fortunes prospered during the first four decades of the nineteenth century. The
anarchy, which had afflicted the Panjab during most of the preceding century,
had given way to the strong centralized dominion of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (below).
Ruling in the name of the Sikh community and ostensibly as its servant Ranjit
Singh had extended the boundaries of his Panjab kingdom as far as Kashmir, the
Khyber Pass, and Multan.
conquests were completed by 1824 and for the remaining years of Ranjit Singh's
reign the Panjab enjoyed an unaccustomed peace. Throughout the turbulent years
of the eighteenth century the Sikh community (the Khalsa) had been sustained by
the confident assurance that 'the Khalsa shall reign' (raj karega khalsa). To
many it seemed that this prophecy had come true.
Others, however, were troubled.
The ascent to military and political power seemed to them to have been accompanied
by a corresponding decline from the true glory of the Sikh faith. The Sikh Gurus
had insisted on the absolute primacy of devotion to God. Where now was the fervent,
regular remembrance of the divine Name upon which they had laid such unyielding
stress, and where the disciplined , . uy of life which must inescapably characterize
the true believer? These questions became increasingly acute as the SikhKingdom
slipped into contusion and defeat during the decade following the death of Ranjit
Singh in 1839.
One of the troubled was Balak Singh, a resident of Hazro in
the north-western corner of Ranjit Singh's domain. Balak Singh (below)had
been influenced by another teacher, Jawahar Mal. Like his master, Balak Singh
exhorted his followers to return to the simple religious message of the Gurus
and in accordance with this message he taught a strict doctrine of salvation through
meditation on the nam (the divine Name).
sect, which was established in this manner, has been known by a variety of names.
Whereas Balak Singh evidently referred to his followers as Jagiasis,1 their modern
descendants prefer the title Namdhari, 'Adherents of the Divine Name'. Between
the earlier and later periods, and particularly during the sect's brief years
of prominence, the term most commonly used (at least by outsiders) was Kuka, or
'Crier'. The impact of Balak Singh's personality was evidently considerable, for
by the time he died in 1862 he had been recognized by his followers as the eleventh
Guru.2 At his death he was succeeded as leader of the sect by Ram Singh (below),
a disciple who had fallen under his spell while serving as a soldier in the army
of Ranjit Singh's successors.
Singh transferred the Kuka centre from Hazro to his own village of Bhaini in Ludhiana
District and at once the sect began to grow rapidly, both in numbers and in prominence.
Barely six months after Balak Singh's death the Assistant District Superintendent
of Police at Attock drew attention to the sudden change.
Though the sect seems
to have failed in the neighbourhood of Hazro since Balak Singh's death it has
thriven in the most remarkable manner in the district adjoining the home of his
more energetic successor.3
In his comments on this and other police reports
Mr T.D. Forsyth, officiating secretary to the Panjab Government, mentioned that
Ram Singh's activities had first been detected in April 1863.4 Eight years later
Mr Forsyth was to play a leading role in the episode which so abruptly arrested
the sect's rapid rise to prominence. In this, the first of his recorded comments,
he noted that Ram Singh's numerous converts were 'confined chiefly to the lower
classes'.5 This vague remark was clarified four years later by Major Perkins,
District Superintendent of Police at Ludhiana, who observed in a report on the
Kukas that 'converts are chiefly made from Juts, Tirkhans, Chumars, and Muzbees'
(i.e. Jat agriculturists, carpenters, and outcastes).6 He added that very few
Khatris, Brahmans, or Banyas had been attracted to the sect.7
constituency is of fundamental impor-tance for any understanding of the sudden
acceleration in the sect's popularity, and it deserves careful analysis. It was
not, however, the aspect which primarily interested the Panjab Government. Sedition
was the danger which it perceived and which prompted its investi-gations. In 1863,
memories of 1857 were still vivid and any move-ment which combined rapid growth
with a promise of militancy could scarcely escape official attention. This attention
it received in abundance. Police officers were instructed to observe members of
the sect carefully, informers were employed to report on its ac-tivities from
within, and narrative accounts of its beliefs and cus-toms were prepared for the
guidance of administrators. As early as June 1863, Ram Singh's movements were
restricted to Bhaini,8 a decision which was reversed only when it was realized
that this endued him with martyr qualifications and thereby increased his popularity.9
reports and the narrative accounts based upon them provide much detailed information
concerning the sect. The reports are, to some extent, vitiated by the fears and
suspicions which prompted them, but the damage is slight and due allowance can
be made for it. It is the contemporary analysis, which is so commonly awry, not
the actual details collected by police officers and their informants in villages
with Kuka concentrations. The description of the sect which emerges from their
efforts is one which in its essentials is confirmed by later materials produced
within the Kuka community,10 and by recent works dealing with the remnant which
All agree that the Kuka sect had begun as a religious reform
movement within the Sikh community and that in spite of its suspected inclination
towards sedition it still preserved this emphasis. Ram Singh, following his master,
looked for a return to the pristine purity of the doctrines taught by the Sikh
Gurus. In its negative aspect this took the form of a vigorous polemic directed
against the corruption of the contemporary Sikh community. Positively it found
expression in a rigorous insistence upon the devotional practice of nam simran
(meditation on the divine Name) and upon a strict puritan ethic. Kukas were to
rise between 3 and 6 a.m. and having bathed they were to repeat passages from
the Sikh scriptures Virtue and continence were enjoined and to those who abused
or struck ihem they were to respond with meekness.12 A comprehensive report prepared
by the Inspector General of Policeat the end of 1867 acknowledges the high ideals
of the Kukas. Having sampled the opinions of 'the Native officers of one of our
frontier regiments', he concluded:
They all seem to have a great respect for
the tenets of the sect, and agree that it is an effort to restore the Sikh religion
to its original purity, and to do away with the innovations which have crept into
it, such as consulting Brahmins as to the proper day for marriages, &c. from
what they say, the belief of the sea appears to be a pure dissension. They hold
that God is one, not made or born, but existing by himself, and they appear to
hold in utter reprobation the Hindoo belief of various incarnation of the deity.
They inculcate a very strict morality, condemning most strongly lying, theft,
and adultery, and appear anxious merely to revive the Sikh religion in its original
state of purity and to eradicate the errors which have from time to time, defiled
To this extent Ram Singh sought nothing more than a revival of the Guru's
teachings and it is scarcely surprising that at this stage the sample of Sikh
opinion taken by. the police should have been generally favourable towards the
Kukas. Even the vigour with which the Kukas urged the cause of cow protection
brought no serious objections until it led to the murder of Muslim butchers in
Amritsar and Raikot. Although the Gurus had not attached any evident importance
to the issue the ancient tradition died hard and Sikhs who supported it would
not thereby mark themselves out as deviants. It was, of course, inevitable that
distinctive beliefs and practices should soon emerge within the sect, but initially
even these did not alienate the Kukas from the bulk of the orthodox Sikh community.
