The Khond Massacres

[Extracted from The Globe, August 24, 1882.
This article can also be found verbatim in New Zealand Herald, Volume XIX, Issue 6512, 30 September 1882, Page 7.]

A CORRESPONDENT at Sumbhulpore supplies an up-country Indian paper with some details respecting the recent massacre of Kultas by the Khonds. He says:—

"On the 15th May last a meeting was held at Bulwaspur, which was attended by a large number of the leading Khonds. They determined to massacre the Kultus of Kalahundi, for whom they had conceived a strong agrarian hatred and jealousy. They swore loyalty to this purpose, and kissed the "tangi" or axe in token of their resolve. The execution of this purpose, was committed to the various representatives, that each might carry it out in his own neighbourhood. The result was that about a hundred Kultas were murdered. Many more would have perished but for the prompt measures adopted to disperse the armed bands of Khonds, and rescue the captured Kultas.

"In the village of Kalamgaon, 20 Kultas were murdered. The circumstances of the massacre have lately formed the subject of inquiry by Colonel Ward, the additional commissioner, and are of considerable interest as showing the character of the recent rising. On the 19th May news reached Kalamgaon of the murder of Ishwar Gaontiyah, of Asargarh, an account of which was given in the "Pioneer" of the 17th instant; and the Kultas were filled with alarm, and prepared to flee. They found, however, that they were surrounded by armed Khonds, chiefly belonging to their own and the neighbouring villages. They were captured and huddled together in a house in the village, which was well guarded all that night. Besides placing a strong guard on the house all night, the leading Khonds present also promised that though the Kultas might be robbed, their lives would be spared. Next morning the number of Khonds had largely increased. The number of Kulta prisoners, including women and children, was about forty. Early on the morning of the 29th May the leading Khonds came in and demanded the surrender of all the property the Kultas had. When this had been given up, the Khonds prepared to remove their prisoners from the house. The latter, who were now convinced that their lives would be taken, tried to hide themselves where they could. But one after the other they were pulled from their hiding-places and hurried outside. Here they found hundreds of Khonds collected, armed with axes, and bows and arrows. The wretched prisoners fell at the feet of the leading Khonds, and begged them to spare their lives, but they were told that none of the men among them would be spared. In the confusion one or two men succeeded in effecting an escape to the hills; and their story has now been told before Colonel Ward. The women were spared, and most of the children.

"The harrowing details of what followed have now been furnished to Colonel Ward by the bereaved women as well as by several murderers themselves. Twenty Kultas were murdered in cold blood. There may have been more; twenty murders have been proved. One old Kulta, who had got a little out of the thickest of the confusion, was discovered by some of the Khonds. He came towards the foremost of them in an attitude of abject supplication, holding grass in his mouth as a token of degradation. The fierce Khond cut off the old man's head with one blow of his axe, and filled a small vessel he carried with the blood. Another picked up the head; but the leader called out to him, 'Why carry about a head without hair; there will be no scalping of him!' And he threw the useless trophy away. The men were not murdered at once; but the leading Khonds from the various villages, which were represented, were allowed to select victims; and when the Kultas had been thus distributed, they were led away in different directions to be murdered where their captors might choose. Musamat Sari, the widow of one of the murdered Kultas, thus described the capture of herself and family and the events which followed:—'My boy (Madho) was carrying a baughboy on his shoulder; my husband was carrying a little girl and my brother-in-law had a basket of our goods; I was carrying a little girl; we were running away from the village of Kalamgaon, but were surrounded by Ude Khond and several others, armed with axes. They seized all the things we had with us that they thought worth taking. We were separated in different directions, two or three men going with each of us. We begged for our lives, but the men told us they were going to kill all the male Kultas, and said I should never see my son or my husband again. Afterwards I heard they had taken my husband to Billaikoni, and killed him therein the idol's shrine. My son was killed in the fields of Themri, and I was told that they offered his head to the village idol. When the men had been carried off, the man Ude came to me and asked what I had in my basket. In hopes that he would save my boy I gave him two saris, some silver jewels, a silver waistbelt, Rs. 103 in cash, and some other things. I gave them to him, and implored him to save my boy. But he took them and ran away, and my boy was killed. Not knowing what to do, I returned to the village: but the Khonds turned me out, saying I was not to go crying about the place. So I went away to the nullah. Towards night I returned; but they again turned me out saying that the widows would not be allowed there. I got shelter for the night in one of the tholas. I never saw my husband or my boy (Madho) again. When Madho was taken away to be killed, my two other little children were taken away from me; but they were afterwards recovered by the Tabsildar of Bhowani Patna. Being very young, they had not been killed.'

"This is a hideous story enough, told in a simple language, with no attempt to enlarge on the miserable details. The widow has simply to tell that they were intercepted in their panic-stricken flight; that the little property they had hurriedly put together was offered in vain as the ransom of her son's young life; that husband and son were carried off from before her eyes and killed; and that she was not allowed even to weep for them. It would be hard indeed to find a record of greater barbarity, treachery, and ruthless cruelty. The manner in which these 20 unhappy victims were borne from their wives and mothers and murdered in cold blood; the ruthless refusal of quarter even to the aged among the suppliant victims themselves; the eagerness with which the murderers sought to dip their axes in blood, and have their share in the cruel scene that was being enacted, and the savage manner in which the grief-stricken and wailing women were driven from the village, lest they should disturb the murderers with their cries—all these are features of the story, which must create the strangest feelings of indignation, and brand the crime as something more than an ordinary murder."