Thursday, October 6, 2016

                                                    Trams in Patna

Trams made their appearance in India in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Predictably the Presidency towns of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay were the first to get them.  It all began with trams running as street cars on iron tracks embedded in the ground, literally on horse power. These had one or more coaches and were pulled by as many well groomed horses.  Calcutta’s experiment with horse drawn trams in 1873 had to be abandoned within a few months for lack of ridership. It was revived in 1881 and was wound up only when trams propelled by electricity started operating there in 1902. Bombay (now Mumbai) ran a robust horse-drawn tram service from 1874 and was discontinued in 1907 when replaced by electric one. Madras (now Chennai) never went in for steed power but was the first to launch electric tram service in 1895.  Delhi and Cawnpore (now Kanpur) too ran a tram service for a few years. With public buses and private cars becoming the preferred mode of commuting the trams were taken off the streets by and by. Today Calcutta (now Kolkata) is the only city to boast a tram service but more for its heritage tag.

My first hint of tram cars plying  in Patna towards the close of the nineteenth century came from an order issued by the Superintendent  of Police on the occasion of the visit of the Viceroy to Patna: ‘This road will be closed to traffic at 4 p.m., tram cars will cease running at this hour.’ (District Order No. 360 dated 30 June 1895 of the Superintendent of Police, Patna). Similar arrangements were made during the Viceroy’s visit to Patna In January 1903. This tiny bit of information spurred me to further research. (See my book Raj to Swaraj: Changing Contours of Police, Lancer, Delhi, 1995).
The Patna tram was not electrically powered but drawn by horses. It comprised of two coaches and operated between Chowk in Patna City (eastern fringe of Patna) to down town Bankipur; the western terminus was the open space in front of the St. Joseph’s Convent School.  The distance covered was about nine kilometers through narrow, congested areas along what is today known as Ashok Rajpath, Patna’s longest thoroughfare. From all accounts tram travel never became popular. The poor preferred to walk the distance and the affluent rode horses or buggies; Patna did not have a middle class then. The service was withdrawn in 1903 soon after the Viceroy’s visit. It had a life span of barely ten years. Being in the backwaters of the Bengal Presidency Patna never got an electric tram, then or later.

Sudhir Kumar Jha

Trams in India
                               A horse drawn tram running on tracks. (Taken from internet)

                                                I MISS MY POSTMAN

I had bouts of nostalgia during my recent visit to Thailand to see postmen in uniform delivering letters. Letter boxes, located at convenient intervals, were serviced regularly. It was a scene reminiscent of my growing up years right into my fifties. The British gave us the Police and Posts with their reach to the remotest villages. Both wore khaki but while a postman was always welcome a policeman was not. My village got a post office in early fifties. Until then the postman came to my village from seven kilometers twice a week to deliver our letters and parcels. He also carried some stamps and postcards to sell to those in need. And like in Bollywood movies he would read out the contents of the letter to the illiterate and take down the dictated reply. A telegram he brought occasionally (until recently post and telegraph were a composite department commonly referred to as P&T) gave the family some tense moments imagining the worst. They held their breath and heaved a sigh of relief or anguish only after the postman had deciphered the contents for them. His visit was most looked forward to when he was expected to bring money order. While in boarding school I used to receive a monthly stipend of rupees five per month from a charitable trust. Only four rupees and twelve annas (equivalent to today’s seventyfive paise) came into my hands as the sender had deducted two annas as money order commission and the postman took his own cut of like amount.
A postman also carried love letters. When courting my wife-to-be as a young albeit high ranking officer my ears would strain to catch the sound of the approaching footsteps of the postman in the hope that hidden in the pile of sarkari dak there could be an epistle of love from my sweetheart. Today, decades later, I take my hat off to the postman and his department for carrying and delivering our correspondence without fail or falter. The address on the envelope or postcard was often written illegibly but by some miracle it managed to reach the correct destination. In mid sixties I was posted with my battalion at Ziro, the district headquarters of Subansiri Division in NEFA, now called Arunachal Pradesh. My men were all Gurkhas.  Ours was a non-family station and we always hungered for information from back home. The letters took three weeks but they reached all right.  The address on the envelope was often semi-legible and spelt not in alphabet but in numerical; Ziro became O.
A post office catered to a sizeable area and population. To make things easier for the public letter boxes painted red were strewn all over. These have since disappeared and can now be seen only outside a post office. One could write a letter, stamp it and put it inside the letter box. The postman opened the letter box at fixed timings and carried the contents to the post office for onward movement. Even the unstamped envelopes were carried but the recipient at the delivery point could have it only on payment of a token penalty which went not into the postman’s pocket but into government coffers. A postman was not transferred frequently allowing him to know the by lanes and households of his area. He was  GPS in himself.  He was courteously met and it was two-way traffic. It was the personal touch which marked him out from other government functionaries.
The letters the postman brought carried some interesting stamps from India and abroad. Persons of all age groups, chiefly youngsters, were avid stamp collectors and philately developed as a distinct activity of Indian Post. These stamps were little pockets of history and we are going to miss these along with the postman who brought them to us. The government occasionally brings out commemorative stamps but these mostly go unnoticed.
As the internet and mobile phone made writing and mailing letters redundant our interaction with the postman became minimal and limited to delivery of speed post which is the old registered post in faster mode. The government has decided to say good bye to the postal system of yore. To be in with the times it is slotting itself in cyberspace through the ePost Office, The idea is to gradually run the post office on the lines of a commercial bank. One totally unconnected and new line of new business for the postal department is to lift Gangajal, the holy water, from Hrishikesh and further upstream and sell it in containers through the post offices.  The doorstep delivery will be through the postman who will be attired in a new garb complete with an all purpose smart phone. For old timers like us it will not be the same.
My millennium grand children living in metros have never seen a postman and cannot relate to my childhood experiences. And I am so full of them. They are familiar with courier who is not my favourite. He turns up at odd hours. While I would like him to make the delivery in the forenoon he will wait till my post-lunch siesta. As I am halfway through my forty winks he will ring up on my mobile to seek directions to my abode, not once but twice, even thrice. Then follows the trill of the door bell leaving me no option but to go out and face him. But he does not make it that simple. He insists on my PAN number and lately Aadhaar details. By the time I have searched them out and shown to him I am fully awake and thoroughly cheesed off. My postman would never have bothered me like that. I will continue to miss him.

