Indian thugs - British India - Thugs 02

Al Capone American Mafia. USA. the

Above image: Al Capone and the rise of the American Mafia. Man for the people and a “Robin Hood” type figure, but he was far from it. Rather, he was responsible for the rise of a new culture of crime in the USA before 1950s

Calling the ancient Indian thugs or thuggee of British colonial era as ancient mafiosi may sound strange and this term is a misnomer. However, in terms of extreme violence, bloodletting  and brutal savagery perpetrated by them, their modus operandi, family hereditary, criminal legacy etc., one ca see a semblance of similarity between them  and the modern day "American thuggee" who trace their ancestors to Palermo, a small town in Sicily.  Almost all of them  were hereditary thugs whose criminal activities were passed on from generations after generations. They were a sort  of an old version of American hoodlums or syndicate groups or underworld mobs. Though the criminal activities of these ancient Indian families of thugs were altogether different, poorly organized and badly coordinated, one can find their  close modern day representatives in Sicilian mafiosi from Palermo, Sicily or the ''Mob'' or the American mafia which is a secret  American-Italian criminal society.

Navrang India - blogger

As already pointed out in the recent article on thugs, the word "thug" was coined during the British colonial time. Roughly 600 to 700 years ago they, it is believed, moved across India in groups mainly indulging in criminal activities which was their  main source of income. Rather than a group of petty thieves, they were a fraternity or a band of professional assassins with no scruples, no sympathy whatsoever. Murder, cheating, looting, etc were  part of their lives.  There was no room for remorse or compassion.

The criminal activities, particularly in mid-west and on the north eastern  parts of  the USA were so overwhelming after 1930's, the American press  coined the name "National Crime Syndicate" to refer to the entire network of U.S. organized crime - mafia operations just the way the British first coined the word ''thug'' to refer to  groups or tribes of hardcore  Indian criminals of 1600's and 1700s who were scattered  in many remote places  across India.
Centuries ago, the wandering families of Indian thugs in the subcontinent did not have specific  hereditary family names as  American crime families of Gambino, Lucchese, Genovese, Bonanno and Colombo that function under their respective ''Boss'' or Boss of Bosses. Unlike  American mafiosi, colonial Indian criminal tribes were migratory - thousands of people in groups changing places or regions, perhaps for new adventure and to stay at large! I wish  some body like Mario Puzo (1920 –1999), the late American author and screen writer had written a book on the bloody Indian thugs of yore, their operations and how the British East India company officials tried to tackle them during their colonial period.

Unfortunately, the British officials were in a fix as  marking out the criminal tribes among other docile tribes was absolutely difficult because of ethnicity, similar culture and customs. On account of lack of discernible differences among the  Good, the Bad and the Ugly tribes, the baffled British  bosses came up with a quick fix solution by clubbing real criminals along with  numerous innocent, law-abiding tribes and hilly people together under ''THUG.'' During the time of  Indian  independence in 1947, there were 13 million people in 127 communities who faced constant surveillance, scrutiny, search and arrest without warrant, if any member of the group was loitering outside the prescribed areas. Through change of Acts in August, 1949,  former "criminal tribes" were reclassified in 1952, when the Act was replaced with the Habitual Offenders Act, 1952 of Government of India, and in 1961 state government  released lists of such tribes. Among  a few hundred Indian tribes  including nomadic groups, 198 were reclassified, however, the Habitual Offenders Act (an obsolete one) even today causes  nightmares for 60  million plus people who come under tribal groups. These unfortunate people still carry the stigma and face  economic hardships and alienation in the largest democratic country in the world,  because both the police and the Indian media have a biased opinion about them, simply based on the past act first introduced by the British that wrongly lumped the  law abiding tribes with the tribes of criminal thugs. 

The innocent people, now carry slightly  new altered tag -"Vimukta jaatis" or the Ex-Criminal Tribes. ''What a way for a group of innocent, illiterate Indian people to be classified  as thugs 'without being thugs.''


Dash, Mike Thug: the true story of India's murderous cult ISBN 1-86207-604-9, 2005"

Tracing India's cult of Thugs". 3 August 2003. Los Angeles Times.