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(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 British 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 of the district. Were any person of a contrary description to assume the protection of a house, &c., he would be outwitted, and in all probability be implicated; or he would lose his life in the Quixotic attempt!

This may give but an unfavorable idea of the police; but on examination, it will be found by no means so injurious to the interests of the public, 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 monopoly, 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, and 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 occasioned by professed robbers. The chokey-dar attends during the day, often performing many little offices, in the most willing and effective manner; at night parading about with his spear, shield, and sword, and assuming a most terrific 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 deception, 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 instances 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 have above delivered; on examination it will always appear that such robberies were committed either by some gang from another quarter, or where the premises were in [the] charge of military guards. 

[[163]] So audacious are thieves in India, that they have been known to come into a cantonment with lighted mushuuls, in imitation of 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 the interior. They oil their bodies, and thus render it scarcely possible to retain a hold of them; and are armed with a small sharp knife, always carried 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, it is proper to require chuokeedars (watchmen) from the villages in the vicinity of the encampment; otherwise a robbery may be expected, without the most distant chance of recovering the property, or of tracing the thieves. Nor should such chuokeedars be sent away without a payment to each of two annas, equal to nearly four pence; lest intelligence of the nonpayment 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 whatever may be wanting.

The reader must not imagine himself in England, but in a country where there is no public place of accommodation, no relay of horses, no public conveyance, and perhaps no other European within scores of miles. His fancy may [[164]] 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 means that prudence can devise; observing particularly that when he would bestow a gratuity upon any villager, &c., for provisions or services, he should never fail to pay it himself: otherwise the servants will diminish, if not altogether withold, the donation.


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