At first they were regarded as little more than the harmless peculiarities of
religious enthusiasts, and protests against them appear to have been largely confined
to those members of the Sikh community who were the particular targets of Ram
Singh's reforming strictures.14 The most prominent of these differences was evidently
responsible for the appearance of the word Kuka. On important occasions members
of the sect would assemble for a ceremony called Chandi ka Path, literally 'A
Reading of the Epic of Chandi'.15 The ceremony was not, strictly, a reading in
the literal sense, although passages from the epic were evidently recited as a
part of it. Recitations of this and other passages from the Sikh scriptures were
conducted antiphonal around a slow-burning bonfire. Gradually enthusiasm would
mount amongst the participants until eventually ecstasy would overtake some of
them. In this condition they would cry out,and from the noun kuk, 'a shriek',
the sea received its characteristic name.16 Another distinctive custom was the
practice of tying turbans horizontally across the forehead.17
None of this
bothered the Panjab Government unduly, nor did it generate serious concern within
the Sikh community until it became evident that the Kuka movement could be an
agent of social disturbance as well as religious reform. Even the Kuka disposition
to desecrate Hindu temples and Muslim tombs seemed to be no more than the iconoclasm
of a few fanatics whose activities were disowned by their leader.18 What did bother
the British from the very beginning of Ram Singh's tenure was the evidence which
they soon perceived of territorial organization. This seemed to add substance
to their vague suspicions of sedition, particularly when they began to leam more
about the precise identity of Ram Singh's subordinates.
In dividing the Panjab
into Kuka districts Ram Singh was merely following early Sikh precedents, the
only significant difference being the title attached to the district leaders.
To each district designated in this manner there was appointed a trusted disciple
bearing the title of subah. He might be innocent of sedition, but could the same
be said of his subahs? The police were satisfied that there was sufficient smoke
to warrant a strong suspicion of fire. A particular mistrust was attached to Sahib
Singh, the heir-apparent of Ram Singh, and to four others 'all more or less truculent
and ill-disposed to the restraint of constituted authority'.'9
As time passed,
however, their fears subsided. By the end of 1868 Kuka influence appeared to be
waning,20 a trend which seemed to be confirmed by the reports received during
the following year.21 A Kuka riot which had occurred in Ferozepore District during
that year did nothing to disturb this confidence.22 Some fresh suspicions were
aroused by Kuka enlistments in the army of the Maharaja of Kashmir and by the
dispatch of an emissary to Nepal, but nothing more than a continuation of regular
surveillance seemed to be required.23
This crisis began eighteenth months later.
Although the deeper causes of the outbreak must defy any summary treatment at
this stage, at least the immediate issue was plain. This was the Kuka abhorrence
of cow killing. In June 1871 a party of Kukas attacked the Amritsar slaughter-house
and escaped after murdering four of the butchers. A month later the incident was
repeated at Raikot, near Ludhiana. One of the culprits apprehended after the second
raid turned Queen's Evidence and as a result of his disclosures several arrests
were made. All were Kukas and three of them were subahs.24
At once the tone
of the police reports changed. No serious outbreak was yet envisaged, but the
growing tendency to treat the Kukas simply as harmless religious fanatics came
to an abrupt end.
The climax followed soon after. On 14 January 1872 a party
of Kukas from Bhaini attacked the obscure fort of Malodh in Ludhiana District
and then, with augmented numbers, attempted to force their way into the town of
Malerkotla.25 Having failed in their objective, the dispirited party retreated
into Patiala territory, where sixty-eight of them surrendered at the village of
Rurr. Meanwhile, Mr L Cowan, Officiating Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana District,
had has-tened to Malerkotla, and when the prisoners arrived there he pro-ceeded
to blow forty-nine of them away from guns without trial. This he did in spite
of an earlier caution, which he had received, from Mr T.D. Forsyth, Commissioner
of Ambala Division, and a second letter from Forsyth which arrived while the last
batch of pris-oners was being lashed to the guns. One other prisoner attacked
him and was cut down. Two of the totals were women, leaving six-teen whom Cowan
proposed to execute the following day.(Below)
the letter, which arrived during the course of the executions, Forsyth had explicitly
ordered Cowan to proceed according to legal requirements. Having received Cowan's
report, however, he approved the action. He then proceeded to Malerkotla and after
a summary trial blew the remaining sixteen prisoners away from guns. Four more
prisoners captured during the earlier attack on Malodh were executed the following
The result of this episode was a furore. Two separate issues had to
be decided and one at least generated a considerable controversy. Cowan had plainly
transgressed the bounds of established legal procedure by executing without a
trial, and Forsyth had compromised his earlier rectitude by subsequently approving
his action. The method of execution was, moreover, irregular and the manner in
which Forsyth had tried the second batch of prisoners was not beyond suspicion.
Cowan argued vigorously that dangerous situations require impressive remedies,
and that because he had been prepared to act with such expedition 'a rebellion
which might have attained large dimension was nipped in the bud'.27 Forsyth supported
this claim,28 and so too did the Anglo-Indian press, with the notable exception
of the Friend of India.29 Many amongst the landed and the titled of Panjab society
declared their appreciation of Cowan's action,30 and even the Lieutenant Governor
of the Panjab demonstrated an evident willingness to concur.31 The Government!
India did not, however, concur. Cowan was dismissed from the service and Forsyth
was transferred to Oudh.32 This decision was subsequently confirmed by the Secretary
of State for India.33
The second major question concerned the treatment of
Ram Singh and his surviving subahs. In this instance the primary issue was not
one of guilt. It was assumed by the Lieutenant Governor and doubtless by many
others that Ram Singh, as leader of the sect, must assuredly have been implicated
in the attacks on Malodh and Malerkoda,34 but it soon became dear that an accusation
of complicity would stand little chance in a court of law. The available evidence
actually pointed to his innocence. Ram Singh claimed that he had attempted to
dissuade his headstrong followers from their rash course, but that they had refused
to listen to him. Having failed to convince them of their folly he had immediately
visited the Deputy Inspector of Police at Sahnewal and warned him of their intentions.35
suggested that this action had been no more than 'a ruse on his pan to try and
escape the responsibility of the acts of his followers', that he merely had to
wait until they were on their way in order to cover himself without affecting
their chances of success.35 This patently failed to provide evidence upon which
a prosecution might proceed. The suggestion was alien to the known character of
Ram Singh and had the police officer at Sahnewal acted promptly the entire episode
might well have been averted. Ram Singh was probably innocent, and even if guilty
of complicity there could be no chance of establishing the charge. The same result
would obviously have followed an attempt to establish his complicity in the earlier
murder of the Amritsar and Raikot butchers. The possibility of instituting proceedings
against him had been given careful consideration at the time by the Lieutenant
Governor, but had been reluctantly rejected.37
Against the subahs there appeared
to be a strong case, for depositions had been obtained which, if sustained in
court, would probably establish their guilt. The situation was reviewed by the
Government of India and eventually it was decided not to proceed.38 The principal
objection of the Council was expressed in a note by Sir Richard Temple:
am against trial if it can be avoided. I say this with great regret but there
is no overlooking the fact that whenever a trial for political crimes takes place
there are unhappily found English Barristers who not content with justly defending
their clients (which is quite right) go beyond all legitimate bounds, and raise
a sort of political excitement, very detrimental to the minds of native people.39
decision did not mean that the Government of India was prepared to let Ram Singh
and his subahs go free. There was an alternative, one, which was speedily adopted
in the case of Ram Singh and with greater reluctance in the case of his subahs.