Sudhir Kumar Jha
6 October, 2016

(The author is a retired Director General of Police, Bihar. He is a free-lance researcher and writer. He can be contacted at . 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014



                                     CHARLES TEGART : HERO OR VILLAIN?

         (Published in The Statesman on 13 August 2014 under title "Relevance of Tegart")                                              
I grew up on stories my father told me about the legendary Calcutta Police Commissioner Charles Tegart’s exploits as a policeman and detective. I thought about Tegart off and on in course of nearly forty years with the Indian Police Service. He had a sixth sense for unearthing plots, criminal or political A look at Tegart’s memorabilia in the Calcutta Police Museum rekindled my interest in him. If Tegart could develop a network of informers among the Bengal revolutionaries why have our police and intelligence agencies not been able to penetrate the Maoist den? As I researched Tegart’s profile I wondered if there is a message for those involved in containing the spreading footfalls of left extremism in our country.
Sir Charles Augustus Tegart (1881-1946) was born and brought up in Ireland. He competed into the Indian Police (1901-1931) and joined the Bengal cadre which then included what is now Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa.. After serving as SDPO of Patna City, in which capacity he was this author’s grand predecessor removed sixty years, he was promoted as Acting Deputy Commissioner of Calcutta Police. He became closely involved in the suppression of Bengal revolutionaries dedicated to overthrowing British rule; he was hailed as a hero by the European community but reviled as a villain by the Indians.
 The 1905 partition of the province was viewed as a national insult by Bengalis who began to see armed resistance as necessary to secure Indian self-government. Bengal revolutionaries travelled to Paris to learn bomb-making techniques from Russian anarchists, (Where did the Indian Maoists learn making bombs and laying land mines?). In 1913 Tegart was appointed to the newly-established Intelligence Branch of the Bengal CID, where he was tasked to gather information, call it intelligence, about the main players of the revolutionary movement which was then raging in the province. His Irish origin gave him a better understanding of the problem. The majority of Tegarts’s Indian subordinates were Bengali bhadralok and thus from the same background as the revolutionaries themselves. For Tegart to motivate them to act against their own people is a lesson in leadership. He was fair and supportive and they in turn were fiercely loyal to him.
 Tegart quite enjoyed his job and proved highly resourceful and innovative. H also made good use of the Defence of India Act which was then in force. Such was his enthusiasm that he often joined or led the raiding party acting on his own information. One of the most famous examples occurred as a sequel to the well known uprising by Bengal revolutionaries, the Chittagong Armoury Raid, in April 1930. When the Calcutta police received information that a number of raiders had taken refuge in the French enclave of Chandernagore to the north of Calcutta, Tegart organised a group of heavily-armed British police officers to capture them. He gained the permission of the French authorities to carry out an illegal attack in the middle of the night, and, after a short gun battle, most of the suspected revolutionaries were captured. He superannuated a few months later.
Hero or villain, Tegart had proverbial cat’s nine lives from the way he survived several attempts on his life. He had a dare-devil approach to fighting terror and preferred to lead from the front even in penetrating the revolutionary cells. The sight of Tegart driving through the streets of Calcutta in an open car with his faithful dog perched on the hood behind him did more than anything else to keep up the morale of his team. He devised his own techniques of interrogation which did not rule out the use of third degree. Annie Besant, of the Indian National Congress, accused him of punching suspects and threatening one with a gun; Tegart was not bothered while the government winked at the allegation. He was obviously not above the circumvention of law and procedure to achieve results; but then he did not have to bother about the Writ of Habeas Corpus, Human Rights Commission or the Civil Liberty groups.
