Sir William Henry Sleeman

Sir William Henry Sleeman, may be a strange name for new generation who has read less about him but in Central India, it is name of a British Officer whose contribution to Indian society is innumerable. This name is always taken with great respect and gratitude. Our society is still feel indebted towards the great work carried out by this British India Officer, during his tenure in Central India. Although, he is not with us and Britishers left India, long time back but still an unseen bonding exist between Sleeman family and Central India people. Still in Central India, we can find a township, running with his name called "Sleemanabad", in-between Jablapur & Katni cities. Sir William Henry Sleeman was the great social reformer, administrator, philosopher, explorer, writer and also considered as founder of intelligence system in India. Wherever he served in India, he get himself immersed in the social life due to which local people always paid him great respect and love. Considering his great contribution to Indian society and his indirect connection with Pench wildlife, made us to write about him so that more and more people with know about him and his work. It was his initiative due to which we came to know about the real-life jungle-boy, inspired from which "The Jungle Book" was written.

About Family
Major-general Sir William Henry Sleeman KCB (8 August 1788 - 10 February 1856) a competent, duty-bound British soldier and administrator in British India, is best remembered for his major contribution toward complete elimination of the thuggee activities in certain parts of north India that gave nightmares to the people who began to lose confidence in the British administration. Sleeman was born in Stratton, Cornwall, Name of his father is Philip Sleeman, and he joined the Bengal army in 1809. Sleeman's chequered carrier saw him holding several positions-he fought in the Nepal War in between 1814 -1816, he served as junior assistant to the Gov. General in 1820, etc. He also did magisterial duties in Sagar town till 1835. At Jubbulpore (now Jabalpur), Sleeman married Amélie Josephine, the daughter of a French nobleman Count Blondin de Fontenne and the couple had seven children. As per local records, earlier, Sleeman was not having any child. While visiting Kohka village, near Sleemanabad, he visited a shrine and prayed with wish to have child. Here he promised, if couple is blessed with child, they will establish a village in that region. Later the couple were blessed with child and in order to fulfill his promise, he visited that region and takeover 100 acres of land from local land lord and established a village which later turned into a township called "Sleemanabad". Today's Sleemanabad police station was present during that time also and we can read-out whole story their.

Sleeman in Central India
William Henry Sleeman was the magistrate in the district of Narsingpur in Central India from 1822-24. In 1828, William Sleeman became of the first persons to find a found dinosaur fossils in India when he dug up some at Bara Simla Hills Jabalpur cantonment, Madhya Pradesh. He was one of the first British officer to enforce a ban on Sati pratha, in 1828, and that too without a warrant from the Supreme Government of India which later decreed the Sati practice illegal some month later. This was the great social reforming work done by W. H. Sleeman. But all this did not bring him wide acclaim. A town named Sleemanabad after him still exists in Madhya Pradesh. Acclaim came because he was the man who effectively put an end to the menace of Thugs, which in turn is an interesting story.

Sleeman Vs Thugs
Set up by William Bentinck, (British Governor-General; 1827-1835), the Thuggee and Dacoity Department, started with William Sleeman as Superintendent in 1835. William Sleeman wrote a few books on 'thugs or bandits', 'thugee' and their language. It is Sleeman's accounts that significantly define the 'thugee' chapter of colonial history, even today. From Sleeman's beginning, the Thugee Story spread. In those days, thousands of commuters lost their life during traveling, due to those thugee gangs and even their bodies were not recovered. Their were dreaded thug gangs leads by their leaders like Firangiya, Bairam, Bhairav etc. who were responsible for killing hundreds of commuters. They operates well organized Pindari gangs who targets those visitors who are helpless, small in count and carrying wealthy items or on pilgrim tour as todays National Highway 7 was present that time also through which devotees from Maharashtra state, visits Allahabad - Varanasi for pilgrimage. Among them Pindari tribe was prominent who sometimes share looted items with local rulers and thus often action was not taken against them. In order to crack-down such dreaded gangs, Sleeman studied their modus-operandi, established his own intelligence system and caught their top leaders. Jabalpur town was head-quarter of Anti-thug Department and here hundreds of such captured thugs were hanged and imprisoned. Later he became the Resident at Gwalior from 1833 to 1849 and subsequently at Lucknow from 1849 to 1856. When Lord Dalhousie was trying to annex Awadh under some pretext, he opposed his movie, but his advice was ignored. Sleeman wrote three books on the thuggees - Language used by Thugs; Report on the Depredations Committed by the Thug Gangs of Upper and Central India; and The Thugs or Phansigars of India.

Found Real-life Mowgli
In 1830 when he was working on Thugge and Dacoity Department, report came from Seoni that under mysterious conditions some villagers have been disappeared. Sir William Henry set up a committee under the supervision of British Officer John Moore, to investigate the matter. The team went to the site, collected information from local villagers and from their they get the information of a jungle-boy, being member of a wolf group who was active in that area. Now a days, we know this area by name of Amodagarh. Team captured the boy from nearby to village Sita Vavadi when he was consuming raw flesh or prey killed by wolves. At that time his approx. age is 17 years old and shifted to Jabalpur. During that time, Jabalpur was head-quarter of Anti-thugg department. Here William Henry Sleeman saw him first and instructed to train that jungle-boy to adopt human life-style. Boy lived in Jabalpur till Sir Sleeman was here. Later Sleeman was transferred to Lucknow and he took the boy with him to Lucknow. Since its capture, jungle-boy was facing difficulty to get adapted into human society and often had health issues. Ultimately, after 6 years from capture, i.e. approx. at age of 23 years, he died. In his life-span, Sir William Henry Sleeman wrote many books, sharing his life experiences like "Rambles & Recollections" "Sleeman in Oudh", "A Journey through The Kingdom of Oude". Here Oudh means Awadh region. In his book Rambles & Recollections, we can read more about this jungle-boy. Sir Rudyard Kipling wrote "The Jungle Book" in year 1894, even after death of Sir William Henry Sleeman. Kipling might have gone through Sleeman's book "Rambles & Recollections" in which he clearly described about jungle-boy and near by sites like Wainganga river, Kanhiwada, Hirri, Dhutera etc. These sites have been mentioned in Rudyard Kipling's jungle book also. During those days, Rudyard Kipling was serving Dewas Riyasat of Central India and during that period, he might be came to know about this jungle-boy and he visited Pench forest area. Although Mowgli is a fictitious character but it is equally true that such a jungle boy was present in the forest of Pench Tiger Reserve. Here we can also find same Kanhivada or Kanhivara potery village, as mentioned in book.

Last Journey
Till year 1856, William Henry Sleeman had developed some health issues due to which he decided to return back to his native country. He undertook ship journey as his last journey to return back to his native land but died during journey, at sea near Ceylon, just six days after being awarded the Order of the Bath. Even after death, Sleeman family remain connected with Central India and every year visits "Sleemanabad". People always welcome his family members as their own family members and this bonding will continue, years after years.

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