The Legend of Sultana Daku: A Dacoit from the Days of British India
The Raj is a period in Indian history that can never be forgotten. This was a period when the Sahib’s travelled to the remotest corners of India and opened up the country to progress. There was also a class of people who lived their live as they had lived for hundreds of years. For these people the Raj had no meaning as they pursued the vocation which their ancestors had followed.
India at one time was home to thuggery, when thugs roamed central India and looted travelers by killing them. The Raj put down this menace, but another class of men emerged who were Daku’s (dacoits). They were not all evil and had a code of chivalry that is hard to explain now.
One such Daku is the famous Sultana, a Muslim who terrorized the United Provinces (now known as Utter Pradesh) in the twenties of the last century. He operated in the same region that earlier thugs had operated.
Sultana Daku was a swashbuckling dacoit who rode a horse named Chetek and had a pet dog named Rai Bahadur. He was born into the Bhantu clan of criminals. He was ultimately captured by Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Pearce and was sent to the gallows. Working along with Pearce was the Deputy Superintendent of police named Freddie Young. This young man did not want Sultana to be hanged and he visited Sultana in jail many times and also went to Delhi to petition the higher ups to pardon Sultana. But the pardon never came and Young met Sultana before his hanging and asked for his last wish. Sultana requested Young to adopt his 7 year old son and bring him up as a ‘sahib’. Young agreed and later sent the boy to England for studies. Freddie young’s grave has been located by an enterprising reporter and is at Bhopal. He had retired as Inspector General Prisons at Bhopal.
The descendents of Sultan Daku were settled by Young at Bhopal and still live there at Belawadu near Obeidullahganj.
Sultana was also a great lover of women and his favorite was Phulkanwarn a dancing girl. Sultan lived the life which he knew. He killed and raped women and above all was a pain for the British Indian police. He was a however loved by the people. This is difficult to explain; maybe he articulated feelings of the people against the Raj. When was Sultan Daku hanged? He was sent to the gallows on 7 July 1924 and on that day he had the famous last meeting with Freddie Young. Over the decades the legend of Sultan Daku has taken on a nationalist hue with songs and ballads extolling the man. People sing of how he looted the trains and treasury of the Raj and distributed to the poor. They sing of his loves and his rides on his horse Chetak as he eluded the police. They sing of his sexual prowess and a verse outlines how an English girl fell for Sultana. He has now become a legend and Bollywood has made a number of films on his life. Sultana Daku brought fact and fiction together.