In a parallel universe, someone who resembled the Earthbound Sir Robert Peel explained to the British Parliament in early 1835 that it was wrong to blame peaceful Thuggees for the actions of a few. Radical Thuggees, who might be called Thugs for short, he suggested, were the problem. Hence the word thugs entered the lexicon.
I was thinking of this piece of pseudo-historical trivia when reading Wikipedia on the topic of Thuggees. Here is an excerpt:
The modus operandi was to join a caravan and become accepted as bona-fide travellers themselves. The Thugs would need to delay any attack until their fellow travellers had dropped the initial wariness of the newcomers and had been lulled into a false sense of security, gaining their trust. Once the travellers had allowed the Thugs to join them and disperse amongst them – a task which might sometimes, depending on the size of the target group, require accompaniment for hundreds of miles – the Thugs would wait for a suitable place and time before killing and robbing them.
There were obviously variations on this theme. When tackling a large group, a Thuggee band might disperse along a route and join a group in stages, concealing their acquaintanceship, such that they could come to outnumber their intended victims by small, non-threatening increments. If the travellers had doubts about any one party, they might confide their worries to another party of the same Thuggee band. The trusted band would thus be the best placed to deal with these members of the caravan at the appropriate time, but might also be able to advise their colleagues to ‘back off’ or otherwise modify their behaviour, to allay suspicion.
It seems to me that this modern description of Thugs and their behaviour reflects early prejudicial views which, at the time, were caught under the umbrella title of Thugophobia. It was this that apparently prompted the otherworldly Sir Robert to draw his distinction between peaceful Thugs and their radicalised brethren. And for that, I think, all fair minded people should be thankful.
I should add that any suggestion that any of the above has application outside of the particular matter of thuggees is without foundation. Any connection that some may think it has with other phenomena is entirely coincidental.