In spite of his lack of resemblance to a Bengali Tegart did not shy away from using disguise as a tool for intelligence work; he liked to take his chance. He is believed to have once visited the Sonagachi red-light district of Calcutta in the disguise of a Bengali gentleman talking with pimps and prostitutes. At night, wearing a beard and puggaree, he could comfortably pass as a Sikh taxi-driver, and even in the daytime he could go unnoticed as a Kabuli or Pathan.
Tegart had an uncanny knack of spotting potential informers and recruiting them. But that was always on one to one basis. He would much rather kill an information than risk revealing a source. The identity of many informers was known only to Tegart himself, who met them always at night, in some lonely place previously agreed on, and rarely took notes but committed the whole of what he was told to memory. David Petrie, former Director of the Intelligence Bureau of the Government of India, and later head of the British MI5, regarded Tegart as one of the best officers at recruiting informants, cross-checking their information, and keeping the confidences of his agents. One should not dismiss all this as stories from a bygone era but look for lessons in how to infiltrate the Maoist network. If a foreigner could develop a network of informers and undercover agents why can’t we?
Like most Inidan Police officers Tegart too volunteered to fight for his county in the First World War. Refused permission to enlist Tegart remained in India, monitoring plots to import armaments from Germany, Britains’s enemy and thus a friend of the Indian revolutionaries. Here again is a lesson from Tegart for our police and intelligence agencies how to monitor and choke the channels through which the Maoists receive their supply of arsenal.
After the war was over Tegart’s services were used by the British government for odd jobs connected with intelligence and protection.  In a hush- hush posting in France and England he is believed to have rendered valuable service in the counter-espionage work against the Bolsheviks. From July to November 1920, Tegart served as an intelligence officer in Ireland during the Anglo-Irish War, when he was one of several Indian police officers imported to bolster flagging British intelligence networks. He was regarded as an expert on both Irish and Bengali ‘terrorism’.  In 1923 Tegart was appointed Police Commissioner of Calcutta. After his retirement in 1931 he served for six years on the Council of India, the first member of the Indian Police to be so honoured.
After the War the Ottoman Empire had been dismembered and the Jewish settlement in Palestine had been placed under British Mandate. In 1937 Tegart was offered the post of Inspector General of the Palestine Police based on his experience in India. He declined the post but accepted a mission to reorganise the police force to combat Arab terror there.   Tegart recommended building a series of police forts across the country, to serve as well-defended positions and bases for suppressing revolt, and to prevent the infiltration of armed Arab guerrillas from Syria and Lebanon. The forts were also to be used as government offices in areas that were regarded as unsafe. A 2- metre high barbed-wire fence ran all along the frontier with Lebanon and Syria. Giving Tegart full credit for this initiative these were colloquially referred to as Tegart’s Forts and Tegart’s Wall. He also had some fifty fortified police stations built to preempt surprise attacks. Looks like these can be tried, with suitable modifications, in our Maoist-affected areas too.
Tegart, more than anyone else, was responsible for crushing the revolutionary terrorism in Bengal in the first two decades of the twentieth century. As a patriotic Indian one may hate him but cannot detract from his effectiveness as a police officer. Tegart had a charismatic personality but the purpose here is not to glorify him but to see if his strategy of tackling the Bengal revolutionaries could be selectively adopted by our police and intelligence agencies in dealing with the Maoist menace. Tactics will have to be modified considering the time gap of a century; our Constitution and laws do not give us the leeway which Tegart had.  Of particular interest will be his building up a network of informers within the revolutionary groups, pitting bhadralok against bhadralok. Not all so-called Maoists are committed and hard core and attempt can be made, and surely must have been made, to win some of them over. For that mutual trust has to be built up over a period of time. Although the area to be covered is very large Tegaart’s Forts and Tegart’s Wall can be tried on an experimental basis.

