Ghashiram Kotwal is very famous in history. He was a Kanoja Brahmin from Aurangabad and one amongst the many who flocked to Poona from all parts of India to make their fortune at service or trade. Possessed of amiable manners, a quick intelligence and an attractive appearance, he easily got an introduction to the Poona Durbar and secured the favour of Nana Phadnavis. It was then rumoured in Poona that he had a beautiful daughter named Lalita Gauri, who was the reason behind his rapid rise.
Ghashiram soon rose to power, and became the Kotwal or head of the Poona Police in 1782. He was no doubt an able and efficient officer and took great pains to improve and enlarge the Police department.
From old records we find that the office of Kotwal was taken from Anandrao Kashi and given to Ghashiram Savaldas in 1777. He was confirmed in office in 1782, at a fixed salary of Rupees 621 a year, including an allowance of Rs 66 for an attendant to hold his umbrella and Rs 55 for the torch bearer.
As the Kotwal of Poona, he was instructed to effect or abide by the following : —
1. Clerks and peons employed at the Kotwal’s office should not be removed without
the consent of Sar-Amin who was appointed by the Government.
2. Two new Police posts should be established in Narayan Peith and Shaniwar Peith,
as owing to want of sufficient Police posts offences in those parts were not detected.
3. The duties of the office should be carried on honestly and in conformity with the established practice.
4. Roads should be kept in good order. New verandahs and sheds, if constructed without permission after the Great Fire in the city, should be pulled down.
5. Information should be regularly collected in each Peith regarding conspirators coming into the city and the Government should be informed about their movements.
6. Proper arrangements should be made to keep watch at night, thefts should be detected carefully, and offenders sent to Government for trial.
7. Seventy-eight peons, at a cost of Ks. 310 per year (11 months), were attached to the office and expenses to be incurred should be as sanctioned by the Government.
8. Married women should not be given permission to become prostitutes.
Ghashiram had three officers under him, each for three different departments entrusted to the care of the Kotwal. The Mujumdar wrote out the writs and deeds, another officer kept the registers, and the third was the head revenue officer. The salary of these three officers amounted to Rs. 640 per year.
In Ghashiram’s time, there were six Police stations in the City known as Chabutras : —
1. The Kotwal Chavdi
2. The Somwar Police Station
3. Vetal Police Station
4. Aditwar Police Station
5. Narayan Peith Police Station
6. Shanwar Police Station
The income from all these Police stations was about 25,000 rupees per year. With the growth of the population in the city, the limited number of Police guards was found to be insufficient, and in 1789, 25 more Police guards were created at a cost of Rs 3,500. It was estimated that Ghashiram had a charge over a force of about 115 Police constables which number was increased in subsequent years as necessity arose.
It is interesting to note the offences for which fines were imposed : —
- Becoming prostitutes without the permission of Government.
- Concealing an offence.
- Possessing intestate property without informing Government.
- Disobeying Government orders knowingly.
- Killing goats without permission.
- Interring an unclaimed body without Kotwal’s permission.
- False complaint for adultery.
- Passing counterfeit coin.
- Drinking ( the number of accused persons was 40 only ).
- Concealing one’s caste.
- Dining with caste people though excommunicated.
- Dining at the hands of a person of a lower caste.
- Following the profession of a pimp.
- Purchasing girls for prostitution without permission.
- Indecent assaults on women.
- Kidnaping women, children and slaves.
- Remarrying during the lifetime of a husband.
- Living with one’s own wife after divorcing her.
- Disputes regarding commercial transactions.
- Engaging in the service of Kolis, possibly for political reasons.
It can be easily noticed that offences for sexual immorality were the most prevalent, which will partially accounts for the unpopularity of Kotwal Ghashiram. The social corruption that prevailed in Poona at this period must have allowed full scope for the lower propensities of an adventurer like Ghashiram, who became oppressive and high-handed in conduct, largely on account of the support and favour he enjoyed of Nana Phadnavis.
This creation of his own environment exhibited misdeeds that brought about his end in a most pitiable and cruel way.
Captain Moor, on the authority of Sir Charles Malet, narrates the incident in the following terms : —
” In the year 1791, a period when political parties had caused much animosity in the court and city of Poona, a Brahman, named Gahun ca-Rama, commonly pronounced Gaunsaram, a native of Aurungabad, of the tribe of Gour, warmly patronized by Nana Furnavese, the minister, held the office of Kutwal, and executed it with great ability, activity, and zeal.
” Toward the end of the month of August of that year, a large party of convivial Brahmans had separated rather late; and thirty-four of them remaining in the streets beyond the regular time after the firing of Bamboora gun, were taken up by the police, and put in the place allotted for such defaulters ; and in the morning twenty-one of them were found dead, and the rest scarcely alive.
” It did not appear that the Kutwal knew even of their imprisonment until the morning when the catastrophe was unhappily discovered ; his officers had performed their usual duty in their usual way ; still the clamour against Gaunsaram was excessive, and at length rose to such a pitch, that the unfortunate Kutwal is said to have sought refuge in the Peshwa‘s palace. But even here, in a Brahmanical and royal sanctuary, he was not safe ; and the Peshwa, yielding to his fears, gave up the unhappy man into the hands of the frantic mob, headed by a number of Telingae : of which tribe were the unfortunate sufferers.
” In his prosperity, the respectable Gaunsaram had built a handsome temple and dug a fine tank, close to the city, to which they are highly useful and ornamental ; and hither was the victim dragged, with every species of indignity : he was bound, and the cord was held by a man of the tribe of Bungi (the basest of the Hindus, being employed in moving carrion, night-soil, etc.), and thus amid the revilings of infuriate devils, he was dragged, with every species of ignominy, and by the hands of Brahman, of the Telinga sect was stoned to death, hard by his own munificient donation.
” This sad event occurred on the 31st August 1791, and was seen in part by my deceased and lamented friend Dr. Findlay, Surgeon to out legation at Poona ; who also saw the mangled corpse. I was not there at the time, but have often passed the spot so suited to melancholy, although, perhaps, not unprofitable, sensations. Sir Charles Malet, and Mr. Uhthoff, were at Poona and were much affected by so deplorable an event.”
Ghashiram met his end in such a cruel and detestable manner, but it may be said to his credit that with all his defects he well regulated the Poona Police and established a new Peith, known as Nawapura, to the east of Bhawani Peith, and built a tank and a garden on the road to Hadapsar.
The Infamous Kotwali… as it is today !