The Government's principal objective was to deprive the Kuka sect of its leadership
'until the movement has lost all vitality and has perished beyond all chance of
resuscitation'.40 An alternative method of securing mis purpose was provided by
the Bengal Regulation III of 1818, a measure which was designed to cover occasional
circumstances which render it necessary to place under personal restraint individuals
against whom there may not be sufficient ground to institute any judicial proceeding
or when such proceeding may not be adapted to the nature of the case or may for
other reasons be unadvisable or improper.41
Indefinite detention could thus
be imposed on the prisoners without trial. E.G. Bayley, Secretary to the Government
of India, offered a justification.
The opinions expressed above may seem harsh
and it may perhaps be deemed a strong measure to use Regulation III of 1818 to
the extent contemplated. But it is to be remembered that almost beyond moral doubt
all the prisoners have been concerned in crimes which would have subjected them
to transportation for life if proved conspiring to wage war against the Queen,
seditious preaching and teaching, abatement of murder and of rebellion with murder.
These are the offences with one or more of which every one of the prisoners is
at least on strong grounds charged. It seems probable now that if it were politic
to bring them to trial, proof even for legal conviction (as for example against
Burma Singh) could easily be obtained. There seems accordingly no practical injustice
inflicting upon them under the Act, for reasons of policy, restriction of their
liberty which they really deserved by their breaches of the criminal law. It seems
only necessary to discriminate between those who as active leaders will be dangerous
under any circumstances so long as inflammable marks of ignorance and fanaticism
exist in the Panjab, and those who are dangerous only in connection with the present
Faced with a choice between Regulation III and freedom, the Viceroy's
Council had alresdy invoked the regulation in Ram Singh's case and dispatched
him to Rangoon.43 Bayley's argument was accepted in the case of the subahs and,
in October 1872, the eleven who wereb
regarded as dangerous to peace and security
were distributed to various British jails, most of them outside peninsular India.44
subsequent history of the Kukas may be narrated very briefly. Religious preaching
continued and a few members of the sect endeavoured to sustain a covert agitation
against the Government. One of them, a subah named Gurcharan Singh(Below),
actually reached Samarkand where he established a fitful contact with the Russian
governor of Turkestan.45 The political phase was, however, soon to come to an
end. Brief contacts with the restless Maharaja Dalip Singh(below)
marked its terminus.46 Although the Kukas continued to look for the prophesied
return of Ram Singh, their activities following the death of Dalip Singh in 1893
occasioned no further concern to the Government. During the present century they
have been distinguished only by their continuing insistence upon reform of the
Sikh religion, and notably by their refusal to permit lavish weddings or dowries.
Their horizontal turbans are still to be seen in the Panjab and although their
numbers are now few the message which issues from Bhaini and Jiwan Nagar remains
a vigorous one.47
This summary narrative of the rise and decline of the Kuka
sect must serve as a basis for our analysis of that rise and decline. The basic
facts are clear. A sect which began as a religious reform movement within the
Sikh community multiplied rapidly, came into conflict with the British administration
in the Panjab, and then dwindled into insignificance. The questions, which confront
us, concern the reasons, which account for the sudden increase in Kuka popularity,
for the sect's confrontation with the Panjab Government, and for the decline which
took place thereafter.
Two theories have already been advanced, both of them
based upon interpretations which stress the political motivation of the Kukas
during the brief period of Ram Singh's leadership. The British administrators
who had to deal with the Kuka disturbance quickly produced a theory which, they
claimed, was justified by the decline which followed so closely upon the banishment
of the Kuka leaders. The events of Malodh and Malerkotla were viewed in the setting
of recent military history. Only a quarter of a century had passed since the might
of British arms had destroyed Sikh rule in the Panjab. Sikh rule meant, above
all, the glories of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and it was but natural that the Sikhs
should look back to the recent past with an ardent longing. There was, moreover,
the conviction amongst the Sikhs that their defeat in the Sikh Wars had been the
result moreof treachery than of British power and the events of 1857 had demonstrated
the extent to which that power could be successfully challenged.
And so the
Sikhs, or many of them, dreamt of driving the British out of the Panjab. Ram Singh
provided a focus for this ambition and with aid of his territorial subahs he set
about preparing for the battle. Unfortunately for him, his headstrong subahs moved
too soon and provoked a clash, which was easily suppressed. The clash proved highly
advantageous to the Government, for it provided it with sufficient grounds for
suppressing the movement before it became a serious problem. Mr Cowan's methods
were wholly irregular, but at least they succeeded and the name of British justice
was redeemed by means of disciplinary action. All that was required in order to
cripple the movement was to deport its leader. When this was done Kuka numbers
and influence declined rapidly. The simple analysis had evidently been correct.48
second theory is a modem nationalist interpretation, and specifically a Panjabi
interpretation. During the uprising of 1857-8 the British had received welcome
assistance from Sikh troops. This assistance subsequently proved to be an embarrassment
to Panjabi participants in the independence struggle and prompted an effort to
prove that the Panjab had been as loyal to the ideal of freedom as any other part
of India. On the one hand it was claimed that the help had been rendered not by
the people of the Panjab but by the princes; and on the other it was suggested
that amongst the people, as opposed to the princes, independence movements were
The Kuka episode has in recent years been advanced as proof
of the second claim. Although indications of this theory appear as far back as
1913 in the propaganda literature of the revolutionary Ghadr Party,49 the interpretation
did not win instant acceptance. Fifty years later R.C. Majumdar, the historian
of the Freedom Movement, could still dismiss Ram Singh with a brief comment.
gave military training to his followers and organised the sect. There is, however,
no adequate evidence to support the view that the Kuka movement ever aimed at
the subversion of the British rule.50
In making this comment Majumdar had,
however, noted a growing tendency to regard various local disturbances as freedom
struggles.51 The tendency eventually emerged in a coherent form when in 1965 two
books appeared in support of the freedom-struggle thesis. M.M.III
Kukas is significantly subtitled The Freedom Fighters of the Panjab', and Fauja
Singh Bajwa is equally explicit in adding to his Kuka Movement the subtitle 'An
important phase in Panjab's role in India's struggle for freedom'.52
this modern nationalist interpretation is curiously similar to the earlier theory
advanced by the British administrators, differing only in points of emphasis.
