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The Light Has Gone Out
India Wins Freedom
Apostle of Peace
The Last War of Independence
Quit India
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Saga of Indian Revolutionaries
Bardoli
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A People Reject Their Rulers
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The Gentle Satyagrahi
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From Swadeshi to Swaraj
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The Monk Who Shook The Nation
Father of Indian Unrest
An Old Man's Dream
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Europeans Take To The Street!
The British Raj in Black and White
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‘Rani Ka Hookum’
Perishing in Peace
The Blue Mutiny
English Education
The Trial of the Last Emperor
Roll of Honour
The Empire Strikes Back
British Authority Collapses
Sepoys on the Move
Tribal Uprisings
The Empire Builders
For God and Country

The Kuka rebellion, if it could be called that, had lasted less than 3 days. That it had posed no threat to the government was borne out by the fact that no one joined the Kukas in their 3-day march. At no time did their number exceed 150. They killed 10 people and injured 17 and they themselves lost 9 men. It was a localised disturbance not supported by the leader of the Kukas and the government was not unduly alarmed.
On 16th January the prisoners were sent to Mr. Cowan, the Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana based at Kotla. That same evening Mr. Cowan sent a letter to his superior, Mr. Forsyth, the Commissioner, at his headquarters in Ludhiana, reporting the surrender of the Kukas. In his letter, Mr. Cowan wrote:
"I propose blowing away from guns or hanging the prisoners tomorrow…"
The following day, the 17th January, Mr. Cowan received a note from Mr. Forsyth directing him to keep the prisoners in custody till arrangements could be made to transport them to Ludhiana. Mr. Cowan decided to ignore the note and to carry out his barbarous plan.
At 4 p.m. the prisoners were led to an open ground where, without delay and without even a semblance of a trial, Mr. Cowan ordered the blowing away by guns of 49 of the unfortunate men.
For the next three hours, the guns boomed, blowing up the bodies tied to the cannon mouths. Pieces of bone and flesh were flung all over the country-side and the stench of burning flesh filled the air. Mr. Cowan sat impassively through it all.
Around 7 p.m. an official letter from Mr. Forsyth arrived. It directed Cowan to send the prisoners to headquarters. Cowan read the letter, shrugged and handed it over to Col. Perkins. Only 6 Kukas remained and they had already been tied to the guns.
"What do we do now?" asked Col. Perkins.
"Fire," replied Cowan.
The guns boomed and the last 6 Kukas were blown to bits.
On the following day, when Mr. Forsyth was informed that the prisoners had already been executed, he did not seem to be disconcerted by his subordinate's disregard for his instructions. On the contrary, he wrote: "My dear Cowan, I fully approve and confirm all you have done. You acted admirably."
But there was a public outcry against the executions and the government hastily distanced itself from Cowan calling his actions illegal and unnecessary and "characterised by incidents which give it a complexion of barbarity."
He was removed from service. Mr. Forsyth got away with censure and was transferred to another province and after his retirement became Sir Douglas Forsyth.
Writing about the barbaric executions of the Kukas, Sir Henry Cotton observed: "I can recall nothing during my service in India more revolting and shocking than these executions…and the final orders of the government of India were lamentably inadequate."

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