Dr Sudhir Kumar Jha

(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014



Famously fictionalised as Chandrapore Club by E.M. Forster in his novel A Passage to India Bankipore Club was meant for the elite among the Europeans residing at the civil station of Patna or visiting here from the mufassil. In the novel when Dr. Aziz escorts Mrs. Moore back to the club it is thus far and no further for him; he  tells her that Indians are not allowed into the Chandrapore Club, even as guests. But Bankipore Club was no more racist than other such clubs under the British Raj and there was one at every civil station.  George Orwell echoes the sentiment in his novel Burmese Days:’it was the proud boast of Kyauktada Club that, almost alone of Clubs in Burma, it had never admitted an Oriental to membership’. While entry to Bankipore Club was barred for “Indians and dogs”, poor Europeans at the station - railway workers, British Other Ranks, and, as in A Passage to India, missionaries, were also kept out.
In 1858 Victoria assumed direct control of administration from the East India Company and assumed the title of Queen Empress. The number of government officers went up sharply at Bankipur as new departments became functional. Patna till then referred to what we now call Patna City.  The area along the Ashok Rajpath from Patna Science College to Golghar was known as Bankipur, which the British preferred to spell Bankipore, with offices dotting the flanks. Patna did not extend further west until it became the capital in 1912. What is now Gandhi Maidan was then known as the Oval and later as the Lawn. The British civilian officers mostly had their bungalows around this vast expanse of greenery where Polo was played. It also served as the turf for horse racing. Nothing stood between the Club and the Maidan. For many decades the  club remained a landmark along with St. Joseph’s Convent school and
Catholic Church, the Protestant Church and the Golghar.. Here and there and along the Fraser Road were spread the compounds of the indigo planters and businessmen.
 Outside the working hours the Gora Sahebs had a pretty lonely existence. Most were either bachelors or had left their families behind. A club, a western concept, was replicated in India to compensate for this loneliness.  Bankipore Club was thus born in 1865 as an oasis amidst the desert of colonial isolation. Members would gather here every evening for games and gossip, much as the Mess in Danapur cantonment provided an exclusive venue for Army officers.
Europeans could not have selected a better site for their club; it was high ground overlooking River Ganga. The river then flowed in full glory and its water lapped against the ramparts of the club. Steam ships and barges plying on the river presented a familiar and fascinating sight. One wonders why the British did not acquire all the land between the club and the Maidan; today’s congested access to the club would then have been avoided. Of course, it was not possible to get more space to the east because of the Antaghat  Nala  nor to the west because of the existing Dutch opium godown, today’s collectorate complex. The members did not have enough open space for outdoor sports but they could take a long walk in the Maidan, ride there or play polo. Though a social club rank and hierarchy mattered even inside the club with Commissioner and Opium Agent being shown due deference.                                                                          
Opening of Suez Canal in 1869 made sailing between Home (England) and India smoother and faster. As a result Mem Sahebs and Missi Sahebs in search of husbands started descending on India in droves. As Patna got its share of them so did Bankipore club. Evenings at the club became livelier. Though extra-marital affairs were a taboo, mild flirtation was not frowned upon.                                                                                                                                                                         
There were several eligible bachelors, young civil and military officers, who were a prize catch. Some of them met their future wives on the wooden dance floors of this club. Senior ladies too loved to play match makers and often succeeded.  The newly-weds were feted at the club amidst much fanfare. The Civil & Military Store run by an Anglo-Indian catered to most needs of the members for indigenous and imported stuff.
Things changed for the club when Patna became the provincial capital in 1912. As the New Capital area came to life polo and other sports activities shifted west. Bankipore Club gained in membership and stature as all the big wigs of government flocked here in the evenings with their spouses. The club was incorporated as a public limited company in 1915. Young barristers educated and trained in England lay a claim to membership of the club which embarrassed the government. As a compromise was born the New Patna Club in 1918 to accommodate  Europeanised Indians.  Bankipore Club thus became to New Patna Club what Bengal Club was to Calcutta Club. But Bankipore Club could not retain its European exclusiveness for long. Once the Imperial Services, namely the ICS and IP, were opened to Indians in the early twenties their entry into this snootiest of clubs could not be resisted. Since their number initially was not sizeable they merely aped their white colleagues. Equations started changing from late thirties with independence looming large on the horizon.                                              
When independence finally came in 1947 there was a last ditch attempt by the departing British members to wind up the club and liquidate its assets. Their game plan was frustrated by the now emboldened Indians. After initial hiccups the club settled down nicely to business under Indian
management. The membership of the club comprised mostly of senior government officers with a sprinkling of doctors but very few lawyers and businessmen. Membership of the Bankipore Club in those days was a status symbol, much as the Patna Golf Club emerged the favourite in the 1980s.  Today businessmen dominate and manage the club.
In the nineteen fifties  and early sixties the Companywallas were the crème de la crème of Patna’s westernized elite. MNCs such as Bata, ITC, Burma Shell and Dunlop became corporate members. Their branch managers and other executives posted at Patna wee invariably Indians. They were an intimate social group living in a world of their own.  At the Christmas and New Year Ball at the Bankipore Club, while they danced to the tunes of Moosa Band, the uninitiated government servants and their spouses, too shy to shake a leg, watched and lamented. In March 1970 the East Zone Davis Cup Tournament between India and Pakistan was played for three days at the New Patna Club. The teams and guests were feted lavishly and the festivities concluded with a gala evening at the Bankipore Club with dinner and ball room dancing. Pakistan’s high Commissioner to India was so overwhelmed that tears came to his eyes.
The character of the club has changed over the decades as it was bound to. Successive management committees have brought improvements. While modernization is welcome care should be taken not to disturb the heritage look and character of the club.  Unlike most clubs                                                                        
there is no Chairman or President in this club. The Honorary Secretary, elected by members of the Executive Committee, is the Chief Executive Officer of the club.
It is a long chain of succession from Founder Secretary J. P.W. Johnston to the present incumbent, spanning one hundred and fifty years. This makes Bankipore Club one of the oldest in India. The sesquicentenary of the club is due next year. Planning must start now to make the celebration befitting the dignity of this venerable old man that is our club.

