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Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890 - 20 January 1988) (Pashto/ , ) was a Pashtun political and spiritual leader known for his non-violent opposition to British Rule in India. A lifelong pacifist, a devout Muslim,and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he was also known as Badshah Khan (also Bacha Khan, Urdu, ., "King Khan"), and Sarhaddi Gandhi (Urdu, Hindi lit., "Frontier Gandhi").

He was initially encouraged by his family to join the British Indian Army; however the treatment of a British Raj officer towards a native offended him, and a family decision for him to study in England was put off after his mother's intervention.

Having witnessed the repeated failure of revolts against the British Raj, he decided social activism and reform would be more beneficial for Pashtuns. This ultimately led to the formation of the Khudai Khidmatgar movement (Servants of God). The movement's success triggered a harsh crackdown against him and his supporters and he was sent into exile. It was at this stage in the late 1920's that he formed an alliance with Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. This alliance was to last till the 1947 partition of India.

After partition, Ghaffar Khan was frequently arrested by the Pakistani government in part because of his association with India and his opposition to authoritarian moves by the government. He spent much of the 1960's and 1970's either in jail or in exile.

In 1985 he was nominated for the Nobel peace prize. In 1987 he became the first person not holding the citizenship of India to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award. In 1988 on his passing, he was buried in Jalalabad, despite the heavy fighting at the time, both sides in the Afghan war declared a ceasefire to allow his burial.

Early years

Ghaffar Khan was born into a generally peaceful and prosperous family from Charsaddamarker, in the Peshawar Valley of British India. His father, Behram Khan was a local farmer in Charsadda. Ghaffar was the second son of Behram to attend the British run Edward's mission school -- an unusual arrangement since it was discouraged by the local mullahs. At school the young Ghaffar did well in his studies and was inspired by his mentor Reverend Wigram to see the importance of education in service to the community. In his 10th and final year of high school he was offered a highly prestigious commission in The Guides, an elite corp of Pashtun soldiers of the British Raj. Ghaffar refused the commission after realising even Guide officers were still second-class citizens in their own country. He resumed his intention of University study and Reverend Wigram offered him the opportunity to follow his brother, Khan Sahib, to study in London. While he eventually received the permission of his father, Ghaffar's mother wasn't willing to lose another son to London -- and their own culture and religion as the mullahs warned her. So Ghaffar began working on his father's lands while attempting to discern what more he might do with his life.

Ghaffar "Badshah" Khan

In response to his inability to continue his own education, Ghaffar Khan turned to helping others start theirs. Like many such regions of the world, the strategic importance of the newly formed North-West Frontier Provincemarker (NWFP) as a buffer for the British Raj from Russian influence was of little benefit to its residents. The oppression of the British, the repression of the mullahs, and an ancient culture of violence and vendetta prompted Ghaffar to want to serve and uplift his fellow men and women by means of education. At 20 years of age, Ghaffar opened his first school in Utmanzaimarker. It was an instant success and he was soon invited into a larger circle of progressively minded reformers.

While he faced much opposition and personal difficulties, Ghaffar Khan worked tirelessly to organize and raise the consciousness of his fellow Pushtuns. Between 1915 and 1918 he visited every one of the 500 settled districts of the Frontier. It was in this frenzied activity that he had come to be known as Badshah (Bacha) Khan (King of Chiefs).

He married his first wife Meharqanda in 1912; she was a daughter of Yar Mohammad Khan of the Kinankhel clan of the Mohammadzai tribe of Razzar, a village adjacent to Utmanzai. They had a son in 1913, Abdul Ghani Khan, who would become a noted artist and poet. Subsequently, they had another son, Abdul Wali Khan (17 January 1917-), and daughter, Sardaro. Meharqanda died during the 1918 influenza epidemic. In 1920, Abdul Ghaffar Khan remarried; his new wife, Nambata, was a cousin of his first wife and the daughter of Sultan Mohammad Khan of Razzar. She bore him a daughter, Mehar Taj (25 May 1921- ), and a son, Abdul Ali Khan (20 August 1922-19 February 1997). Tragically, in 1926 Nambata died early as well from a fall down the stairs of the apartment they were staying at in Jerusalem.

Khudai Khidmatgar

In time, Ghaffar Khan's goal came to be the formulation of a united, independent, secular India. To achieve this end, he founded the Khudai Khidmatgar ("Servants of God"), commonly known as the "Red Shirts" (Surkh Posh), during the 1920s.

