Rammohun Roy and H. H. Wilson a leading
no such discontent from immediate abolition.
    On December 4, 1829, suttee was declared illegal in the Bengal
Presidency (Regulation XVII). By this Regulation anyone assisting a
voluntary sacrifice was to be held guilty of culpable homicide and anyone
using violence to force a widow to burn herself was to be liable to the death
sentence. A similar resolution was passed in Madras on February 2, 1830 and
action was also taken to make it effective in Bombay. The Regulation
aroused considerable agitation in Bengal, and a petition was submitted to
Bentinck, protesting strongly against it. The petitioners even went so far as to
appeal to the Privy Council in London (January 1830). However, the appeal
was dismissed and there were no disturbances in India.
Suppression of Thuggee
The campaign for the suppression of Thuggee was one act of the government
that aroused no public hostility, because its practical advantages were plain to
everybody. The word ‘thug’ was probably derived from the Sanskrit verb
thagna (to deceive), and the men who were called Thugs should more
accurately be termed phansidars (noose-holders), because strangulation was
the method they used for murdering their victims before robbing them.
    The practice of Thuggee was of considerable antiquity. It is mentioned in
a 14th century historical account and probably dates back very much further.
During the reign of Shah Jahan, the French traveller, de Thevenot reported
that the road between Delhi and Agra was infested by Thugs. The British first
realised the existence of these brigands towards the end of the 18th century,
but they did not begin effective action against them until 1829.
    It was William Sleeman who proved the existence of the powerful Thug
confederacy operating over the whole of northern India. In 1829, in the
course of his reforms, William Bentinck authorised a special department to
investigate and destroy the practice of Thuggee, and Sleeman was placed in
charge of the whole operation in 1835. In 1839 he was appointed
Commissioner for the Suppression of Thuggee and Dacoity. Thug gangs were
often protected by petty rajas and landowners, as well as by revenue-farmers
who shared their profits. But the British were determined to suppress
Thuggee once they had grasped its proportions. They attacked the menace of