Hanging An Imposter

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In 1859, the East India Company hanged a Jammu Faqeer in Sialkot for claiming to be a prophet. Its details were published by Lahore Chronicle newspaper in October 1859 under the caption ‘The Prophet of The Punjab’. Read the rare report 160 years later

The Soalkote Fuqueer, Hubeeb Shah, was hanged at the Lahore District Jail on Saturday, the 24th of August. The thing went off just like any ordinary execution, and there was not the slightest stir or excitement. Inquiries have for the past six months been on foot regarding him and his antecedents, and though the inquiries are not yet complete, we can give our readers a few particulars regarding him.

He declared himself to the last to be a Sheikh by birth, and a native of MeerpoorChoumuk, near Poonch, in the territories of the Maharajah of Jummoo. But it is shown almost conclusively that he was not born there. He is believed to be of the low But-kunjur tribe, and to be a native of Jummoo itself. In this tribe, it is well known, that the men are all scamps, and the women prostitutes. Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that the man never could explain satisfactorily who his father was.

Some of this Fuqueer’s antecedents are equally edifying. For some time he was the menial servant of a dancing girl at Sealkote; he used to fill her hookah and light her pipe. The arrant impostor, however, soon took to religious mendicancy. He announced himself a devotee of Imam Mehadee (who in the Mahomedan belief is a prophet yet to come), and took the name of Mehadee Shah, since changed to Hubeeb Shah.

One day in 1852, when petty rent-free tenures were being investigated at Sealkote, he swaggered into the Settlement office, and said that when his prophet appeared on earth all the land would be rent-free. During 1857 he appears to have domesticated himself with the mutinous cavalry at Sealkote.

In 1858, that is last summer, he appeared at Nonar, a village in the Sealkote district, and alighted at a shrine. While there he invoked the name of God with a good deal of star-gazing, and said there was to be a joint reign on earth of Hindoo and Mahomodan divinities; a Devee for the Hindoos and an Imam for the Mahomedans. He would say “to horse, to horse, the time is near.” By these means he would terrify the rustics, and make them propitiate him by food and lodging.

His costume at this time was elegant, we might say imposing. A conical peaked hat, a long bluish robe, a green kerchief, and loose trousers, made people think he was a saint from the far countries beyond the Indus. Not content with this, however, he did while at Nonar a stroke of business which ultimately brought him to the gallows.

He goes to a MahomedanMoulvee who follows the mild profession of village schoolmaster, under the Educational department. This gentleman, though physically a cripple, has got a fanatical spirit. The Fuqueer then gets the schoolmaster to draft some proclamations. Some five or six are written in this way; some few more copies are made by the little boys at the school (ingenious youth). These precious documents breathe the spirit of the doctrine which the Fuqueer had been preaching orally; they appeal to both Hindoos and Mahomedans; the former are called on to arm for the Devee, the latter for the Imam. The revenue officials are invited to establish treasuries on behalf of both these “parties.” Double pay is promised to everybody, and a reward is fixed for the head of every European. But the Fuqueerpaid us the bad compliment of fixing the reward at a very un-remunerative rate, Rs 20 a head.

Most fanatics would say that they could not do the job at so low a figure; also the Fuqueer did not kowtow to the Sikhs; neither they nor their

Gooroo are mentioned in the proclamation. Each proclamation is addressed to some particular localities either in the Sealkote district or in some part of the Rechna Doab. This shows that his aspirations were not extensive. Armed with these papers, the Fuqueer has for the last twelve months been wandering about the Sealkote district. He doubtless unfolded his doctrine more or less everywhere; in some cases it is proved that he did.

It is to be presumed that he showed his proclamations to a select few, but it would be impossible to prove exactly to whom he showed them.

However, in July last, the talk about Imam Mehadee became more general, and the Moulvees generally (as the prisoner himself said) seemed to expect a prophet; so our Fuqueer goes to Zufferwal, near Sealkote, and gives a proclamation to the Tehseeldor, the chief native official there, and requests that it might be acted on immediately.

The Tehseeldar, a Mahomedan, had the sense and loyalty to give him up to the authorities; the result has been the execution of the Fuqueer.

As he was mounting the scaffold he expressed a hope that a shrine might be built over his remains! The authorities, however, committed his carcase to the flames.

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