The Khudai Khidmatgar was founded on a belief in the power of Gandhi's notion of Satyagraha, a form of active non-violence as captured in an oath. He told its members:
I am going to give you such a weapon that the police and the army will not be able to stand against it.
It is the weapon of the Prophet, but you are not aware of it.
That weapon is patience and righteousness.
No power on earth can stand against it.


The organization recruited over 100,000 members and became legendary in opposing (and dying at the hands of) the British-controlled police and army. Through strikes, political organisation and non-violent opposition, the Khudai Khidmatgar were able to achieve some success and came to dominate the politics of the NWFP. His brother, Dr. Khan Abdul Jabbar Khan (known as Dr. Khan Sahib), led the political wing of the movement, and was the Chief Minister of the province (from the late 1920s until 1947 when his government was dismissed by Mohammad Ali Jinnah of the Muslim League).

Ghaffar Khan & the Indian National Congress

Ghaffar Khan forged a close, spiritual, and uninhibited friendship with Mahatma Gandhi, the pioneer of non-violent mass civil disobedience in India. The two had a deep admiration towards each other and worked together closely till 1947.

The Khudai Khidmatgar (servants of god) agitated and worked cohesively with the Indian National Congress, the leading national organization fighting for freedom, of which Ghaffar Khan was a senior and respected member. On several occasions when the Congress seemed to disagree with Gandhi on policy, Ghaffar Khan remained his staunchest ally. In 1931 the Congress offered him the presidency of the party, but he refused saying, "I am a simple soldier and Khudai Khidmatgar, and I only want to serve." He remained a member of the Congress Working Committee for many years, resigning only in 1939 because of his differences with the Party's War Policy. He rejoined the Congress Party when the War Policy was revised.

On April 23, 1930, Ghaffar Khan was arrested during protests arising out of the Salt Satyagraha. A crowd of Khudai Khidmatgar gathered in Peshawar's Kissa Khwani Bazaar. The British ordered troops to open fire with machine guns on the unarmed crowd, killing an estimated 200-250. The Khudai Khidmatgar members acted in accord with their training in non-violence under Ghaffar Khan, facing bullets as the troops fired on them.

Ghaffar Khan was a champion of women's rights and nonviolence. He became a hero in a society dominated by violence; notwithstanding his liberal views, his unswerving faith and obvious bravery led to immense respect. Throughout his life, he never lost faith in his non-violent methods or in the compatibility of Islam and nonviolence. He viewed his struggle as a jihad with only the enemy holding swords. He was closely identified with Gandhi because of his non-violence principles and he is known in India as the `Frontier Gandhi'.. One of his Congress associates was Pandit Amir Chand Bombwal of Peshawar.

"O Pathans!
Your house has fallen into ruin.
Arise and rebuild it, and remember to what race you belong."
-- Ghaffar Khan


The Partition

Khudai Khidmatgar
Ghaffar Khan strongly opposed the partition of India. While some Pashtuns (particularly the Red Shirts) were willing to work with Indian politicians, many Pashtuns were sympathetic to the idea of a separate homeland for India's Muslims following the departure of the British. Targeted with being Anti-Muslim, Ghaffar Khan was attacked in 1946, leading to his hospitalization in Peshawar.

The Congress party refused last ditch compromises to prevent the partition, like the Cabinet Mission plan and Gandhi's suggestion to offer the Prime Ministership to Jinnah. As a result Badshah Khan and his followers felt a sense of betrayal by both Pakistan and India. Badshah Khan's last words to Gandhi and his erstwhile allies in the Congress party were: "You have thrown us to the wolves."

When the referendum over accession to Pakistan was held, Badshah Khan and the Indian National Congress Party boycotted the referendum. As a result, the accession of NWFPmarker to Pakistan was made possible by a razor-thin margin of 50.1% in 1947. A loya jirga in the Tribal Areas also garnered a similar result as most preferred to become part of Pakistan. Ghaffar Khan and his Khudai Khidmatgars, however, chose to boycott the polls along with other nationalistic Pakhtuns. Some have argued that a segment of the population voted was barred from voting,. In addition, the option to join Afghanistan or independent Pakhtunistan were not given. Only 200k voted out of the millions Pakhtuns, this including people coming into the frontier to vote. The vote was engineered by the the British and Punjabi elite to claim the natural resources of Pakhtunkwa (NWFP) for Pakistan.

