(30) Chuokeedars, audacity of thieves [[163-164]]
|Williamson 1810 vol. 1:
((294)) The Chokey-dar,
or watchman, is a very different sort of being from such as guard the
metropolis. In India, no man dare undertake this office unless he be a
professed thief, or in league with the local chief of all the thieves
the district. Were any person of a contrary description to assume the
of a house, &c., he would be outwitted, and in all probability be
or he would lose his life in the Quixotic attempt!
This may give but an unfavorable idea of the police; but
it will be found by no means so injurious to the interests of the
as persons ignorant of the fact, and of its derivation, might suppose.
Thieving is there put on a par with other speculations; it becomes a
the invasion of which carries with it the most fatal effects.
To explain this, I must state that, in the vicinity of
all great towns,
there will be found some person of apparent respectability, whose word
indeed passes with the same validity as orther mens' bonds; and who is
considered the chief of the chokey-dars, or watchmen; of ((295)) which
he will furnish one, or two, perhaps three, according to the extent,
situation, of the premises to be guarded.
For each person thus supplied, four rupees are paid
monthly to the individual
employed; the head-man being responsible for whatever josses may be
by professed robbers. The chokey-dar attends during the day, often
many little offices, in the most willing and effective manner; at night
parading about with his spear, shield, and sword, and assuming a most
aspect, until all the family are asleep; when HE GOES TO SLEEP TOO!
Thus the matter is compromised; the gang receive a
tribute, and the
gentleman is insured from nocturnal depredation: though, by way of
slight feints are now and then made, in order to keep up the system of
terror, and to uphold the chokey-dar's vigilance. I am sensible that
may be adduced of houses being plundered, and of the chokey-dars being
cut to pieces. These, however, do not confute the well-known fact I
above delivered; on examination it will always appear that such
were committed either by some gang from another quarter, or where the
were in [the] charge of military guards.
[] So audacious are thieves in India, that they have been known
to come into a cantonment with lighted mushuuls, in imitation
a marriage procession, or of a religious ceremony, and thus to attack a
treasury where a strong guard was posted. They likewise crawl about in
dark nights, so as to be mistaken for dogs or other small animals; thus
gradually lulling the vigilance of a sentry, and making their way to
interior. They oil their bodies, and thus render it scarcely possible
retain a hold of them; and are armed with a small sharp knife, always
in a girdle which consists only of a stout piece of twine carried round
the waist, supporting a very narrow lungooty, or clout, passing
between the legs.
When travelling through any part of the Company's territories,
proper to require chuokeedars (watchmen) from the villages in
vicinity of the encampment; otherwise a robbery may be expected,
the most distant chance of recovering the property, or of tracing the
Nor should such chuokeedars be sent away without a payment to
of two annas, equal to nearly four pence; lest intelligence of the
should be conveyed to the next halting-place, and no chuokeedar
be forthcoming; unless, indeed, one of the collector's peons be
in the company, or his order be sent to the inhabitants to provide
may be wanting.
The reader must not imagine himself in England, but in a
there is no public place of accommodation, no relay of horses, no
conveyance, and perhaps no other European within scores of miles. His
may [] picture to him the variety of preparations necessary before
a party -- much more, a single gentleman -- sets out for the purpose of
sporting, or of repairing to some distant station. He will then see the
necessity of adopting the local customs, as well as employing every
that prudence can devise; observing particularly that when he would
a gratuity upon any villager, &c., for provisions or services, he
never fail to pay it himself: otherwise the servants will diminish, if
not altogether withold, the donation.