Dr. Sudhir Kumar Jha
(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


                                                            ROMANCING THE RAJ
It is difficult to define romance. It is a highly subjective feeling. Many find romance in the jungle lore of Rudyard Kipling and Jim Corbett while some others in the heroic feats of Rani of Jhansi. However, as commonly understood romance is an emotive love affair surfeit with fantasy, with or without heroism and adventure thrown in. In a broader sense, therefore, nearly two hundred years of British rule in India, commonly referred to as the era of the Raj or simply the Raj, was one continuing romance. Notwithstanding Kipling’s ‘twain’ theory, for the British as well as the Indians the east-west encounter worked as an attraction of the opposites. Fact and fiction fanned this romance. Plenty but not enough ‘romancing’ of the Raj has been attempted in the literature of the time and films made on them.
Stories about the opulence of the Mughal court and the life style of its nobility had reached Britain in bits and pieces. Added to this was the popular notion that India was a quaint land of naked sadhus, snake charmers, beggars and elephants. Adventure and opportunity beckoned triggering flights of fantasy. Romance was in the air before the ships of the East India Company set sail. Having joined the service in India in their teens, these Company civilians succumbed to the spell of India right away. Their ‘unattached male’ existence accentuated their sense of isolation. They sought comfort in the arms of native women whom they took as mistresses and concubines and rarely as legally wedded wives.  Among the signs of their ‘Indianization’ were adopting Indian dress and customs and the wearing of immense whiskers and beards. Several took to smoking hubble-bubble and developed a liking for local cuisine.  They behaved like little ‘nabobs’; William Dalrymple in his magnum opus The White Mughals calls them ‘white Mughals’. They were enjoying the romance that was India.
The idyll was shattered in 1857 by the events of the Sepoy Mutiny. There were by now a sizable number of white women in India. In a crisis situation there invariably was a knight, white or brown, to come to the rescue of damsels in distress. For all its violence and mayhem the Mutiny spawned some captivating fiction which was an amalgam of chivalry and romance. Love Besieged: a Romance of the Defence of Lucknow by Charles E. Pearce is a mix of romance and military adventure within the walls of the besieged city of Lucknow. Katharine Gordon in Emerald Peacock narrates the story of love between an Indian prince and a young Irish woman during the Mutiny. These writings are merely illustrative.
A lot of things changed with the British government assuming direct control of administration in India. Both civil and military officers now looked forward to a more settled life style. Wives braved a month long grueling voyage to join their husbands. Bachelors sought and found romance where and when they could, with Anglo-Indian girls and native maids, but it meant tight rope walking in small places in full public glare.
The opening of the Suez Canal cut the travel time short.  Larger steam ships made the journey more bearable. The onset of India’s cold weather saw hordes of young English women sail out for India on their husband-hunting mission regardless of the inconveniences and hazards of tropical living. They came with such regularity that they were teasingly dubbed the ‘fishing fleet’. The prize catch would be a member of the ‘heaven born’ Indian Civil Service but even lesser ones would do. Those who returned home unwed were unfeelingly referred to as ‘returning empties’. This was a subject dealt with by Mrs. F.E. Penny in her novel The Happy Hunting Ground, and savagely satirized by E. M. Forster in A Passage to India.
Often a man went home on leave and got engaged. The girl joined him a year or two later in India where the wedding took place. But strange are the ways of Cupid. Shipboard romance was a predictable feature of every voyage. A few days under a full moon could lead to a shift in commitment. Imagine the beau waiting at the pier of Bombay (as it was then called) or Karachi (now in Pakistan) dock to find that his fiancée had already left with someone she had met on the voyage.
 As wives of junior officers these brides had to set up their first homes often far up-country after a journey involving trekking and pony ride. Physical inconveniences were more than made up by the ambience most suited for a honeymoon romance. The luckier ones landed in more civilized stations. Having an army of servants to pamper them felt very nice in the beginning but left the ‘powder puff memsahebs’ with all the free time. Sheer idleness and the stifling heat of the Indian summer made them vulnerable to depression and they found escape in different ways. Olivia, a beautiful, spoiled, bored English colonial wife in the 1920s, the heroine of Ruth Jhabwala’s Heat and Dust, is drawn inexorably into the spell of the local Nawab and elopes with him.
That such scandals were few and far between was because action shifted from the plains to the hills. The retreat to the Hills in summer provided a brief escape from the heat of the plains. Field officers could not leave their station but their wives could. Women who did migrate to the cooler climes of the hills found a freedom they could not enjoy in small places.  Both circumstances and surroundings were highly conducive to romance and. a lot of people were lonely. Flirtations were inevitable. Discreet dalliances were not scorned. Be it Darjeeling, Simla or Ooty extra-marital affairs between married women and men on leave was an open secret and connived at. Men were ‘fairly broadminded and wouldn’t really expect their wives to go up and live in monastic seclusion.’ To even the score the husband left behind would have an occasional fling with one of the young household maids.
Spirits lifted as the weather got cooler. There was romance in the air in anticipation of the arrival of the fishing fleet. Life for the young women became a whirl, ‘a tea dance or a dance or a ball or a dinner party’, something or the other every day. Winter tours and life in camps were something to be looked forward to. Women accompanied husbands on portions of these tours. For the couple it became a kind of honeymoon and also took care of the seven years’ itch in men. These tours allowed two widely separated cultures to meet in friendship and affection. Being a part of India’s rural landscape was romance in itself.
 Notwithstanding Curzon and his ilk frowning on miscegenation, inter-racial romance and mixed marriages happened with increasing frequency though these did not always have a fairytale ending.  The love stories in the Anglo-Indian romance novels written during the later phase of the Raj were symptomatic of British fantasies of colonial India and served as a forum to explore interracial relations as well as experimenting with the femininity of the New Woman. The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye is an epic saga set in 1850s India. An Englishman brought up as a Hindu in India is torn between loyalty to the Raj, and love for an Indian princess.  In Caste and Creed F.E. Penny tells us the story of a fair-skinned Eurasian girl just arrived from England. A romance ensues between her and a British District Collector who does not initially realize she is half Indian.  Prejudice, discrimination, marriage and relocation follow. On the other hand in Lilamani  Maud  Diver spins a happy alliance between a British male and an Indian female of matching aristocratic lineage. Bhowani Junction, a novel by John Masters, portrays the Anglo-Indian protagonist, Victoria Jones, as tugged in different directions by three suitors each representing a different ethnic community.
The empire may have been a playground for British men to experiment with a variety of sexual experiences they could not indulge in back home. But it was a two-way traffic. After the Mutiny, Indian princes had been cultivated as close allies of the British. During the princes' visits to Britain, their aristocratic status was given full recognition, and they were admitted to the most exclusive of social circles. The accusation from jealous English men that certain Indian princes enjoyed the sexual favours of white women of all classes is understandable. The smartest peeresses were only too ready to make a fuss with Bikaner and other Indian chiefs. If status and wealth worked like magnet, so did dark skin. When Indian contingents went to England for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria the great difficulty of the officers was in keeping the white women away from the dark-skinned ‘native’ soldiers.. Victorian morality be damned.
(Sudhir Kumar Jha)
The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar and a free-lance researcher.