There is, for example, a heavier stress upon the claim that the British owed their
earlier victories to treachery within the Sikh ranks, and much attention is understandably
devoted to the punitive measures taken by Cowan and Forsyth, and later by the
Government of India. The principal difference derives from the attempt made by
the two authors to relate the Kuka outbreak to the wider struggle for independence.
According to their interpretation it was an early phase of the larger struggle,
and because the struggle ultimately succeeded the Kuka sacrifice did not go in
vain. Whereas the early British theory had treated the outbreak as an isolated,
insignificant, and somewhat sordid failure, the modern interpretation regards
it as a heroic setback on the road to ultimate triumph.
The primary purpose
of this essay is to suggest a third interpreta-tion, one which shifts the focus
of attention away from the political aspects of the Kuka outbreak to the social
conditions within which it developed. This is not to deny the existence of political
issues, nor their importance. Clearly the Kuka outbreak must in some measure relate
to the annexation of the Panjab by the alien British, and it has already been
shown that its sudden emergence took the form of political action. There were,
however, issues at once more impor-tant and more obscure. An examination of these
issues raises the possibility that the Kuka movement may be interpreted as a distinc-tively
Indian example of the millenarian pattern. The movement develops within a disturbed
social environment; it gathers around the person of a religious leader; it generates
a glorious vision of the future; and in pursuit of this objective it moves towards
an ill-de-fined expression of political protest. These features prompt the sug-gestion
that a comparison with characteristic millenarian processes may perhaps lead us
to a deeper understanding of the Kuka out-break.
Protest movements assuming
a millenarian form normally pass through four distinct and successive phases of
development. The first involves the spread of social discontent within a particular
geographical area, with the consequent emergence of a substantialgroup of disoriented
and frustrated people. This is followed by the appearance of a holy man, one regarded
as inspired and perhaps as divine. The third phase results from a junction of
the leader and the group, a connection which produces a fraternity fortified with
a social myth adapted to their needs. Finally, the fourth phase issues in 'a frantic
urge to smite the ungodly', an irresistible impulse to strike out at the person,
the group, or the institution identified as the source of falsehood and oppression.53
possibility that this pattern may enlarge our understanding of the Kuka movement
arises from an obvious correspondence of three of these phases to the known pattern
of Kuka development. Correspondence at three points suggests the possibility of
corre-spondence at the fourth also. In the case of the Kukas it is the first of
the four phases which is obscure, the phase which concerns the ori-gins and motivation
of the sect. As we have already seen, the causes of the sect's brief popularity
have hitherto been interpreted in po-litical terms as a conscious desire to shake
off the British yoke. A comparison with millenarian movements elsewhere implies
deeper causes. The political aspects of the sect's activities are not thereby
denied, but are instead to be understood as essentially incoherent responses to
an underlying social discontent.
The second of the phases outlined above is
at once obvious in the case of the Kukas. Ram Singh of Bhaini was the holy man
around whom a following rapidly gathered. The fact the Ram Singh evidendy disapproved
of the violence of his followers does nothing to disturb the pattern. A holy man
can serve as a focus for discontent without necessarily sharing the discontent
itself or participating in the actions which it provokes.
The third of the
four phases is well illustrated by a document which the police acquired in 1863.
Sakhi of Guru Govind Singh
Guru Govind Singh, will be bom in a carpenter's shop, and will be called Ram
Singh. My house will be between the Jamna and Sutlej rivers. I will declare my
religion. I will defeat the Faringhis and put the crown on my own head, and blow
the sankh. The musicians shall praise me in 1921 . I, the carpenter, will
sit on the throne. When I have got one lakh and twenty-five thousand Sikhs with
me, I will cut off the heads of the Faringhis. I will never be conquered in battle,
and will shout 'Akal Akal'. The Christians will desert their wives and fly from
the country when they hear the shout of 1 '/4 lakhs of Khalsas. A great battle
will take place on theil'l
banks of the Jamna, and blood will flow like
the waters of the Ravi, and no Faringhi be left alive. Insurrections will take
place in the country in 1922 . The Khalsa will reign, and the rajah and
ryot will live in peace and comfort, and no one shall molest another.
day Ram Singh's rule will be enlarged. God has written this. It is no lie, my
brethren. In 1922 , the whole country will be ruled by Ram Singh. My followers
will worship Wahaguru [God[. God says this will happen.54
The parallels with
other millenarian movements are self-evident. Guru Gobind Singh (who died in 1708)
has declared that he will be reincarnated in the person of Ram Singh the carpenter.
To him the righteous of the Khalsa will flock. The enemy is identified (the Faranghi,
i.e. the alien, Christian British). The final conflict is imminent, the battle
will be bloody, and following its inevitably triumphant conclusion the Khalsa
will rule a world transformed, an earthly paradise in which ruler and peasant
will dwell together in perfect harmony. All this is expressed in terms derived
from the Sikh past and specifically from the period of Gobind Singh, the warrior
Guru. It is the Khalsa (the brotherhood founded by Guru Gobind Singh) which will
fight the battle. Its forces will number one and a quarter lakhs (125,000), the
figure traditionally associated with the triumph of Khalsa arms. The battle will
take place on the banks of a river closely connected with the life of Guru Gobind
Singh, and the warcry to be raised will be one of the Sikh names of God (Ahdl,
or 'the Eternal One').
Other characteristically millenarian features appear
in later police reports. Discontent was directed against the privileged classes
and found expression in an attempt to restore traditional values. The targets
may have been Brahmans rather than bishops, and the most compelling of ancient
traditions may have been the distinctively Indian reverence for the cow, but the
pattern was essentially the same as elsewhere. Religious leaders who were attacked
duly retaliated,55 and so too did the larger landholders when they perceived the
social implications of the movement.56 Amongst the stock criticisms applied to
Ram Singh and his followers, accusations of sexual immorality figure prominently.57
Other resemblances are the more striking for being less predictable. The Kuka
versions of the Sau Sakhis offer a parallel to the Sibylline Books both in their
actual usage and in their convenient mutations.58 A Kuka equivalent of the Heavenly
Letter appeared in 1876,59 and in the claim that Ram Singh was a reincarnation
of Guru Gobind Singh they produced their own versionof the Sleeping Emperor legend.60
Like many of their European counterparts the Kukas also attached a particular
importance to die colour white.
The fourth stage is reached when die impulse
to smite dies ungodly issues in unplanned conflict and speedy repression. Two
varieties of die ungodly served as targets for Kuka anger. The first to be attacked
were die Muslim butchers of Amritsar and Raikot, enemies not merely because they
were killers of kine (a most abhorrent crime) but also because they were Muslims.
