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Khudai Khidmatgars. Abdul Ghaffar Khan ‘The Prophet Unarmed’. Key Questions. What do the activities of the Khudai Khidmatgars tell us about the possibilities of peaceful Islamic-based resistance movements?

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khudai khidmatgars

Khudai Khidmatgars

Abdul Ghaffar Khan

‘The Prophet Unarmed’

key questions
Key Questions
  • What do the activities of the Khudai Khidmatgars tell us about the possibilities of peaceful Islamic-based resistance movements?
  • What was the extent of the influence of Satyagraha over the Khudai Khidmatgars’ ideology of non-violence?
  • Why has Abdul Ghaffar Khan lapsed into obscurity, compared to Gandhi?
abdul ghaffar khan
Abdul Ghaffar Khan
  • Born in 1890 into an aristocratic Muslim family.
  • Also known as ‘Badshah (King) Khan’ and ‘The Frontier Gandhi’.
  • Founded various schools in an effort to improve educational standards amongst poor Pashtuns.
  • First became involved in anti-colonial movement in 1919, in reponse to the Rowlett Acts.
  • Involvement in the Khilafat Committee led to his arrest and imprisonment in 1921; released in 1924.
  • Founded Khudai Khidmatgars in 1929.
  • Began political organising in 1926, as part of a campaign for social reform.
  • Gandhi’s ‘Declaration of Independence’ in 1930, prompted Khan to unleash a wave of non-violent resistance against British rule.
the north west frontier province
The North-West Frontier Province
  • Region traditionally sat on what was referred to as the ‘Highway of Conquest’.
  • British had annexed the region in 1849.
  • Remained part of the Punjab until 1901.
  • Division (Durand Line) between Afghanistan and (then) imperial India, never recognised by successive Afghan governments.
  • Subsequently re-ordered into its current incarnation, due to perceived security risks arising out of the ‘Great Game’.
  • For political and geographic reasons, the province was impoverished and underdeveloped.
  • Population outside of the few urban areas organised by fractious and frequently mutually hostile tribes.
  • Traditionally considered themselves neither Afghan, nor belonging to any of the ‘Indian’ territories.
ideology
Ideology
  • ‘Khudai Khidmatgar’ means ‘Servant(s) of God’
  • Khan attempted to replace violence and the code

of revenge with a ‘non-violent army’ of Pashtuns.

  • Felt that Gandhi’s ‘Satyagraha’ was as much

Islamic as it was Hindu.

  • Banerjee: "It involved two crucial elements: Islam and Pukhtunwali (the Pashtun tribal code). Here nonviolence becomes an ideological system very compatible with Islam and Pukhtunwali, since these are reinterpreted."
  • Religious element of prime importance, relative to the socio-economic.
  • Ecunemical in character; Khan was willing to ally with non-Islamic groups, like Congress, in order to further the Khidmatgars’ aims.
  • Therefore Islamic, but not sectarian.
  • No discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, class or sex.
organisation
Organisation
  • At its peak, the organisation numbered 80,000 – 100,000 members
  • ‘Surkh Posh’ – ‘Red Shirts’
  • Consciously organised in a military fashion, with regiments and military ranks.
  • Forbidden to resort to violence or carry weapons.
  • Agreed to ally with Congress after the Gandhi-Irwin pact of early 1931.
  • Cooperation with Congress motivated both by ideological consonance and the lack of alternative forms of organisational backing.
  • Khan frequently compared the unity of the British to Pashtun disunity.
  • Mobilisation aimed at fostering:
    • A sense of Pashtun unity, as a people.
    • The instillation of the ideal of the Khudai Khidmatgars as a ‘brotherhood’.
    • To create an alternative social order constituted outside of the imperial bureaucracy.
the british response
The British Response
  • ‘The Pathan Unarmed’ was for the British a nonsense.
  • Eknath Easwaran:"A nonviolent Pathan was unthinkable, a fraud that masked something cunning and darkly treacherous" .
  • Torture, public humiliation and reprisals against communities common.
  • Reports of additional atrocities (e.g. castration) unconfirmed, but possible.
  • Deliberate attempts to goad the Pathans into violent action.
  • Culminated in Qissa Khwani Bazaar Massacre of April 23 1930.
  • Noisy, but non-violent, demonstration against arrest of Abdul Ghaffar Khan met with machine-gun fire.
  • 250-400 killed.
  • Triggered series of minor mutinies in the Indian army, alarming the colonial authorities.
  • British eventually granted concessions in the form of locally-elected regional governors.
the independence movement quit india
The Independence Movement – ‘Quit India’
  • Khan’s brother, Khan Saheb, elected premier of the NWFP in 1932.
  • Khan himself apprehensive about involvement in elections, largely apolitical.
  • “It is astounding the amount of corruption I saw about me when we came to possess a little power.”
  • Accused of selling out through alliance with Congress.
  • Remained aloof from parliamentary politics.
  • Refused to support Congress Poona Offer (September 1939); campaigned in NWFP against support for the war effort and Indian participation before constitutional settlement.
  • Despised the Muslim League, whom he saw as furthering an exclusive form of Islamic separatism harmful to the culture of the Pashtuns.
  • Ahmad: “Badshah Khan had two passions in his life: the making of an independent, sovereign, secular, democratic, plural and undivided India and the freedom, autonomy and progress for his own Pakhtun people”.
partition and post partition
Partition and Post-Partition
  • The close links between the Khidmatgars and Congress meant they opposed Partition.
  • Congress acceptance of Partition horrified Khan, who had been assured by Congress party leaders that they would refuse to do so.
  • Boycotted 1947 plebiscite on the status of Pashtun majority regions.
  • Khan favoured a decentralised Indian state over a centralised Pakistani one.
  • Boycott moderately successful in short term, but ultimately futile.
  • Resolution of September 1947 recognised de facto existence of Pakistan.
  • Declared unlawful in September 1948 by Pakistani government.
  • Babra Sharif massacre, coupled with mass arrests, effectively destroyed the movement.
  • Khan gaoled between 1948 and 1954, then again between 1956 and 1964.
  • Devoted much of the remainder of his life to social work among the Pashtuns of the NWFP, before dying in 1988.
sources
Sources
  • http://www.mkgandhi.org/associates/Badshah.htm
  • http://www.baachakhantrust.org/AbdulGhaffarKhan.pdf
  • http://www.harappa.com/sounds/ghani0.html, Interview with Ghani Khan
  • http://progressive.org/?q=node/1654,‘A Pacifist Uncovered’; Amitabh Pal
  • http://www.calpeacepower.org/0101/PDF/BadshahKhan.pdf, ‘A Muslim Gandhi?’; Tim Flinders
  • ‘Radical Islam and Nonviolence: A Case Study of Religious Empowerment and Constraint among Pashtuns’; Robert C. Johansen
  • ‘Pakhtunistan: The Frontier Dispute Between Afghanistan and Pakistan’; S.M.M. Qureshi
  • ‘Civil Disobedience, 1930-31’; Irfan Habib
  • ‘Frontier Gandhi: Reflections on Muslim Nationalism in India’; Aijaz Ahmad
  • ‘Justice and Non-Violent Jihad…’; Mukulika Banerjee
  • The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition and Memory in the North West Frontier; Mukulika Banerjee