Monday, July 16, 2012

English Place Names, published as cover story in the Statesman, Kolkata and Delhi under the title NAME GAME on he

Page one
Sports & Leisure
Career & Campus
Science & Technology
Kolkata Plus
Bengal Plus
North East Page
Orissa Plus
Note Book
N.B & Sikkim Plus
NB Extra
World Focus
The Sunday Statesman Magazine
Crystal Ball
Asia News Network

Cover Story: NAME GAME
How the English christened places in India might evoke memories of the Raj, but the circumstances have, nevertheless, become historical legacy that cannot be wished away, says Sudhir Kumar Jha

REMEMBER the faux pas in a recent edition of the Oxford English Dictionary? It said Bangalore — not even Bengaluru — got its name as the locals were Bengalis and spoke Bangla. This was the height of untruth and ignorance, a gaffe not expected from Oxford, but it does explain the myth and confusion prevailing in respect of place names. Places get their names by design or sheer accident. These can be plain, catchy or hilarious, obvious or intriguing, but never without some link to the past. Delving into the genesis of the English names of places in India has been an interesting but challenging exercise. For the sake of euphony, the terms “English” and “British” have been used indiscriminately. These place names evoke memories of the British Raj and, notwithstanding the ongoing attempts at renaming them, the circumstances of their naming have become historical legacy which cannot be wished away.
It is sad that no definitive compilation of these names is available. At the beginning of the last century, two Calcutta-based scholars, KN Dhur of the Imperial Library followed by Lt-Col DG Crawford of the Indian Medical Service, made an attempt to list places named after the British. They consulted the survey maps of districts and also went through Newman’s Indian Bradshaw, Smith’s Students’ Geography of India published in 1882 and Keith Johnston’s Atlas of India published in 1894. Periodicals such as Bengal Past & Present and Saturday Journal also yielded some names. To the information so gathered, the two added their own knowledge based on folklore and hearsay. Their total came to a sizeable number, well over 150, but was far from being exhaustive. These came from the whole of British India which covered not only what are now Pakistan and Bangladesh but also Burma and the Malay Peninsula for most of the 19th century. Were they to include the localities or muhallas of towns, roads and streets, public and private institutions, monuments, gardens and parks, et al, so named, their list would have run into thousands. Bangalore Cantonment would have provided over 100 and Kolkata at least 20.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands provide over 40 such names. These islands were formally annexed in 1858 and converted into a convict settlement to confine the great number of life-prisoners left after the Sepoy Mutiny. The British gave the numerous names of their Mutiny heroes and members of the Andamans Commission to places in these islands. Several places in the Sunderbans falling in West Bengal and Bangladesh were named after officers of the Indian Navy, Royal Indian Marine, or Bengal Pilot Service. Amitava Ghosh mentions a few in his captivating book, The Hungry Tide.
The one class of Britishers to have left the strongest imprint on the naming of places were the civil servants from the Provincial Civil Service and, later, from the Indian Civil Service, as District Collectors, and some as Lieutenant-Governors. In the days of the East India Company, military officers carried the flag into uncharted territories and laid the foundations of civil administration. New civil stations established by them carried their names, for example Daltonganj and Hunterganj in Jharkhand and Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. There are railway stations that were named after the British, be it a railway engineer, priest or civil servant, because there was no village of any importance in the neighbourhood after which these could be named — for example Palmerganj between Gaya and Dehri-on-Sone and Twiningganj between Ara and Buxar. Places were also named after ranks in the British army. We have Captainganj and Colonelganj in Uttar Pradesh and Majorganj in Bihar. Brigade Maidan and Barrackpore in Kolkata and Brigade Road in Bangalore, too, have a British army connection.
While many names famous in Indian history are commemorated in place names, many more of the first importance are not thus distinguished. There does not appear to be any place named after Robert Clive or Warren Hastings, the real founders of the British Empire in India.
It is notable that most English names were given to places in the first 100 years of British rule in India, very few in the second half of the 19th century and hardly any in the 20th. Significantly, though the missionaries carried their work deep into the hills and jungles and made healthcare and education available to tribal settlements, not many places are named after them; they apparently did not try to impose their own or any other foreign names. Nor did the British try to change the names of villages already in existence.
It is not that places were named only after Europeans, though exceptions are few and far between. For example, Achipur near Kolkata, on the banks of the Hooghly river, is named after Yong Atchew, the first Chinese settler in India in modern times. He came to Kolkata around 1780 and enjoyed the patronage of the East India Company as a cultivator of sugarcane.
Exceptions apart, these exotic place names are in two parts. The prefix is English while the suffix is vernacular, invariably Persian-Urdu. By far the commonest, in northern India, is ganj, which means a market. Also common are abad and pur, meaning town. Whereas the Hindi garh has been used at least once, as in Georgegarh, nagar does not appear to have been used at all. In southern India, the suffix used is pet, again denoting a town or market; it has also been used in Marathi as Malcolmpet in Mumbai.
Places were not always consciously baptised with English names. They just evolved as a corruption of vernacular names. Take the case of Bangalore. The British, after defeating Tipoo Sultan and restoring the Raja of Mysore in 1799, obtained the right to station their own troops in the state. They built their cantonment on ceded village land just east of the ancient town and fortress of Bengaluru, which was soon anglicised to Bangalore. English Bazar in West Bengal’s Malda district was originally the Rangreza Bazar, the dyers’ quarter. The first letter was dropped along the way and it became Angreza Bazar, and hence English Bazar. Kidderpur in Kolkata is not named after Colonel Kyd but derives from an older local name, Khettarpur.