Enmity between Sikh and Muslim, greatly strengthened during the eighteenth century,
had not been allayed and if a traditional opponent were to be identified die obvious
candidate would be a Muslim. This enmity was also in evidence during the later
outbreak. Malerkotla was not the most convenient of objectives for a party operating
from Bhaini. One reason for selecting it may have been die fact that it was the
only Muslim state in die Panjab. In this later episode, however, the second enemy
was also involved. The new tyrant was the British malechchha, the destroyer of
the Khalsa dominion and a more obvious target for the socially discontented during
the second half of the nineteenth century.
Three of the four phases can thus
be identified in the case of the Kukas. Is it possible similarly to identify the
remaining one, the first of the four? What emerges when, following the characteristic
millenarian pattern, we look behind the actual incidents for evidence of people
disoriented and frustrated? Is this a description, which fits those who participated
in the Kuka movement, or are they still to be seen as rebels/nationalists pursuing
deliberate and coherent political objectives?
The answer must be that the Kukas
did indeed represent, in distinctly millenarian terms, the measure of confusion
and frustration which one would expect from parallel examples of the same responses.
The two decades preceding the sudden surge in Kuka numbers had been for the Sikhs
a period of dissolving religious values and slackening communal cohesion. This
stood in marked contrast to the preceding century and a half. The eighteenth century
had been a stirring period for the Sikh community, as its traditions so vividly
demonstrate. This was the century in which persecution and martyrdom had been
succeeded first by heroic struggles and ultimately by the triumph of the Khalsa.
The triumphs of the eighteenth century were further extended by Maharaja Ranjit
Singh, and when he died in 1839 Sikh glory was at its zenith.
This was a powerful
myth, one which still retains much of itsvitality today. Set against its grandeur,
the decades which followed the death of Ranjit Singh presented a sorry spectacle
of failure and decay. Treachery had destroyed the Khalsa army from within. The
teachings of the Gurus had been forgotten. Worldliness and immorality consumed
the community's leaders. Those who held power and influence had obtained it by
unscrupulous means and used it to oppress the less fortunate. Sacred traditions
were openly violated. The foreigner who had inflicted the indignity of defeat
brought with him not merely his soldiers but also his missionaries. More and more
Sikhs were casting aside the visible symbols of their loyalty to the community.
was the myth extended. The brightness of the past was now matched by the darkness
of the present. It is scarcely surprising that interpretations of this kind should
issue in attempts to arrest the process of dissolution. Balak Singh's Jagiasi
movement was one of the earliest of these attempts. For him the earlier glory
consisted in the purity of the Gurus' religious teachings, and specifically in
the devotional practice of nam simran. Ram Singh evidently propounded the same
message, but for many of his followers the glories of the past were primarily
the military triumphs of the Khalsa. During the eighteenth century Mughal authority
had been extinguished in the Panjab and Afghan efforts to invade the land had
been resisted. Ranjit Singh had consolidated these successes and then pushed back
the boundaries of the Panjab in three directions. Even the British, for all their
strength, had drawn back from a confrontation. There had been unity and purpose,
and for none more than those who were Sikhs. There had also been employment, for
Ranjit Singh's army had been a large one.
The two decades following the death
of Ranjit Singh were cer-tainly a period of progressive disillusionment for the
Sikhs, and the Kuka attempts to evoke the heroic traditions of Guru Gobind Singh
suggest that the development of their sect must be related to this ex-perience
of disillusionment. This should not be the end of the analy-sis, however, for
it is possible to proceed further in pursuit of the origins of the distress and
disarray. The role of Ranjit Singh's army as an employer of many Jat Sikhs could
conceivably imply that the overtly religious aspects of Kuka discontent derived
from essentially economic sources. Here too the example of other millenarian movements
may provide a guide. In such instances it is normally economic distress with its
attendant social problems which creates the tension leading to distinctively millenarian
At first sight the available evidence is unpromising. The Kuka movement
drew practically all of its support from the rural areas of the Panjab and if
we are to judge from the comments offered by the British administrators of this
period, these areas were not economically depressed during the years which cover
the sect's rapid ascent to its short-lived prominence. The evidence is best presented
in the settlement reports produced towards the end of the nineteenth century.
These record increases in cultivation and in the irrigation of areas already under
cultivation.61 Population increases are briefly noted, but without evident concern.
At this stage it was believed that the agricultural resources of the fertile plains
could cope with such increases.62 The critical test of rural stability was taken
to be the degree of willingness with which taxes were paid, and it was recorded,
with obvious satisfaction, that revenue collection had generally involved little
difficulty during the period preceding the writing of the reports.63
in just such circumstances that analyses of other millenarian movements can demonstrate
their usefulness as guides. A survey of the evidence provided by the settlement
reports would suggest that, whatever the reasons for the Kuka outbreak, economic
distress was not to be numbered amongst them. The parallel pattern, which can
be observed in other millenarian situations, should caution us against accepting
this evidence without further analysis. Was rural Panjab really as contented as
the British observers believed? There seems to be little doubt that most of the
revenue-paying landholders must have been in relatively prosperous circumstances,
but was this the group which provided the Kukas with the main body of their support?
Other millenarian examples direct us to look elsewhere, not to the wealthier grain-producing
landowners but rather to the humbler orders of Panjabi society. These are the
people who characteristically provide a millenarian movement with its strength.
They are also the people who figure prominently in reports concerning the constituency
of the Kuka sect.
The dominant caste group within the Sikh community was (and
remains) that of the Jats, a rural and agrarian people with strong martial traditions.
Some Jats were landlords; others of lesser means cultivated small holdings as
tenants. In undivided Panjab only a minority of the Jats were Sikhs (the balance
being Muslims or Hindus), but within the Sikh community the Jat element has always
re-tained a strong numerical preponderance. These were the people for whom the
eighteenth century conditions had proven particularly
advantageous and for
whom the army of Ranjit Singh had subse-quently provided congenial employment.
Their poorer members were also the people who offered the strongest body of support
to the Kuka movement. Others who joined it were drawn mainly from artisan and
other depressed castes, which stood in a client relationship to Jat patrons. The
line of investigation, which must now be pursued, con-cerns these poorer members
of the Sikh community. Is there any evi-dence, which might suggest that theirs
was a condition of unrest dur-ing the period leading up to the emergence of the
A feature commonly associated with millenarian developments is increasing
population pressure. This feature was certainly to be found in the Panjab of the
middle and later nineteenth century. The eighteenth-century struggles, which opened
the way to Khalsa dominance, had served, in the usual manner of military disturbances,
to impose a check upon population growth. This condition was altered by Ranjit
Singh's rise to power. All of his major battles were fought beyond the fertile
tract of Central Panjab, and after 1824 they ceased altogether apart from some
minor skirmishes. Warfare made a brief return during the fifth decade of the nineteenth
century, but peace was reimposed in 1849 and was little affected by the events
of 1857. By the time Ram Singh emerged as leader of the Kukas the Panjab had experienced
five decades of relative tranquillity. But for the disturbances, which followed
Ranjit Singh's death the total would have been six. Indeed it can be argued that
the span was even longer, for the more devastating disturbances of the eighteenth
century were over well before the century concluded.