Political Views: Elections and Referendum

Gaffar Khan explains in his autobiography about Elections and Referendum:

“I was not in favor of the elections of 1945-46. I thought that even if we won the elections, what good would it do if we could not work for the people? After all we did not want to win the elections or form a ministry for the sake of ruling over people, but for the sake of serving them.

I attended the meeting of the Congress Working Committee and the Parliamentary Board in Calcutta. After I had reported to Gandhiji on events and conditions in the frontier Province, I told him that I did not want to take part in the elections. Gandhiji agreed with me. The Parliamentary Board tried hard to make me change my mind but they did not succeed. After the Working Committee Meeting was over I returned to my village and continued my work. I was soon absorbed in our movement again and I started touring the province. That also gave me a chance to study the government machinery that had been put into operation against me. I found out that government had closed Islamia College at Peshawar as well as other schools and colleges all over the province and that the students were being made to canvas votes for the Muslim League.

I saw British ladies going around canvassing too. They would go to people's homes, and cleverly making use of the custom of exchanging scarves when greeting a visitor, they would say: “I have come to visit you, so you must give me a dupatta (scarf). But the dupatta I want is your vote.”

Large number of students from Aligarh Muslim University and from Islamia College, Calcutta and workers and leaders of Muslim League from many parts of India had been brought to the Frontier Province. The Government and the Muslim League had also recruited religious leaders from Punjab and the frontier Province to work in this election campaign. When I saw how hard and how enthusiastically these Britishers and their wives were working on behalf of the Muslim League, I changed my mind and decided that I would also take part in the campaign. There was only one month to go before the elections.

The issue at stake in this election of 1946, the last general election in United India, was: India or Pakistan, Hindu or Muslim, Islam or kufr, temple or mosque. The Muslim League canvassers asked people: “Are you giving your vote to the mosque or to the temple?”

Unlike the other Muslims in India, however, the Pathans were politically awake, they had perception and nobody could mislead them in the name of Islam. They knew the real meaning of Islam. They had learnt this in their nationalist movement, they had learnt to make sacrifices to serve their country. Nowhere else in India had the Muslims participated in this kind of Nationalist movement. The polling day came. The British went all out to help the Muslim league and hinder the Khudai Khidmatgars. But by the grace of God the Muslim League was defeated and we won the elections with a large majority.

Thus in July 1946, Maulana Azad and I were elected by the Khudai Khidmatgars and the Frontier Assembly to be the members of the Central Assembly, the purpose of which was to give India a Constitution. There were three members for the Frontier Province, Maulana Azad, myself and the third was a resident of Hazara district where the Muslim League had been active and its candidate had won the election.

The fact that we had secured such a clear majority in an election which was fought on very clear issues, and under conditions in which the government had allied itself with the Muslim League and had used all the Muslim Leaders in India and all its power against us could only mean one thing; that the majority of people in the country were behind us.”

After the horror of communal violence, Gaffar Khan had tirelessly toured Bihar and other ravaged areas in 1947. Speaking of partition he writes :

“I had gone to Delhi to attend the meeting of the Congress Working Committee. It was the meeting at which partition of the country was discussed. Gandhiji and I were against the partition. I cannot say what the other members felt about it, because I had not talked to them yet. But Sardar Patel and Rajagopalachari were in favor of partition and they were putting pressure on others. The question of a referendum in the North-West frontier Province was also discussed. Gandhiji and I were against the referendum too. I said there was no need at all for a referendum. Less than a year ago, the election in the province had been fought on the issue of India or Pakistan. We had won with a large majority and the Muslim League had lost , it was as simple as that. Sardar Patel did not see eye to eye with us and they put a lot pressure on the Working Committee and argued about the desirability of referendum at great length. Finally the Working Committee agreed with them and voted in favor of both partition of the country and the referendum.

On this occasion I told the Working Committee and Gandhiji that we Pathans were standing side by side with them in the struggle for the freedom of India and that we had made great sacrifices for the cause. “But you are deserting us now, I told them and throwing us to the wolves.” Is there any doubt about what the Pathans wanted? That was one reason we do not want the referendum. And another reason is that India has left us in the lurch. So why should we have to have referendum over India or Pakistan?” Whereas everywhere in India the representative Assemblies had been asked to decide whether they wanted to remain in India or go over to Pakistan, the North West Frontier Assembly had not been given this right to choose. This was an insult to the whole nation of Pashtuns, which we could not tolerate.

