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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Dacoit Jagga; legend from the days of the Raj **. 91

The Dacoit Jagga and His Exploits During the Days of the Raj in India

Jagga was a dacoit who built up a gang and got hold of a white charger and roamed the Punjab countryside. He became famous as the man who rode the white steed and the Police were scared of him. Unconfirmed reports suggest that so great was the awe that Jagga inspired that at night the Police in Lahore District barricaded themselves inside their police stations.
Before the advent of the British a situation of near anarchy prevailed in North India. It was almost like a free for all and with a weak central authority, many dacoit gangs and thugs appeared on the scene. This scenario lasted for about 200 years till the British consolidated their hold over India. Men like William Sleeman and others broke the backbone of dacoit gangs and the cult of thuggery and an element of peace descended on India. However at the turn of the 20th-century dacoit gangs again surfaced. This was basically a reaction to the Indian police.
To understand this aspect of the social milieu, it must be realized that all top officials of the Indian police like the Superintends of police were English, while the Dy Superintendents were generally Anglo-Indians. The rank and file up to the rank of the inspector were all Indians. Thus a station house officer called theThanedar was a big man in the Indian countryside and social scene. He was the man in touch with the masses and in a number of cases power went to the head of these men. As a reaction to this many honest Indians in the villages took up arms.
 One such case that has now become folk lore in the Punjab is that of Jagat Singh Sidhu. Popularly called Jagga, he was a Jatt and belonged to the martial caste of the Sikhs. He was born in 1902 in the Lahore District now part of Pakistan. Many ballads now eulogies Jagga as a sort of Robin Hood who robbed the rich and donated to the poor , but there is not much evidence of any such activity by Jagga.

Jagga started a normal life and after the death of his father married as per his mothers wish a girl from a nearby village. Her name was Inder Kaur and Jagga had a daughter from her named Gulab Kaur. Not much is known of his married life, but some information is available that he was a man of immense strength who could lift a sack (Boree) of wheat weighing 82 kg and throw it with ease.
 Jagga was an honest man and at that time corruption had started eating into the vitals of the revenue system. The local surveyor called a Patwari was often a man who would not work without his palm being greased. This infuriated Jagga and as per reports one day he thrashed the village Patwari. Jagga repeated this act many times and his actions were noticed by the local police inspector named Asgar Ali who arrested Jagga and hauled him before the court. Jagga was awarded 4 years imprisonment. This term in prison embittered Jagga and on coming out in 1926  he decided to avenge himself against society. This was the beginning and there was no going back.
Jagga built up a gang and got hold of a white charger and roamed the Punjab countryside. He became famous as the man who rode the white steeed and the Police were scared of him. Unconfirmed reports suggest that so great was the awe that Jagga inspired that at night the Police in Lahore District barricaded themselves inside their police stations.
 Jagga now committed many daoities and he became feared, particularly among the rich. He made it a point to rob gold smiths and his writ ran in the wilds of the countryside.
Jagga lived a reckless life, perhaps he knew that his days were numbered as he lived on borrowed time. With a reward dangling on his head Jagga knew he faced a tremendous odd to continue to live. He ate drank and lived a merry life, till his own cook decided to earn the bounty on his head and after a raucous night of drink and wine laced with spicy food the cook shot Jagga dead. This was in 1929 and signaled the end of Jagga.
 His wife lived on till 1983 and his daughter still lives in Sri Mukatsar sahib district of the Punjab, her husband having deceased in 2005. Jagga is now a folk hero in the Punjab. His actions have been given a nationalist cover and his dacoities are classified as a fight against the Raj. His songs are sung in the villages and people talk of the bravery of the dacoit Jagga on his white charger.