The result was an increase
in the population of the Panjab. Although no figures exist for the period prior
to 1855, it seems safe to assume that the trend, which appeared in successive
censuses from that year onwards, will have been an extension of earlier increases
during the preceding half century. Certainly there is no doubt about the trend
during the years immediately preceding the Kuka outbreak. Between 1855 and 1868
the population of the Panjab increased by 16.1 percent.64
The portion of the
province, which absorbed the greater measure of this rapid increase, was the central
tract, the area which already possessed the highest density. Whereas Jullundur
District had a population of 513 per square mile in 1855, the corresponding figure
for the potentially fertile but unirrigated Montgomery District was still only
55.f>5 This in itself meant little, for Jullundur District in 1855 could obviously
support a much higher density than areaswhich lacked either its fertility or its
supply of water. A figure in excess of 500 was nevertheless a high one for a rural
area to support and it was one which continued to rise in the years following
1855. During the brief period from 1855 to 1868 Jullundur District had to absorb
more than 80 extra persons per square mile. Although the figure for Jullundur
is one of the highest (only Amritsar District with an increase of 96 per square
mile is higher), it is clear from a conspectus of the district totals that the
major growth was concentrated in the central tract and that the rate of increase
dropped away steadily as one moved outwards from it.66
These are impressive
figures and they can be rendered even more impressive by the observation that
during the middle decades of the nineteenth century urban areas absorbed relatively
little of any population increase. An overwhelming proportion had to be accommodated
within rural society. Against them must be set the statistics for agrarian extension
provided by the settlement reports. Although these reduce the force of the demographic
argument, they fall far short of destroying it. The situation, which thus emerged,
did not in itself constitute a crisis, but it appears that it did involve a condition
of considerable risk. Even the settlement officers perceived this.67
a situation a regular succession of adequate harvests was vital. For several years
after the British annexation this succession was maintained, but eventually it
was broken. Following a favourable year in 1857, the harvests of 1858 were much
reduced, and during 1860-1 the Panjab experienced a serious famine.68This was
followed by another period of acute scarcity in 1869-70.69 In such a situation,
those in possession of grain surpluses could secure a handsome profit from the
inevitable increase in prices. Others, however, must suffer and, for some, this
was the beginning of the road leading to indebtedness and eventually expropriation.
such circumstances the poorer Jats would certainly have experi-enced distress,
and in their case the experience of shared disaster will have been aggravated
by two additional features. One was the Jat custom of fragmenting land-holdings
at death. Large landholders, the heirs of substantial estates from the days of
Sikh rule, might sur-vive and flourish. Othere must look elsewhere for alternative
or sup-plementary means of support. Such means are usually available and the Jat
has been characteristically prompt in utilizing them. The sec-ond aggravating
factor was, however, a temporary blockage of the customary means of supplementary
support. During the period ofRanjit Singh and his successors there was the Army,
an outlet which was soon to reopen under the British rule. Later there were the
canal colonies, later still the Mercedes trucks and Calcutta taxis, and during
recent years there have been opportunities for migration overseas.70 The period
immediately following the British annexation of the Panjab in 1849 was, however,
a disastrous exception as far as the Jats were concerned. The British had insisted
upon disbandment of the large Khalsa army, and although the Indian Army opened
its ranks to the Sikhs with surprising speed there was inevitably an interval
before this decision could provide a measure of aid sufficient to compensate for
the economic problems of the Jat peasants.71
Discontent, which afflicted the
Jat peasants of the central tract, would also have affected other rural caste
groups of inferior economic status. In addition to the general problem of food
shortages anything which affected the Jats could also be expected to affect those
who were dependent upon them. If the Jat patrons suffered, the artisan and menial
clients must suffer with them. If discontent were to develop within a distinctively
Sikh group the vehicle of that discontent would predictably be a Sikh movement.
Its origins might be religious, but the secret of its power to attract evidently
lay in economic distress and in the threats to social stability which this involved.
The Kuka sect evidently served as a convenient focus for rural unrest. Having
won a generous measure of support, the sect was first transformed by its new converts
and then shattered by their impulsiveness.
This analysis appears to be the
only one, which will take account of three fundamental aspects of Kuka history.
The first of these is the lowly social and economic constituency of the sect.
It was highly significant that Major Perkins should have observed that 'converts
are chiefly made from Juts, Tirkhans, Chumars and Muzbees'.72 Later police analysis
of Kuka membership showed that of these four groups by far the strongest was that
of the Jats,73 and that this element was drawn largely from the ranks of the poorer
Jats.74 These were the people who would suffer extensively from conditions of
economic deprivation while retaining memories of a more prosperous past.
there is the close correlation between periods of food shortage and spurts in
Kuka activity. The first serious famine took place in 1860-1, and the sect suddenly
surges ahead in 1862-3. In 1868 and 1869 the police report a condition of general
tranquillity amongst the Kukas. Another period of scarcity follows during 1869-70
and by the middle of 1871 the outbreaks of violence have begun.
is the striking increase in the sect's strength whichimmediately followed the
death of Balak Singh. When Balak Singh died in 1862 the focus of the sect's activities
automatically moved away from his home in Hazro to Ram Singh's village of Bhaini.
Hazro was a small town situated on the periphery of the Panjab in an area which
still suffered little from population pressure or social dislocation. Within this
area the Sikh population constituted only a fragment of the total population and
within the Sikh community itself a majority belonged to mercantile castes.75 Bhaini,
in contrast, lay within the fertile central tract where Sikh traditions were powerful,
where most members of the community were Jats, and where crop failure had so recently
caused serious problems.76 A religious leader appears within an area afflicted
by famine and immediately attracts a substantial following from the poorer sections
of the community. It seems impossible to resist the conclusion that the reason
for the sudden growth of the sect must lie in the existing condition of economic
distress. And this is precisely what the example of other millenarian movements
would lead us to expect.
It thus becomes evident that the Kuka sect is best
understood as a distinctively Sikh version of a common millenarian pattern. Social
instability had produced discontent, and discontent had found the holy man to
whom it could attach its aspirations. Out of this there emerged the myth which
drew together past glories, present frustrations, and future hopes. Battle was
joined, not with deliberation but impulsively, and the movement was quickly crushed.
