Doong Singh and Jawahar Singh were the Shekawat chiefs of the robber’s gang that plundered not only the rich capitalists, but also ravaged the British territories, attempted Government treasuries. Although they were bandit chiefs engaged in robberies and plunder, yet they had earned a great popularity among the masses chiefly due to the fact that the British establishments and rich capitalists were their target. Influenced by the anti-British feelings, people hailed their attack on the British and even extended their support and protection to Doong Singh and Jawahar Singh. Their activities were not strictly speaking, a part of any national uprising, and yet they had become almost legendary figures.
On 5th February 1846, Doong Singh and Jawahar Singh were sentenced by the court of vakils of Rajputana, presided over by Major Thorsby to suffer imprisonment with the banishment for life, for having been concerned in the plunder of property of three lakhs of rupees, belonging to a merchant of Fatehpur. They were lodged in the Jail at Agra. But they were released by a band of their followers coming from Sikar, numbering about thirty. The night of 28th December 1846, being the day of Mohurrum, on which occasion the ‘Tajia’ were taken out accompanied by the noise of drummers and fire arms, that being the most opportune time the jail was attacked and the prisoners were liberated. Their escape from the strongly guarded place was hailed by people evincing anti-British attitude.Their dramatic escape was followed by the sensational attack and plunder of the pay office Treasury at the British cantonment of Nasirabad on 18th June 1847 by Doongji. About four or five hundred of their followers took part in the attack, killing six of the guards and wounding many setting fire to the Gerard house.
It was a terrible blow to the British prestige and most strenuous efforts were then made to capture them. All the states of Rajputana were urged to extend their help and co-operation to the British in their attempt to capture the bandit chiefs.
Jawahar sing moved towards Bikaner and Doong Singh towards Marwar. On 9th August 1847, intelligence having furnished by kiledar Anar Singh, about the presence of “Doongji” near Didwana, Lt. Monk Masson supported by Jodhpur horseman attempted in vain a hot pursuit. Masson suspected that the son of the Thakur of Kuchaman was in collusion with the robber chief and helped in his escape.
Doong sing was apprehended on 28th December 1847 at the village of Pattowda in Jaipur by Lt. Edmond J. Hardcastle supported by a party of thakurs and horseman from Jodhpur when the party reached near the room where Doongji was, they found with his drawn knife and sword in his hands declaring that he would never be taken alive, but stab himself, should anyone advance a step to seize him. He had actually given a wound to himself. After a conference of nearly an hour, Doongji consented to lay down his arms on the promise of his being taken to Jodhpur. This promise was given by the chiefs of Marwar and Hardcastle. On this he led his arms and then he was arrested.
His arrest was followed by a good deal or correspondence between Sutherland and Mr. Greathead, Political Agent at Jodhpur for trial. However, the Governor-General instructions desiring Doong Singh to be sent to Ajmer for trial settled the matter. Maharaja Takhat Singh of marwar objected to Doong Singh being carried to Ajmer via Jodhpur. Thereupon he was carried straight from Nagour to Ajmer, escorted by Lt. Hardcastle, the chiefs and troops of Jodhpur state who had captured him.
The capture and removal of Doongji to Ajmer generated a wave of poplar feeling in his favor. Excited inhabitants of every town that he passed thronged the streets and housetops to have a glimpse ofDoongji. The people in general and the inhabitants of Ajmer in particular showered their expression of hatred and dislike on the Marwar troops who aided in his capture. They were hooted and even stones pelted at them whenever they appeared during their two days stay at Ajmer.
After his trial at Ajmer, the integument that “Doong Singh suffer death being hanged by the neck until he be dead” was recommended by C.G. Dixon, Superintendent Ajmer on 1st may 1848 for sanction by the superior authorities.
The decision caused a wave of popular resentment not only against the British Government but also against the rulers of Jodhpur and Jaipur. Maharaja Takhat Singh represented to Sutherland and requested that the British promise, to hand over Doong Singh to Jodhpur, should be fulfilled. Sutherland had recommended the acceptance of the Jodhpur Maharaja’s request but the Government turned down the proposal and characterized Sutherland’s proceedings as objectionable.
Sutherland was completely convinced about the correctness of his views and he, therefore, made frantic efforts to make the Government revision its stand. He explained that the ruling prince and people in general shared the sentiments of the Jodhpur chief. When the matter was discussed at a public Durbar at Bikaner, at which Sutherland was present, great anxiety was expressed about the honor of the young Maharaja of Jodhpur, for the surrender of a person for punishment to another state, involved a point of very delicate nature in the estimation of the Rajput world.
Reporting the expression of similar sentiments at the court of Alwar durbar, Sutherland again wrote to the Government that Maharao Raja Bheem Singh of Alwar and others all entertained the hope that out of consideration for the honor of Jodhpur and Jaipur, the Governor-General would consent to Doong Singh’s being surrendered for life imprisonment in the fortress of Jodhpur. Earnestly requesting for the acceptance of the request, Sutherland assured that Doong Singh would be in safe keeping at Jodhpur or that if he escaped, he would be apprehended within twenty-four hours.
Sutherland pleaded to the Government of N.W.P. That Doong Singh at the time of his surrender was given promise, both by Hardcastle and Marwar chief that he would be carried to Jodhpur. The Maharaja, the chiefs and Hardcastle felt sensibly that their promise to Doong Singh hand been violated. On taking leave of Hardcastle Doong singh reproached him bitterly for hisbreach of promise, Sutherland applied that the British could not in the estimation of the people of this country, afford to have the promise of a British officer forfeited, under almost any circumstances. He suggested that the only remedy left was that Doong Singh after trial and sentence at Ajmer should be surrendered to Maharaja Takhat Singh for life imprisonment in the fortress of Jodhpur.
Consequently, Doong Singh removed to Jodhpur in August 1848 where he was kept unchained under surveillance in the fort of Jodhpur.
The history of Doong Singh and Jawhar Singh, their acts, their exploits their escape and recapture, leave no doubt that they were chiefs of the robbers, yet it was strangely truer that their popularity among the people and even princes was also well established. Strong manifestations of public feeling had been exhibited against Maharaja Takhat Singh of his having aided the British in the capture of ‘Doongji”. Takhat Singh’s subsequent efforts and the spontaneous support given to him by other Darbars of Rajputana, for the removal of Doong Singh to Jodhpur compelled Sutherland to write to the supreme Government that the-
“QUESTION BELONGS TO POLITICAL RATER THAT THE CIVIL DEPARTMENT”.
The revision of his previous orders and the remission of the death sentence to life imprisonment and agreeing to his removal to Jodhpur by the Governor- General was such an extraordinary decision that it points again to the fact that Doongji popularity and the involvement of political issue did exercise a great influence.
We are thankful to Dr. Zabar singh ji.