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Purnia will pay homage to its first British collector on Valentine Day

Gerard Gustavus Ducarel had turned the spotlight on Sati much before Lord William Bentinck by marrying a Hindu widow after rescuing her from funeral pyre. Purnia district magistrate and an eminent researcher say Ducarel’s humanitarian work is worth emulating in today’s society.

patna Updated: Feb 14, 2018 13:18 IST
Aditya Nath Jha
Aditya Nath Jha
Hindustan Times, Purnia
British collector,Gerard Gustavus Ducarel,Rameshwar Prasad
British collector Gerard Gustavus Ducarel was the first to check the evil social practice of Sati in which widows burnt themselves on the funeral pyre of their husbands.(HT file photo)

At a time when cupid stuck couples would be busy celebrating Valentine Day, the celebration of love and affection on February 14, people in Purnia, Bihar’s far eastern district around 300 from capital Patna, would be paying rich tributes to its first British collector, Gerard Gustavus Ducarel for being the first in the region to check Sati - the inhuman tradition of widows being burnt on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands.

Ducarel who took charge of the district as its first collector (supervisor then) on February 14, 1770 had led the fight against the evil practice of Sati by setting an example no other known leader in Indian history has done.

According to a research by an octogenarian historian and researcher, Prof Rameshwar Prasad, recipient of an award and felicitation by the Cambridge Biographical Centre for his work on 53 eminent freedom fighters of Bihar in his book titled Dictionary of National Biography, Ducarel, during his fight against the evil practice married a Hindu widow by rescuing her from funeral pyre and this foreshadowed a Gandhian step to abolish the evil.

Prof Prasad said Ducarel had turned the spotlight on Sati much before Lord William Bentinck, known for his benevolent reign during which period the enactment of the law banning evil tradition of ‘sati’ in 1829 saw the light of the day. But, the professor lamented, rarely does any historian mention about the magnanimity of Purnia’s first supervisor and honour him.

Prof Prasad’s work has eventually drawn appreciation from the Purnia district administration that has decided to organize a two-day celebration christened Foundation Day in the honour of the first collector/ supervisor beginning Wednesday.

Purnia district magistrate (DM) Pradeep Kumar Jha said the two-day event would be made special to pay befitting tributes to the first collector of the district keeping in view his contribution towards securing lives of gullible Indian women who practised Sati.

“This”, he said, “matches with the Nitish Kumar government’s seven resolves for protecting the girl child besides the Centre’s ambitious, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (save girls educate girls) drive.” Ducarel was Purnia district collector from 1770-1774.

“The two-day celebrations beginning Wednesday will witness mass participation of people from across the district to ensure that the message regarding women’s welfare and girls’ education is percolated down to the remotest of villages,” the DM said, adding, “Our focus would also be to acquaint the masses with the founder of the first collector for his humanitarian work.”

“During my research to ascertain the exact date of foundation of the district, I stumbled upon this little known fact about Ducarel that is worth emulating and relevant even today when our governments are trying to do their best for women’s uplift,” Prof Prasad said, reminding the administration of Bihar chief minister’s recent visit to Jalagarh, the place where Ducarel rescued the widow from her funeral pyre. CM then had spoken at length on protection of girls.

On the occasion, district administration has decided to felicitate eminent personalities of the district on Wednesday. There will be two –day medical check-up for senior citizens in the local hospital.

First Published: Feb 14, 2018 13:04 IST