The leaders were imprisoned, adherents quickly fell away, and although a loyal
remnant remained the discontent which had prompted the sect's rapid growth soon
found outlets elsewhere. For many the armed forces and the canal colonies provided
a suf-ficient answer. Others found a more convincing purpose in the Gurdwara Reform
Movement or in the political channels which fed the Ghadr Conspiracy and eventually
the Panjab Communist Party. It is, in many ways, a sad story. Like so many other
millena-rian movements it culminated in tragedy and slipped thereafter into a
respectable insignificance. There was, however, more to the later Kuka experience
than hopes deceived and fruitless intrigues with a Russian Governor. The sect
had begun a religious reform movement and to this exclusive concern it subsequently
returned. The contribution of Sikh belief and custom to Panjab society is immense
and voices which preach its reform have yet to be wholly ignored.
Jagiasi, 'worshipper, from jagya or yagya, 'sacrifice', 'offering'. In some
the title used is Abhiasi (abhiasi, 'student', 'one who meditates
repeats a sacred mantra', from abhids, 'study, meditation,
According to orthodox Sikh belief the unbroken succession often Gurus extending
from Nanak (1469-1539) to Gobind Singh (1666-1708) represented the embodiment
of a single divine spirit in ten human bodies. Gobind Singh's sons had all predeceased
him and according to Sikh tradition he had declared that at his death the spirit
which had inhabited the ten bodies would thereafter dwell in the corporate community
and in the sacred scripture. The belief, which emerged amongst the followers of
Balak Singh, assumed a resumption of human form by the divine spirit. In Sikh
usage the title 'Guru' signifies this divine spirit and within the community it
could not be applied to a mere mortal however pious or enlightened he might be.
From a report dated 12 June 1863, included in Memoranda regarding Gooroo Ram Singh,
of a new sect of Sikhs, 'Jagiasis', compiled by J.W. Younghusband, Officiating
Inspector General of Police, 28 June 1863, reproduced in Nahar Singh, Gooroo Ram
Singh and the Kuka Sikhs, New Delhi: Amrit Book Co., 1965,1, p. 1. Nahar Singh's
work is a comprehensive collection of government documents covering the period
1863 to 1881, most of them drawn from the National Archives of India in New Delhi.
The other major depository of official documents relating to the Kuka sea (India
Office Library, Judicial-Public files and Punjab Government records) largely duplicates
the material provided by Nahar Singh. The collection consists of three volumes
published by the compiler (vols I and II, New Delhi, 1965 and 1966; vol. Ill,
Sri Jiwan Nagar, 1967). The collection is cited hereafter as NS.
on Younghusband's Memoranda. NS, I, p. 10.
6. NS, I, p. 30. The
Tarkhan, or carpenter caste, occupies a low ritual and economic status. Chamars
are outcaste leather workers (known as Ramdasis when they become Sikhs). Mazhabis
are members of the Chuhra (sweeper) outcaste group who have become Sikhs. Ram
Singh was himself a Tarkhan.
8. NS, I, p. 11.
9. NS, I, p. 60.
Notably Dhian Singh, Sri Satguru Bilas (Bhaini Sahib, 1942), Nidhan Singh Alam,
Jug Paltdu Satguru (Delhi, 1947), and Santokh Singh, 'Satgur Bilas' (unpub.).
For quotations see Fauja Singh Bajwa, Kuka Movement, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass,
11. Fauja Singh Bajwa, op. cit., M.M. Ahluwalia, Kukas, Bombay:
GandaSingh, 1965. Ganda Singh, Kukian di Vithia, 2nd edn, Amritsar: Allied, 1946.
Nahar Singh, Ndmdhdri Itihas, Delhi, 1955. Summary accounts of Kuka history and
belief are given by Stephen Fuchs, Rebellious Prophets, Bombay: Asia Publishing
House, 1965, pp. 192-7; and Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, Princeton,
1966, II, pp. 127-35. A brief notice appears in S. Gopal, British Policy in India
1858-1905, Cambridge, 1965, pp. 98-101.
12. NS, I p. 26.
13. NS, I, p. 66.
NS, I, pp. 56-7.
15. Chandi Var, or The Epic of the Goddess Chandi', is a work
ascribed to the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh.
16. NS, I, p. 31.
Sikhs wrap their turbans upwards from each ear to a central point of convergence
immediately below the hair-line.
18. NS, I, p. 72.
19. NS, I, p. 77. The
term 'subah' (or suba) designates a Mughal province. In Namdhari usage a subah
was a missionary with the responsibility for a particular area corresponding to
a province. Subahs were the same as the manji or preaching system established
by Guru Amar Das, even to the extent of there being 22 which was the traditional
number of the territorial manjis. The Mughal Empire under Akbar was divided into
22 provinces and Sikh tradition maintained that for this reason Guru Amar Das
had appointed 22 manjis. Ram Singh in turn appointed 22 subahs.
20. NS, I,
pp. 98-9, 102.
21. NS, I, pp. 111-12, 114.
22. NS, I, pp. 105-11.
NS, I, pp. 115, 119.
24. NS, I, pp. 123-7.
25. The number of attackers,
originally estimated to have been 500, appears to have been at most 125, NS, II,
26. A summary narrative of the episode is given in NS, II, pp. 57-72.
This narrative, prepared in the Judicial branch, represents a collation of all
relevant correspondence received up to 8 April 1872. For the documents upon which
it is based see NS, II, p. 2 ff. One error in the summary narrative is the statement
that Forsyth executed the batch of sixteen prisoners by hanging them. It was not
until 21 May that th ''unjab Government realized that Forsyth had followed Cowaa
s example and had the prisoners blown away from guns. NS, III, p. 75.
Also ll, pp105, 168-9,175ff.
28. NS ll,pp97,. G.R. Elsmie, Thirty-five Years
in the Punjab, Edinburgh . pp. 163, 164.
29. NS, II, p. 227 ff.
III, p. 164ff.
31. NS, II, pp. 125, 151, 194-8.
32. NS, III, pp. 18 ff,
33. NS, III, p. 138.
34. NS, II, pp. 14-15.
35. NS, II,
pp. 4, 134. Sahnewal is six miles from Bhaini.
36. NS, II, p. 50.
II, p. 149.
38. NS, III, pp. 187-8.
39. NS, III, p. 115.
40. NS, III,
41. NS, II, p. 111.
42. NS, III, p. 107.
43. NS, II, pp. 204,
226. In 1878 Ram Singh was transferred to Mergui when it was discovered that clandestine
communications were being passed between Rangoon and the Punjab, NS, III, p. 368.
NS, III, pp. 156-68, 187-8.
45. For this episode see P.C. Roy, 'Gurcharan Singh's
Mission in Central Asia', Indian Historical Records Commission Proceedings, XXXIV,
2 (December 1958); and 'Sikh Emissary in Russian Turkestan', Indo-Asian Culture,
3 (July 1968).
46. Fauja Singh Bajwa, pp. 167-70.
47. The present headquarters
of the Namdhari sect are located in the village of Sri Jiwan Nagar, District Hissar,
Haryana. The Guru continues to reside at Bhaini.
