It is the 115th day of lockdown (it is getting harder to keep track of it now), but it feels like it is the 115th year. A virus, which is essentially not even a living thing, has brought the world on its toes and the worst part is that no one knows when this will end.
While everyone around me (including me) is ranting about how hard and unfair it is, I cannot help but recall the night curfew that spanned eighty-seven years. Do not rub your eyes, you read that right! 87 years.
Night Curfew Of Pune That Lasted For 87 Years
From 1765 to 1852, the citizens of Pune were kept under a stringent night curfew. Our 100-something day lockdown has started to seem lenient already, hasn’t it?
It was the era when Maharashtra was under the reign of Rajaram II of Satara. Madhavrao Peshwa (the grandson of Peshwa Bajirao) introduced the system of kotwals in 1764 to guard the city against enemies.
To increase security, Balaji Narayan Ketkar, the first appointed kotwal in 1965, felt the need for night patrolling. As a result, movement and travel restrictions were imposed during night hours.
This trend caught on with the subsequent kotwals, who amended the rules as and when the situation demanded. Travel passes were made mandatory and fine was imposed on those who did not abide by the rules.
An Unfortunate Eve In August 1791
It was all going peacefully until an evening in August 1791 when Ghashiram Kotwal took the matters too far. At 9 PM, Bhambhurda check-post fired the cannon, signalling the night curfew alarm.
The Punekars were well-versed with this tradition of night curfew, but it was an alien concept for outsiders. Unfamiliar with this trend, 34 Brahmins from a southern city were arrested that night for roaming on the streets past the curfew limit.
Out of 34, 21 Brahmins suffocated to death in the congested room where they had been locked up the previous night. Anguished, the citizens held a protest march against Ghashiram Kotwal and lynched him to death.
How Punekars Felt About The Night Curfew
As opposed to our reaction to the present day lockdown, Punekars back then were actually very pleased with their night curfew. Primarily, they liked it because it helped curb the crime rate in the city.
Except for this Ghashiram Kotwal case, the citizens lived harmoniously under the restrictions. This is also owed to the fact that the nightlife was not as exuberant in the 18th and early 19th century as it is now.
The curfew was ultimately lifted off in 1852 with the intervention of Britishers.
Anyone who has witnessed the happening nightlife of the city of late would find it hard to digest. This peculiar anecdote highlights the rich and rather fascinating history of Pune.
Now after 250 years, the city is again under a stringent night curfew again, thanks to COVID-19. The curfew timings are 10 PM to 5 AM. However, the rules are relaxed for movement on highways, loading and unloading of cargo, and for those who are on the way to their destinations after having travelled via planes, trains, or buses.
With the story of 87-year-long night curfew in mind, let’s try to be a little more cheerful about this situation that we are in. Yes, the times are tough, but if they could do it for 87 years, you and I can do it for a hundred something days (hopefully, not more than this!).
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