Slaughter in Bombay

From Allen’s Indian Mail, December 3rd, 1851


On the evening of November 15th, the little village of Mahim was the scene of a murder, perhaps the most determined which has ever stained the annals of Bombay. Three men were massacred in cold blood, in a house used by the Kojah caste, in open daylight, all in the middle of a densely-populated part of the town. Thirteen prisoners are in custody.

It appears that on that Friday evening, while the European inspector of the place and almost every sepoy in the division were employed upon the sea-beach, preserving the peace among the mob there collected, on the occasion of the throwing into the. . water of the taboots, an alarm was received of a fight in the Khojah Jemmat Khana, in the bazaar. A body of men were sent to the spot instantly by the constable, Mr. Wevers, who followed himself. On his arrival he found three men lying dead upon the floor of the upper room of the Jemmat Khana, with fourth nearly lifeless. The floor, which was matted, was literally streaming with their blood. The whole of the parties connected with this affair are Khojahs. Their caste is now divided into two classes, between whom a quarrel has been for two or three years in existence, regarding the head of the caste,—one party setting up Aga Khan as their leader, and the other party acknowledging the authority of a man named Noor Mahomed. These two classes of the caste, previously to the dissensions alluded to, held their assemblies and festivals in the same house, in the bazaar; but since their disunion, the lower apartments have been occupied by the followers of Aga Kban, and the upper part has been set apart for the other party. The two divisions still have joint right in the caste burial-place at Tar-waddee, where, on the afternoon of the murder, all the parties had been to perform some religious ceremonies, usual on the last day of the Mohurrum. It is customary with the people of the Khojab caste to meet in their assembly-rooms after the taboots have been thrown into the water, on the tenth day of the Mohurrum. and to partake of a feast usually provided there. A feast was as as usual prepared by the members of Noor Mahomed’s party, and the viands were ready in a cook-house adjoining, when some men of their division of the caste proceeded to the house, and went up·stairs to their room at ollce, there to wait the coming of the rest of their party, who were at the time engaged with their taboots upon the sea-beach. They bad not been there many minutes, before they were surprised by hearing a few strokes beaten upon a tom-tom, as a signal, and a gang of twenty or thirty men rushed up-stairs with naked swords in their hands, vociferating, “Deen, Deen, Aga Khan-ka-deen” and immediately commenced a murderous attack upon the little party in the room. One of the men who were the victims of this deadly attack, Veersee Allanee, received some cuts so severe, that, though not yet dead, his recovery is almost hopeless. This man’s version of the murder, of which he was an eye-witness, had been taken on oath by Mr. Spens. All the other people in the room were massacred.

The expression “Aga Khan-ka-deen” simply meaus, “Aga Khan’s religion” or sect; it was used as a rallying cry. The word “Kojah” will remind many of the Arabian Nights, where, under the disguise of Cogia, the same term is applied to many of the actors in those tales, the simple meaning of the word being “gentleman” or “merchant.”

“The Kojahs,” says Sir Erskine Perry, in his able judgment delivered in 1847, “are a small caste in Western India, who appear to have originally come from Sindh or Cutch, and who, by their own traditions, which are probably correct, were converted from Hinduism about 400 years ago by a Pir, named Sudr Din. Their language is Cutchi ; their religion Mahomedan; their dress, appearance, and manners, for the most part Hindu. The Kojahs are now settled principally amongst Hiudu communities, such as Kutch, Katteawar, and Bombay, which latter place probably is their headquarters. They constitute at this place apparently about two thousand souls, and their occupations for the most part are confined to the more subordinate departments of trade. Indeed, the caste never seems to have emerged from the obscurity which attends their present history; and the almost total ignorance of letters, of the principles of their religion, and of their own status which they now evince, is probably the same as has always existed among them since they first embraced the precepts of Mahomed.

Although they call themselves Mussulmans, they evidently know but little of their prophet and of the Koran. and their chief reverence at the present time is reserved for Aga Khan, a Persian nobleman, well known in contemporaneous Indian history, and whom they believe to be a descendant of the Pir, who converted them to Islam. But even to the blood of their saint, they adhere by a frail tenure, for it was proved, that when the grandmother of Aga Khan made her appearance in Bombay some years ago, and claimed tithes from the faithful, they repudiated their allegiance, commenced litigation in this court, and professed to the Kazi of Bombay, their intention to incorporate themselves with the general body of Mussulmans in this island. To use the words of one of themselves  they call themselves Shias to a Shia, and Sunis to a Suni  and probably neither know nor bare anything of the distinctive doctrines of either of these great divisions of the Mussulman world. They have moreover no translation of the Koran into their vernacular language, or into Guzrathi, their language of business; which is remarkable, when we recollect the long succession of pions Mussulman kings who reigned in Guzerath, and in the countries in which the Kojahs were located. Nor have they any scholars, or men of learning among them, as not a Kojah could be quoted who was acquainted with Arsaic or Persian, the two great languages of Mahometan literature and theolgy. And the only religious work of which we heard as being current amongst them, was one callled the Dees Avuta, in the Sindhi character and Cutch language, and which, as professing to give a history of the tenth incarnation in the person of their saint Sudr Din, appears to be a strange combination of Hindu articles of faith with the tenets of Islam. “—Telegraph, Dec. 3.


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