You are here : MPBLSkip Navigation Links>Home>Personality
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend Bookmark and Share


Pankaj Rag
Directorate, Archaeology
Posted: Saturday, 7 May 2011 at 1:35 PM



References to the able British soldier, administrator and thugee suppressor, Major General Sir William Henry Sleeman (1788-1856), are liberally strewn across the pages of 19th century history. But his manifold contribution in administering the territories of the East India Company has never really aroused the curiosity of historians beyond passing mention.

This may change, thanks to the initiative of a low keyed, academically inclined 1990 batch IAS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, Pankaj Rag, who recently returned to his old job as commissioner (archaeology) after a stint as director, Pune Film and Television Institute. Rag (along with colleague Gita Sabarwal) will be editing and publishing the Sleeman Papers this July under the aegis of the MP State Archives.

The documented correspondence covers Sleeman’s tenure as the ‘‘Jubbulpore-based assistant to the governor-general’s agent in the Saugor and Nerbudda territories’‘ between 1824-46 before his move to Lucknow on the orders of Lord Dalhousie. The papers have been lying in the state archives since 2000 when they were brought from Nagpur, formerly capital of the Central Provinces and Berar.

Visibly excited sitting in the deserted environs of his directorate, Rag said Sleeman’s varied career had aroused his interest as a student of modern history at St Stephen’s College where he specialised in the 1857 Revolt at Oudh. It was, in fact, Sleeman’s Ramblings and Recollections of an Indian Official which first brought him to his notice. The book is a contemporary journal on the land revenue system and the rural disgruntlement inside Oudh which led to the uprising.

As the first British resident to travel extensively in the rural areas, Sleeman’s observations did much to disabuse the prevailing British view that the native taluqdars (landlords) were a “bunch of predatory robber barons, boorish, and uncultured.” (quoted by Thomas R Metcalf in ‘Land, Landlords and the British Raj’).

Sleeman’s letters to his bosses during the period are filled with revealing administrative detail: “In one he writes to the Agent: ”I have the honour to request your sanction to the charge of 70 rupees Nagporee incurred in the execution of 11 thugs on 30th August last as a reward to the executioner who is not a regular servant, and has been in the habit of getting 10 rupees a head for those hung paying all the costs for ropes etc...”

Rag, who is also a poet, says he might have published the papers during his last tenure in the same position, but other pressing assignments beckoned. Topping the agenda was the publication of original documents on the Mutiny in Urdu, Persian, Bundelkhandi and English. All are currently in the National Archives. Also restored were a number of relics of the period eg. graves, boards etc. The officer has also authored two books, one of which 1857: The Oral Tradition explores the sources of oral history like folk songs and tales to reconstruct aspects of the revolt in Bihar, eastern UP, Bundelkhand, and Oudh.

Rag says he’d be happy if the publication of the Sleeman Papers goads researchers to give the soldier-administrator his due place in history. After all, he may have been the only consequential Englishman pointedly opposed to the annexation of Oudh, the disastrous consequences of which he did not live to see.  And this despite the fact that “he reported at great length on its chaos and lawlessness, and the misery of the people” to quote Philip Woodruff, author of The Men Who Ruled India. Sleeman’s success in checking law and order led to the formation of the anti-thugee and dacoity department. Disbanded in 1902, it was the forerunner of the Imperial CID.

(Published in the Delhi edition of the Sunday Standard, a publication of the New Indian Express, on 29th May 2011) 

0 Comment(s)

Be the first to comment

Post a Comment
Name Email  ID
Maximum characters allowed
The views, opinions and comments posted are your, and are not endorsed by this website. You shall be solely responsible for the comment posted here. The website reserves the right to delete, reject, or otherwise remove any views, opinions and comments posted or part thereof. You shall ensure that the comment is not inflammatory, abusive, derogatory, defamatory &/or obscene, or contain pornographic matter and/or does not constitute hate mail, or violate privacy of any person (s) or breach confidentiality or otherwise is illegal, immoral or contrary to public policy. Nor should it contain anything infringing copyright &/or intellectual property rights of any person(s).
  more personalities

OP Rawat , Vice chairman , NVDA
Posted: Monday, 13 Feb 2012 at 10:38 PM
Dhruv Narayan Singh , Chairman , MP Tourism Corporation
Posted: Monday, 10 May 2010 at 11:35 AM
Mail this Page
Recipient(s) name :
(seperate by ; for multiple Recipient(s))
Recipient(s) email address :
(seperate by ; for multiple Recipient(s) email)
Your name :
Your email address :
Comments(optional) :
Feedback | Register | Contact Us | Privacy Policy
19 Jan 2019
Copyright © 2010, Madhya Pradesh Business Line. All rights reserved.

Developed & Designed By C-Net Infotech Pvt. Ltd., Bhopal (M.P.)