BRITISH HANG 49 AFGHAN VILLAGERS AS A ‘LESSON’
[ 8 November 1879 ]
On 8 November 1879, a cavalry detachment, under Brigadier General Thomas Baker, surrounded the Afghan village of Indikee, where shots had been fired at the invading British army the previous month. They gave the village headmen ‘five minutes grace’ to round up all those who had fought in defence of their homeland. Some thirty men came forward and were marched back to Kabul. During the next two days, another fifty nine men suspected of having fought with the Afghan army were detained in Indikee and other villages. The correspondent of the London Daily News explained that ‘the muster rolls now in our hands’ enabled the authorities ‘to identify them without much trouble,’ adding that ‘such as could not give a clear account of their movements were condemned to death.’1
Accordingly, forty nine were found guilty. Eleven of them were hanged on 10 November, another 28 on 11 November and another ten on 12 November. The London Daily News correspondent reported that ‘they submitted to their fate with the usual quiet resignation of Mussalmans,’ but he regretted that ‘while we are sending the rank-and-file to the gallows, the ringleaders are still at large. such poor specimens of humanity as are marched daily to execution are of but little account… and will not be missed in a country like this.’2
The executions were nevertheless required in order to teach Afghans that if any village resisted the British, it would suffer the harshest consequences. As the Belfast Morning News explained to its readers, ‘it was necessary that a severe example should be made to overawe a race which shows no quarter when successful and always repays leniency by further treachery.’3 However, executions alone were not considered a sufficient punishment or deterrent. A fine of 120,000 lbs (54,000 kg) of grain and 600 loads of chopped straw for forage was imposed on Indikee to be delivered within a week or, the British warned the survivors, their village would be burned to the ground.4
- The Kabul correspondent of the London Daily News cited in The Naval and Military Gazette, 17 December 1879, p. 488 and ‘The Situation in Afghanistan,’ The Sunderland Daily Echo, 16 December 1879, p. 2
- The Kabul correspondent of the London Daily News cited in The Naval and Military Gazette, 17 December 1879, p. 488.
- ‘Execution of Fifty Sepoys,’ The Belfast Morning News, 17 December 1879, p. 4.
- Ibid and The London Daily News cited in ‘Hanging Afghans by the Score in Cabul,’ The Worcestershire Chronicle, 20 December 1879, p. 3.
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