effectually against them by expelling them from their fixed residences which they have established in the north-eastern quarter of the province, and by making severe examples of the zemindars who have afforded them protection or assistance.—Hastings to Laurence Sulivan—20th March 1774.
HISTORY OF THE SANYASI REBELLION.
From “The Annals of Rural Bengal.”
‘A set of lawless banditti,’ wrote the Council in 1773, ‘known under the name of Sanyasis or Faquirs, have long infested these countries; and, under pretence of religious pilgrimage, have been accustomed to traverse the chief part of Bengal, begging, stealing, and plundering wherever they go, and as it best suits their convenience to practise.’ In the years subsequent to the famine, their ranks were swollen by a crowd of starving peasants who had neither seed nor implements to recommence cultivation with, and the cold weather of 1772 brought them down upon the harvest fields of Lower Bengal, burning, plundering, ravaging, ‘in bodies of fifty thousand men.’ The collectors called out the military; but after a temporary success our Sepoys ‘were at length totally defeated, and Captain Thomas (their leader), with almost the whole party, cut off.’ It was not till the close of the winter that the Council could report to the Court of Directors, that a battalion, under an experienced commander, had acted successfully against them; and a month later we find that even this tardy intimation had been premature. On the 31st March 1773, Warren Hastings plainly acknowledges that the commander who had succeeded Captain Thomas ‘unhappily underwent the same fate;’ that four battalions of the army were then actively engaged against the banditti but that, in spite of the militia levies called from the landholders, their combined operations had been fruitless. The revenue could not be collected, the inhabitants made common cause with the marauders, and the whole rural administration was unhinged. Such incursions were annual episodes in what some have been pleased to represent as the still life of Bengal.—Hunter’s Annals of Rural Bengal, pp. 70-2.