“Bentinck inaugurated an era of social reforms” - comment.
The social reforms of William Bentinck made his name immortal in the history of British India. These include the abolition of sati, the suppression of thugs and the prevention of female infanticide.
Abolition of sati:
The practice of sati, the age of old custom of burning of widows alive on the funeral pyre of their husbands was prevalent in India from ancient times. This inhuman social custom was very common in Northern India more particularly in Bengal Bentinck was greatly distressed whenjie received a report of 800 cases of sati in a single year and that from Bengal. He determined to abolish this practice which he considered an affence against natural justice.
Therefore he became a crusader against it and promulgated his regulation XVII on 4 December 1829 prohibiting the practice of sati. Those who practiced sati were made liable for punishment by’law courts as accessories to the crime. The regulation was extended to the Madras and Bombay Presidencies in 1930.
Suppression of Thugs: '
The most commendable measure which Bentinck undertook and which contributed to the material welfare of the people was the suppression of the “Thugs”. They were hereditary robbers. They want about in small groups of fifty to hundred posing as commercial gangs or pilgrims ‘strangling and robbing peacefull travellers’. They increased in number in central and northern India during the 18th century when anarchy reigned after the disintegration of the Mughal Empire.
A campaign was systematically organized by Colonel Sleeman from 1830 against the thugs. During the course of five years nearly 2000 of them were captured. A greater number of them were exterminated and the rest were transported to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. For his role in the suppression of thugs, Sir William Sleeman was known as-“Thugee Sleeman”.
Female infanticide was one of the horrible and heartless deeds committed even by civilized people. This practice killing female infants was very much prevalent in places like Rajputana, Punjab, Malwa and Cutch. Bentinck took effective steps to prevent the ritual of child sacrifice at Saugar Island in Bengal. He not only prohibited female infanticide but declared them as punishable c’rime.