48. For an example of the
British interpretation see David Ross, The Land of the Five Rivers and Sindh,
London: Chapman and Hall, 1883, pp. 225-6. See also Gazetteer of the Ludhiana
District, 1888-9, Calcutta, pp. 67-9.
49. N. Gerald Barrier, The Sikhs and
Their Literature, Delhi: Manohar, 1970, p. 100. For the Ghadr Party see Khushwant
Singh, II, pp. 181-92.
50. R.C. Majumdar, History of the Freedom Movement in
India, Calcutta: Mukhopadhya, 1962,1, pp. 282-3.
51. Ibid., p. 282.
See above, n. 11.
53. Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Paladin rev.
edn, London, 1970, p. 60. For a summary of the characteristic pattern of millenarian
belief in medieval Europe see ibid., p. 13, See also his essay 'Medieval Millenarianism'
in S. Thrupp, ed., Millennial Dreams in Action, The Hague: Mouton, 1962, pp. 31-43.
The literature dealing with millenarian movements in different parts of the world
is now immense. One work which deserves particular notice is Peter Worsley, The
Trumpet Shall Sound, London, 1957.
54. NS, I, p. 6. This document was supplied
by an informer who had been sent to Bhaini by the Cantonment Magistrate of Jullundur
in June 1863. The informer reported having received it from the leading Kuka subah,
Sahib Singh. The word sdkhl means 'testimony'. Guru Gobind Singh, the last of
the personal Gurus recognized by orthodox Sikhs, died in 1708. The years 1921
and 1922 are dated according to the Indian Vikrami era. They correspond to A.D.
1864 and 1865.
55. NS, I, pp. 56-7.
56. NS, II, pp. 224-5. Ill, 164 ff.
NS, I, pp. 99, 144-45. Cf. Cohn, p. 49.
58. Fauja Singh Bajwa, pp. 22-3, 40,
184. Cohn, pp. 30-3. An English translation of the version of the Sau Sakhis used
by the Kukas was made by Sardar Attar Singh of Bhadaur and published under the
title Sakhee Book or the Description of Gooroo Govind Singh's Religion and Doctrine,
Benares: Attar Singh, 1873. See esp. pp. 38, 96. See also Attar Singh's The Travels
of Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh, Lahore: Indian Public Opinion Press,
1876, p. v.
59. Fauja Singh Bajwa, pp. 160-1.
60. See above, p. 202.
W. G. Purser, Final Report of the Revised Settlemen t of the lullundur District
in the Punjab, Lahore: Punjab Government, 1892, p. 154. T. Gordon Walker, Final
Report on the Revision of Settlement (18 78-83) of the Ludhiana District in the
Punjab, Calcutta: Punjab Government, 1884, p. 183.
62. Purser, p. 1.
Walker, p. 178.
64. Census of India 1891: The Punjab and its Feudatories, Calcutta,
1892, I, p. 76. The comparison was possible only in the case of the British territories,
the actual figures being 15,161,321 and 17,609,518. It was, however, assumed on
the basis of subsequent trends that the population of the princely states must
have shown a corresponding increase. Ibid.
65. Report on the Census of the
Punjab taken on the 17th February 1881, Calcutta, 1883, I, p. 92. (Cited hereafter
as 1881 Census.)
66. Ibid. It should be noted that these figures relate to
the entire area of the district, uncultivated as well as cultivated. In 1881 the
figure for Jullundur District based on the entire area was 597 per square mile.
In the same year the figure for the cultivated areas was 762 per cultivated square
mile. Purser, p. 2.
67. Purser, pp. 2-3.
68. S.S. Thorburn The Punjab in
Peace and War, Edinburgh and London: Williau. Blackwood, 1904, pp. 232-3. Walker,
69. Walker, p. 124.
70. Four-fifths of the Indian migrants to
the United Kingdom have been
Punjabis, a large majority of them Jats.
Characteristically several Kukas enlisted in the army of the Maharajaof Kashmir.
(See above p. 194.) The emoluments were, however, negligible in comparison with
those provided by British paymasters.
72. See above, p. 86.
73. A police
list of prominent Kukas prepared in 1878 shows the following distribution:
Miscellaneous (occupations shown in each
This is an occupational list, not a caste analysis,
out it is possible to deduce from it an approximate figure for the Jat constituency
of the sea. Almost all the cultivators will have been Jats and likewise the lambardars.
Of the various persons grouped above under 'Miscellaneous' at least ten and perhaps
as many as twenty, can be identified as Jats. The category 'None' presumably covers
retired persons, and on the basis of the results shown by the other figures may
be interpreted as including a majority of Jats. It seems safe to conclude that
at least 150 of the Kukas listed by the police must have been Jats. I am indebted
to Professors N.G. Barrier and R. Slater of the University of Missouri for the
figures given above.
74. The only prominent Jat Kuka of elevated social or
economic status appears to have been Mangal Singh, a relative of the Maharaja
of Patiala. Mangal Singh subsequently claimed that he had never been a Kuka but
that he had become 'a believer in Ram Singh' when the Kuka leader cured his ailing
son. NS, III, p. 97. A few other landholders had attached themselves to the movement
shortly before the outbreak. NS, I, pp. 143-4. At least some of these recanted
as soon as the movement turned to violence and the Government to vigorous suppression.
NS, III, p. 14.
75. Hazro is situated in Attock tahsil which, during the period
covered by this essay, was one of the constituents of Rawalpindi District. In
1855 the population density of Rawalpindi District was 114 per square mile, risingto
146 by 1868, and 169 by 1881 (1881 Census, I, p. 92). In 1881 Sikhs accounted
for 1.7 per cent of the total population of Rawalpindi Division. Of these Sikhs
68 per cent are classified as belonging to relatively wealthy mercantile castes
(Khatri, Arora, and Banya). Ibid., p. 139. The population density of the area
around Hazro will have been lower than the district average. Cf. the figures for
Hazara District, immediately adjacent to Hazro: 1855 (98persq. m.), 1868 (122),
1881 (134). Ibid., p. 92. Balak Singh was himself an Arora by caste. (Gazetteer
of the Ludhiana District, 1888-9, p. 68) Ram Singh was a Tarkhan.
is located in Ludhiana District, a few miles from the boundary of the neighbouring
Jullundur District. For the years 1855, 1868, and1881 the figures for the population
density of Ludhiana District were respectively 383, 429, and 450; and for Jullundur
District respectively 513, 596, and 597. Ibid., p. 92. Sikhs constituted 6.2 per
cent of the total population of Jullundur Division. (The division includes both
districts.) Of these Sikhs, 72.7 per cent belonged to agricultural castes, more
than 60 per cent of the total being Jats with the remaining 12 per cent distributed
amongst Sainis, Rajputs, and Kambohs. 14.5 per cent belonged to artisan castes,
notably Tarkhans (carpenters) and Lohars (blacksmiths). 11 per cent were outcastes
and only 1 per cent came from mercantile castes. Ibid., p. 139.