Some names got Anglicised, in pronunciation and in spelling, because the British could not pronounce these the local way. Kanpur became Cawnpore and Munger became Monghyr and Danapur Cantonment in Bihar became Dinapore. Likewise, Waris-ali-ganj in Bihar’s Gaya district began to be called Worsleyganj. Grierson market in Madhubani, Bihar, was named after the eponymous linguist, Sir George Abraham Grierson, ICS, who set up the market while he was posted as the SDO of that area. It has been known as Gilesan Market for generations. Bhendi Bazar in Mumbai is a phonetic caricature of “behind the bazaar”.
Given below, by way of illustration, is the etymology of some place names from Bihar and Jharkhand:
Goldinganj: This is a small village on the Chapra-Sonepur road about 12 km east of Chapra, an old district town in north Bihar. The only claim to fame of this otherwise nondescript place is a ring of mystery surrounding its name. It has a railway station catering to the North Eastern Railway and a post office with the postal index No. 841211. The station is spelt “Goldinganj” while the postmark reads “Gultenganj”. Old records reveal there was in fact one Edward Golding after whom the place was in all probability named. He was appointed the Company’s Commercial Agent at Bettiah in 1766 after the local Raja had capitulated to the East India Company’s forces. In 1769, Golding was promoted as the Supervisor (precursor of Collector) of Saran Parganas. His bailiwick covered what are today Chapra, Siwan, Gopalganj, Motihari and Bettiah districts.
Lesliganj: This is an outgrown village, more of a kasba, in Palamu district of what is now Jharkhand. Located about 15 km east of Daltonganj, the district headquarters, on the road to Manatu, it has the usual appurtenances of an administrative outpost — a dak bungalow, a police station and a block development office. It has nothing much to offer except its exotic name. It was founded by, and is named after, Matthew Leslie, Collector of the Ramgarh Hill Tract in the 1780s. As with other East India Company officials of the 18th century, Leslie’s biographical details are extremely difficult to get. His revenue jurisdiction included the whole of what later became Palamu and Hazaribag districts and part of Gaya up to Sherghati. The Cheros had been the rulers of Palamu but their internal feuds afforded the British the opportunity to intervene and eventually assume control. As Leslie had to continually camp in Chero territory, he chose a hamlet that soon became known as Lesliganj, dropping an “e” from his name. It appears that Leslie’s good work as Collector of Ramgarh was taken note of and he was transferred as the Collector and Magistrate of Rungpore district in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), a more prestigious charge.
Daltonganj: Situated on the Koil river, this is the headquarters of Palamu district, now in Jharkhand. It has the usual components of a civil station but nothing else and has been a poor and neglected cousin of the other towns in Chhotanagpur. Though connected by rail and road to the rest of the country, its back-of-beyond location is responsible for its relative isolation. The town is named after Colonel Edward Tuite Dalton who, as the Commissioner of Chhotanagpur, founded a settlement here in 1861 on government land where the headquarters of Palamu subdivision was shifted from Lesliganj the following year. When Palamu was made into a separate district 20 years later, Daltonganj was the obvious choice as the headquarters of the new district.
Dalton was the commissioner of Chhotanagpur during the Sepoy Mutiny and for many years thereafter. He initiated several administrative measures. In 1862, he ordered an outright substitution of Hindi written in the Devnagri or Kaithi script for Urdu in the Persian character as the medium of instruction and for court work throughout his commissionerate. In September 1870, Dalton laid the foundation of a permanent church at Ranchi in the presence of a large and assorted gathering. He is best remembered for his magnum opus, The Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal, published in 1872.
Forbesganj: This is today a subdivisional town of Purnea division in northeastern Bihar. It borders Nepal and is not very far from the Bangladesh border. The checkposts of various government departments notwithstanding, its busy market caters to buyers from both India and Nepal. The main business today is in grains and timber, jute having lost ground to plastic. How did Forbesganj acquire its exotic sounding name? It is named after Alexander J Forbes, an indigo planter and zamindar in Purnea district. His biographical details are not available except that he came out to India in the early part of the 19th century and spent the greater part of his life in Purnea, where he amassed a large fortune, mostly from indigo. One of Forbes’ indigo factories was at Forbesabad, which name was presumably changed to Forbesganj as the place developed into a township with a flourishing market. While on a trip to Calcutta, he died in 1890 at the age of 84, and lies buried at Purnea.
Sandys’ Compound: In the heart of Bhagalpur civil station, there is a large tract of land that is locally referred to as Sandys’ Compound. At one time this whole area formed the compound of the residence of Teignmouth Sandys, who was the Judge of Bhagalpur around the middle of the 19th century. He belonged to the Indian Civil Service, though the nomenclature had not been fashioned till then. He was recruited as a Writer, like many others before and after him. William Tayler of Patna fame was his contemporary. Educated and promising youngsters from England were appointed as Writers, something like probationary Assistant Collectors and Magistrates, and rose to become Supervisors/Collectors if entrusted with revenue functions or as Judges if utilised for judicial work. Sandys belonged to the first batch of Writers nominated in 1826 for the qualifying examination in 1827.