Under these circumstances and after such treatment by the Congress, the question whether I wanted to remain in India or Pakistan is not only unnecessary, but improper, because the Congress, which was the representative body in India, not only deserted us but delivered us into the hands of our enemies. To meet them now is like killing all my Pathan self respect, ethics and traditions. That is why we said that if there was to be a referendum at all, it should be on the question of Pakhtunistan or Pakistan.

But nobody listened to me and the referendum was forced upon us.

As we refused to take part in this referendum the way was clear for the Muslim league, and they used all the cunning, deceit and force they could command."

The Colonel Bashir told Gaffar khan that when he and his unit were stationed at Litambar near Bannu, on the day of the referendum, he had taken his company out to the polling booths three times, so that the soldiers could vote in favor of Pakistan. The government servants, their henchmen, the Muslim league registered thousands of false votes in the names of Khudai Khidmatgars. In spite of all that and the British looking the other way, or supporting this farce, they got only 50% of the votes, which was nowhere enough to decide the fate of a nation or fate of a country. But as the Pathans looked on, the noose tightened and choked their freedom. The decision to boycott was not “just an emotional reaction” from a Pathan whose pride had been hurt.

The gentle Gaffar Khan realized the value of his poor Pakhtuns in the eyes of Congress, that day, which hurt him very deeply. The ones he had considered his comrades, did not think of him the same, and considered him and his brave simple Pathans dispensable. He was also intelligent to see through the tactics played by the British and Muslim league , the British had never planned to let go of their control of NWFP since it was the gateway to India, a very strategic land which they could use to wage wars against Russia and control the region in future. The British knew that the Pathans would never agree to this, whereas the Muslim league who were nothing but British henchmen would agree to their nefarious schemes and serve them in the years ahead. Also, the British along with Muslim League especially hated the Pathans for steadfastly standing up against them, supporting Congress, being the only Muslim group in India to do so amongst the hundred million Muslims. It was an eye sore, a blatant slap in in the face of two nation theory. Despite all their repeated cajoling, and incentives, the Pathans had refused to dishonor their friendship with Congress and their principles.

Gaffar Khan also knew that this was a tactical cruel move by Muslim League that had already bathed the country in blood, waiting to see what the Pathan would do now. In choosing to boycott the referendum Gaffar Khan and his Khidmatgars decided with their heart, since they did not want innocent Pathans to be butchered through instigated fights and their precious unity that they had built, with so much care, to be snuffed out. They did not want to make their Pathans sacrificial pawns in an inhuman political mockery.

There was the possibility that Congress could have been very particular not to give any other option than India or Pakistan since other regions especially Kashmir could also then demand Option C. But why did Congress force a totally farce redundant referendum down their throat, in effect, completely turning a blind eye to their friendship, their principles and the official Pathan representation ?

It is difficult, almost impossible to know whether Congress was completely naive playing into the hands of Muslim League or there were calculative negotiations in the cold surgical vivisection of India or a combination of both. Sadly, in all this politics, the precious unity with the only group of Muslims who shed blood for united India unanimously, and underwent inhuman tortures more cruel than any where else in India, was killed in cold blood. The irony was that Pathans fought for India's freedom and their own freedom was made a sacrificial lamb. Back Stabbing never had a more bitter taste.

Yet, the Pathans, the Khudai Khidmatgars never resorted to violence. They chose to express their deep anguish in the only peaceful way they could, by boycotting. They remained steadfast in their path to follow Islam peacefully.

Arrest and exile

Ghaffar Khan took the oath of allegiance to the new nation of Pakistan on 23rd February 1948 at the first session of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. However, suspicions of his allegiance persisted and under the new Pakistani government, Ghaffar Khan was under house arrest without charge from 1948 till 1954. Released from prison he gave a speech again on the floor of the constituent assembly, this time condemning the massacre of his supporters at Babrra.

"I had to go to prison many a time in the days of the Britishers.
Although we were at loggerheads with them, yet their treatment was to some extent tolerant and polite.
But the treatment which was meted out to me in this Islamic state of ours was such that I would not even like to mention it to you."


He was arrested several times between late 1948 and in 1956 for his soft stance towards India - at a time when the growing rivalry between the two new-born states resulted in paranoid suspicions - and his opposition to the One Unit scheme. He remained in prison till 1957 only to be re-arrested in 1958 until an illness in 1964 allowed for his release.

In 1962, Abdul Ghaffar Khan was named an "Amnesty International Prisoner of the Year." Amnesty's statement about him said, "His example symbolizes the suffering of upward of a million people all over the world who are in prison for their conscience."

