missionary, William Carey, Lord Wellesley suppressed human sacrifice.
Female infanticide was discovered to be more widespread, existing not only
among some so-called primitive tribes but also among certain Rajput castes.
By a Bengal Regulation (XXI) of 1795 the practice was declared to constitute
murder and the territory to which the Regulation applied was extended in
Although a number of states prohibited female infanticide, it still proved
impossible to stamp out completely. As late as 1870, the government was
compelled to pass yet another Act attempting to enforce the registration of
births and regular verification of the fact that girl children were still alive.
Gradually, however, the practice of infanticide was reduced.
Abolition of Sati
Among other abuses which offended the ‘universal moral law’ was ‘suttee’ or
sati (meaning, virtuous one). The rite itself should properly be called
sahamarana or ‘accompanying in death’. The practice was of long standing
in India, and virtuous widows usually gave up their dead their lives husband’s
by allowing themselves to be burned to death on funeral pyre. In general, the
rite was confined to high caste Hindus. Muslim invaders found it particularly
objectionable, and the Mughal emperors tried to discourage it.
Although a number of individual British officials interfered at various
times to prevent particular cases of sati, there was no official policy. In 1803,
Lord Wellesley proposed to abolish it in the Company’s territories but he first
referred the idea to the Supreme Court in Calcutta. The court’s answer was
cautious and pedantic. The government, it suggested, would be well advised
to be guided by ‘the religious opinions and prejudices of the natives’. The
government therefore compromised with half measures, Understandably, the
government’s attitude was ineffective in reducing the number of satis.
The Governor General Amherst was convinced that the time was not right
for abolishing sati by legislative action. When William Bentinck arrived in
1828, however, there was a change of tempo. The Directors had instructed
him to take steps to end the practice of suttee, gradually or immediately,
using his personal discretion. Bentinck’s own temperament, inclined him
towards instant reform. Though