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Were there innumerable dacoits in ‘dacoit-infested’ Bengal!

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During early British rule, there was a complete breakdown of administrative machinery in Bengal province. Both Nawabs, Mir Jafar and later his son-in-law Mir Qasim, were selfish and interested in their own welfare and thought little about their subjects. The British officials of the East India Company were busy consolidating power and money and the masses suffered and looked for stability. They needed efficient leaders, to guide and protect them. This vacuum was filled by men with leadership capabilities, who came forward to hold the reins of society and establish order and peace.

Surprisingly, some of them were downright criminals, but many like Bhawani Pathak, Raghunath Chattopadhyay aka Roghu Dakat, Gourey Bedey, Bishe Dakat, Chite Dakat , Rana Dakat and many more rebel-leaders emerged, who took up arms against the establishment and started running a parallel administration. They were the desi Robin Hoods who looted the rich, corrupt zamindars and the money collected as tax for East India Company and distributed the wealth among the poor and needy.

When the great Bengal famine of 1770 affected the entire Gangetic plains adversely, depressed farmers gave up cultivation altogether. At this point, Raghunath (Roghu Dakat) spread the word that he had stashed huge amount of looted cash in the fields at Halisahar. As soon as the news spread, hordes of villagers rushed for the booty. They all began tilling the fields in hope of treasure. But extensive search yielded nothing. The villagers decided to sow paddy on the tilled land and agriculture was revived in those fields!