Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Book Review: Thug By Mike Dash

Thug, (ठग), a member of the murderous Indian cult
Thug, slang for a gangster, a petty thief, or a minor villain, deriving from the above cult

For nearly two centuries, this lethal murderous cult made the life of the highway travelers hell throughout the central India, Rajputana and South (to some extent as well). Thugs were normal native people - nothing different about them - they used to do farming at their homes and then due to certain problems (like famine, bad crops, loans, etc...) they get onto highway and murder people for as little as eight annas.

The Thuggee cult was suppressed by the British rulers of India in the 1830s, due largely to the efforts of the civil servant William Sleeman, who started an extensive campaign involving profiling and intelligence. A police organization known as the 'Thuggee and Dacoity Department' was established within the Government of India, with William Sleeman appointed Superintendent of the department in 1835. Thousands of men were either put in prison, executed, or expelled from British India.The campaign was heavily based on informants recruited from captured thugs who were offered protection on the condition that they told everything that they knew. By the 1870s, the Thug cult was extinct.

'Thug: The true story of India's murderous cult' by Mike Dash is the result of three years of research in the voluminous archives of the English East India Company, preserved in London, New Delhi and Bhopal. Mike Dash gives a competent historical account of Thug beliefs and practice, through to their extermination by Sleeman and his men. This book traces the history of Thugs, looks into their lives, their modus operandi, their victims, their leaders and their decline.

A wonderfully researched and written book, Thug by Mike Dash, is a honest attempt towards understanding this controversial subject.

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