In September 1964, the Pakistani authorities allowed him to go to Britain for treatment. During winter his doctor advised him to go to America. The U S Embassy was reluctant to give him visa because of its ties with Pakistan. The Pakistan Embassy in London opposed his going to Afghanistan or India for treatment. The Pakistan Government requested the Afghan Embassy to refuse him but the Afghanistan Government had already given a green signal to his stay in their country. After being arrested several times he was exiled in Kabul until December 25, 1972.

From 1972-80 Ghaffar Khan was arrested several times during the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the proceeding military government.

Ghafar Khan spent 52 years of his life imprisoned or in exile.

Ghaffar Khan died in Peshawar under house arrest in 1988 and was buried in Jalalabad, Afghanistanmarker according to his wishes. This was a symbolic move by Ghafar Khan, this would allow his dream of Pakhtun unification to live even after his death. The Indian government declared a five-day period of mourning in his honour.Although he had been repeatedly imprisoned and persecuted, tens of thousands of mourners attended his funeral, marching through the historic Khyber Passmarker from Peshawar to Jalalabad. A cease fire was announced in the Afghan Civil War to allow the funeral to take place, even though it was marred by bomb explosions killing 15.

He visited India and participated in the centenary celebrations of the Indian National Congress in 1985; he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in 1987..

Political legacy

His eldest son Ghani Khan was a poet. Another son Khan Wali Khan is the founder and leader of the Awami National Party and was the Leader of the Opposition in the Pakistan National Assembly. His third son Ali Khan was non-political and a distinguished educator, and served as Vice-Chancellor of University of Peshawar. Ali Khan was also the head of Aitchison College, Lahoremarker and Fazle Haq college, Mardanmarker. Asfayandar Wali Khan is the grandson of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, and leader of the Awami National Party, the party in power in the NWFP.

Ghaffar Khan's political legacy is mixed. He is renowned within Pakistan and internationally as a leader of a non-violent movement. He is credited with his tireless advocacy of peace in the region he belonged to. However, within Pakistan, there is a large section of society which still has not come to grips with his siding with the All India Congress over the Muslim League as well as his opposition to Mr. M. A. Jinnah who is reverred in Pakistan as the father of the nation. In particular people have questioned Ghaffar Khan's patriotism following his insistence that he be buried in Afghanistan after his death and not Pakistan.

Film, Literature and Society

In 2008, a documentary, titled "The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, a Torch for Peace," by filmmaker and writer T.C. McLuhan, premiered in New York. The film received the 2009 award for Best Documentary Film at the Middle East International Film Festival (see film page).In Richard Attenborough's 1982 epic Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was briefly portrayed by Dilsher Singh.

Badshah Khan was listed as one of 26 men who changed the world in a recent USmarker-published children's book. He also wrote an autobiography (1969), and has been the subject of biographies by Eknath Easwaran and Rajmohan Gandhi (see "References" section, below).

In the Indian city of Delhimarker, the popular Khan Bazarmarker is named in honour of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

Footnotes

References

  • Caroe, Olaf. 1984. The Pathans: 500 B.C.-A.D. 1957 (Oxford in Asia Historical Reprints)." Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-577221-0
  • Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1969). My life and struggle: Autobiography of Badshah Khan (as narrated to K.B. Narang). Translated by Helen Bouman. Hind Pocket Books, New Delhi.
  • Rajmohan Gandhi (2004). Ghaffar Khan: non-violent Badshah of the Pakhtuns. Viking, New Delhi. ISBN 0-670-05765-7.
  • Eknath Easwaran (1999). Non-violent soldier of Islam: Ghaffar Khan: a man to match his mountains. Nilgiri Press, Tomales, CA. ISBN 1-888314-00-1
  • Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan: A True Servant of Humanity by Girdhari Lal Puri pp 188-190.
  • Mukulika Banerjee (2000). Pathan Unarmed: Opposition & Memory in the North West Frontier. School of American Research Press. ISBN 0-933452-68-3
  • Pilgrimage for Peace: Gandhi and Frontier Gandhi Among N.W.F. Pathans, Pyarelal, Ahmedabad, Navajivan Publishing House, 1950.
  • Tah Da Qam Da Zrah Da Raza, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Mardan [NWFP] Ulasi Adabi Tolanah, 1990.
  • Thrown to the Wolves: Abdul Ghaffar, Pyarelal, Calcutta, Eastlight Book House, 1966.


External links

  • Pashtun boycott and barred in Pakistan referendum [37383]




Photographs




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