Revelganj: This is an inconspicuous town in Saran district in north Bihar. Situated 12 km west of the district headquarters town of Chapra, it is served by road and rail. Unlike some other places with European names, it is well known that Revelganj was named after Henry Revel. The East India Company posted Revel as the Collector of Customs at Chapra. It may be recalled that at that time, in the absence of satisfactory road and rail transportation, the East India Company carried on the bulk of trade and commerce by the river route. Revel realised the value of having a proper Custom House to earn revenue for the company so he set up one at Godna in 1788. A market grew around it and in no time the place developed as an important river mart. Revel appears to have been resourceful as well as kind-hearted and became a legend in his lifetime for his humanitarian and charitable acts. His memory was held in such repute that his grave was considered a shrine and his name invoked on occasions of calamity and adversity. It stands in front of the Eden bazaar alongside the Chapra-Guthni road. Tarapada Mukherjee, a local zamindar and lawyer, gave the place a facelift and was also instrumental in establishing a municipality in 1876 by combining the twin revenue villages of Godna and Semaria and, as it’s first vice-chairman, had the new township named Revelganj after Henry Revel.
Bakarganj: Not to be confused with Bakerganj in Bangladesh, this lies in the heart of Patna and is named after Robert Barker, an officer in the East India Company’s army. The grant of Diwani to the East India Company in 1765 made the British the virtual rulers of what later became the three provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. A reorganisation of the East India Company’s army followed. Barker had long served the Company’s Artillery and distinguished himself during the siege of Madras. In the reorganisation, he was to have been made Colonel of the Artillery but had to contend with the place originally slotted for Major Knox of Patna fame. Of the three refashioned brigades, the first was located at Monghyr, the second at Allahabad and the third at Bankipore (Patna) under Barker. The 21st battalion raised by Barker at Bankipur became known as Barker-ki-Paltan just as the 20th battalion raised at Lucknow was called Hussaini-ki-Paltan for having been raised on the day of Muharram. Ironically, Barker-ki-Paltan, after several changes of nomenclature, mutinied at Azamgarh in 1857. Barker rose to become a general and Army Chief and was also knighted. He spent three years at Bankipur (Patna) roughly from 1765 to 1768, that is, until the cantonment was shifted to Danapur. The area around his residence developed as a military bazaar or mandi on the eastern side of Gandhi Maidan and was named Bakarganj after him. It is today an extremely congested commercial-cum-residential locality.
Hunterganj: Contrary to popular thinking, Hunterganj in Chatra district, now in Jharkhand, is not named after the famous educationist and indologist WW Hunter. It derives its name from William Hunter who was the Collector of Ramgarh (spelt Ramghur) Hill Tract in 1794. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William had appointed him and other Collectors of the Bengal Presidency Justices of Peace. Hunter’s jurisdiction extended right up to Sherghati in today’s Gaya district. A patch of jungle was cleared to set up his camp during his visits to Sherghati and human habitation slowly grew around it. Soon it was being referred to as Hunterganj and developed as an administrative centre.
McCluskieganj: McCluskieganj is a sad saga of aspirations gone awry. The Anglo-Indians were, generally speaking, a town-bred community without knowledge of agriculture or experience of village life. They were doled out petty appointments in the Railways and Telegraphs departments while their women worked as teachers in convent schools and as stenos in multinational companies. It was becoming difficult to find employment, whether in government departments or in commercial concerns, for the increasing number of Anglo-Indian youth. Having observed their conditions first-hand, the Indian Statutory Commission made a suggestion, with the concurrence of the government of India, that an attempt be made to bring the Eurasians, chiefly the Anglo-Indians, to the land and open up a wider range of self-employment for them. The Anglo-Indians seized upon the idea and was thus born in 1933 The Colonization Society of India Limited, registered as a limited company. On behalf of the company, ET McCluskie, a Calcutta-based Anglo-Indian real estate agent and member of the Bengal Legislative Council, discovered a beautiful spot in the Chhotanagpur forests, 60 km from the district headquarters town of Ranchi. The Society bought 10,000 acres of forest land from the local Maharaja in 1932. Plots were allotted as per the layout plan prepared by McCluskie. In a creditable display of grit and determination to conquer the natural difficulties, they made the clearings, dug wells and planted orchards. It was not long before a large number of sprawling bungalows and cottages situated in the midst of several acres of land came up in these sylvan surroundings. The new colony became home to nearly 300 Anglo-Indian and domiciled European families. McCluskie died soon after and, as a fitting tribute to this pioneer, the new settlers named the place McCluskieganj, the putative Tel-Aviv of their homeland. Come Independence and, feeling deprived and insecure, there was a mad rush to migrate to Australia, the USA, Canada and the UK. The Society went into liquidation around 1955. Today there is nothing much to see here but a place gone to seed. One can take long walks through the forest, do some bird watching and listen to their chirping. Not more than 35 Anglo-Indian families now live here and fewer are descendents of the original allottees.
There is no dearth of English place names. One only has to be inquisitive. There has been a trend in favour of demolishing English names originally given to a place. We cannot turn the clock back by renaming such places. Naming Calcutta Kolkata has not made the traffic less congested. People still prefer VT to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and refer to Connaught Place as CP and not by its new official appellation. Whether we like it or not, these mysterious place names have become a part of our heritage. Dhur and Crawford could not trace the etymology of each and every name they catalogued, leaving enough scope for future probe. Before the trail gets colder, all such names should be collected, collated and a funded research undertaken to record for posterity the circumstances of their naming.

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