tortured till they paid all that they could beg and borrow. Many respectable families were dishonoured in the persons of wives, sisters, or daughters, and almost all the towns and villages around became deserted.
In Rajah Nirput Sing's estate of Pyagpoor, the same atrocities were committed. Rajah Rughbur Sing seized upon this estate as soon as he entered upon his charge in 1846, and put it under the management of his own agents; and, after extorting from the tenants more than was justly due, according to engagement, he attacked the Rajah's house by surprise, and plundered it of property to the value of fifteen thousand rupees. The Rajah, however, contrived to make his escape with his family. He had nothing with him to subsist upon, and in 1847 he was invited back on solemn pledges of personal security; and, from great distress, was induced again to undertake the management of his own estate, at an exorbitant rate of assessment.
In spite of this engagement, Goureeshunker, when the tenants had become lulled into security by the hope of remaining under their own chief, suddenly, with his troops, seized upon all he could catch, plundered their houses, and tortured them till they paid all that they could prevail upon their relatives and friends to lend them. Eighteen hundred of their plough-bullocks were seized and sold by him, together with many of their wives and daughters. While under torture, Seetaram, a respectable Brahmin, of Kandookoeea, put an end to his existence, to avoid further sufferings and dishonour. Sucheet, another respectable Brahmin, of Pagaree, did the same by opening a vein in his thigh. A cloth steeped in oil was bound round the hands of those who appeared able, but unwilling, to pay ransoms, and set fire to, so as to burn like a torch. In these tortures, Lala Beharee Lal, Rughbur Sing's deputy, was the chief agent. "I found," says Captain Orr, "the estate of Pyagpoor in a desolate condition; village after village presenting nothing but bare walls—the finest arable lands lying waste, and no sign of cultivation was anywhere to be seen. Even the present Nazim, Mahommed Hussan, after conciliating and inviting in the Rajah on further solemn assurances of personal security, seized him and all his family, and kept them confined in prison for several months, till they paid him an exorbitant ransom. The poorer classes told me, that it was impossible for them to plough their fields, since all their plough-bullocks had been seized and sold by the Nazim's agents. Great numbers in this and the adjoining estates have subsisted entirely upon wild fruits, and some species of aquatic plants, since they were ruined by these atrocities."
This picture is not at all overdrawn. In passing through the estate, and communing with the few wretched people who remain, I find all that Captain Orr stated in his report to be strictly correct.
In the Hurhurpoor district similar atrocities were committed by Rughbur Sing and his agents. He confided the management to his agent, Goureeshunker. In 1846 he made his settlement of the land revenue, at an exorbitant rate, with the tallookdar, Chinghy Sing; and, in the following year, he extorted from him an increase to this rate of twenty-five thousand rupees. He was, in consequence, obliged to fly; but he was soon invited back on the usual solemn assurances for his personal security, and induced to take on himself the management of the estate. But he was no sooner settled in his house than he was again attacked at night and plundered. One of his attendants was killed, and another wounded; and all the respectable tenants and servants who had ventured to assemble around him on his return were seized and tortured till they paid ransoms. No less than two thousand and five hundred bullocks from this estate were seized and sold, or starved to death. A great many women were seized and tortured till they paid ransoms like the men; and many of them have never since been seen or heard of. Some perished in confinement of hunger and cold, having been stripped of their clothes, and exposed at night to the open air on the damp ground, while others threw themselves into wells and destroyed themselves after their release, rather than return to their families after the exposure and dishonour they had suffered.
In the Bahraetch district, the same atrocities were practised by Rughbur Sing and his agents. Here also Goureeshunker was the chief agent employed, but the few people who remained were so terrified, that Captain Orr could get but little detailed information of particular cases. The present Nazim had been one of Rughbur Sing's agents in all these atrocities, and the people apprehended that he was in office merely as his "locum tenens;" and that Rughbur Sing would soon purchase his restoration to power, as he boasted that he should. The estate of the Rajah of Bumunee Paer was plundered in the same manner; and Rughbur Sing's agents seized, drove off, and sold two thousand bullocks, and cut down and sold or destroyed five hundred and five mhowa-trees, which had, for generations, formed the strongest local ties of the cultivators, and their best dependence in seasons of drought.
In the Churda estate, in the Tarae forest, the same sufferings were inflicted on the people by the same agents, Goureeshunker and Beharee Lal. They seized Mudar Buksh, the manager, and made him over to Moonshee Kurum Hoseyn, who had him beaten to death. The estate of the Rajah of Bhinga was treated in the same way. Beharee Lal attacked the town with a large force, plundered all the houses in it, and all the people of their clothes and ornaments. They seized all the plough- bullocks and other cattle, and had them driven off and sold. The women were all seized and driven off in crowds to the camp of Rughbur Sing at Parbatee-tolah. Many of them who were far gone in pregnancy perished on the road, from fatigue and harsh treatment The estate of the Rajah of Ruhooa was treated in the same manner; and the Rajah, to avoid torture and disgrace, fled with his family to the jungles. In July 1846, being in great distress, he was induced to come back on the most solemn assurances from Rughbur Sing of personal security for himself, family, and attendants. He left the Rajah his nankar lands for his subsistence, pledging himself to exact no rents or revenues from them; but put the estate under the management of his own agents, Lala Omed Rae and others. He at the same time pledged himself not to exact from any of the poor Rajah's tenants higher rates than those stipulated for in the engagements then made. But he immediately after saddled the Rajah with the payment of five hundred armed men, on the pretence that they were necessary to protect him, and aid him in the management of these nankar lands. In May 1847, when the harvests had been gathered, and he had exacted from the tenants and cultivators the rates stipulated, Goureeshunker was put into the management. He seized all the tenants and cultivators by a sudden and simultaneous attack upon their several villages, and extorted from them a payment of fifty thousand rupees more. Not satisfied with this, Goureeshunker seized the Rajah's chief manager, Mungul Pershad, tied him up to a tree, and had him beaten to death. Many of the Rajah's tenants and servants were beaten to death in the same manner; and no less than forty villages were attacked and plundered. A good many respectable females were seized and compelled to make up the ransoms of their husbands and fathers who were under torture. Many of the females who had been seized perished from the cruel treatment and from want of food. Two thousand head of cattle, chiefly plough- bullocks, were seized and sold from this estate.