During the British rule of India, an ancient Hindu tradition called “Sati” was still a norm. This practice involved the burning of a widow on the funeral pyre of her dead husband. In most of the cases, there will be men with weapons who surround the pyre, ready to force her back to the fire if necessary.
Britain didn’t feel comfortable with the tradition. Perturbed by the horrific practice, they enacted laws that made Sati illegal. Also, the stoning of lepers to death was outlawed by them within this period.
The new regulations didn’t augur well with some Hindu Priests. They mobilized, gathered in a large protest and accused the British of interfering in their religion. It was at this point that Sir Charles James Napier, a General and Commander-in-Chief in India gave this evergreen speech –
“Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”
The accusers dispersed, the priests vanished and widows were saved from this horrible norm after he made the statement above.