2. Audio Narrative
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan began work in 1912, when he was 22 years old. He joined the Haji Sahib of Turangzai to bring simple religious education to people near his village of Utmanzai, outside Peshawar. This was an affront to British colonial rule. Gradually, he got into increasing trouble with the authorities despite being the son of the popular and wealthy landlord Behram Khan.
Like many of the learned religious and tribal leaders of the time, he realized that only through education could Pathans be liberated.
Political life in NWFP during the century of British rule was marked by a series of uprisings. Much of the province consisted of tribal territory where British Indian law only applied on either side of paved roads. It was here that the Haji Sahib of Turangzai and a young Ghaffar Khan finally had to escape. Tribal areas were often bombed, however. In the 1920's, Britain successfully blocked a universal ban on civilian bombing from the air by arguing that there was no other way to control Pathans.
Ghaffar Khan was finally arrested in 1919 and spent five years in jail. His fledgling movement grew enormously in stature during the period. In 1927 he launched a new educational, social and political program and a Pushto journal called Pukhtoon. Two years later, the Khudai Khitmatgars, or Servants of God were formed. Ghani Khan was about 15 years old. He watched how his father's followers soon came to be called Red Shirts.
They became known for social service and the extraordinary doctrine for Pathans of non-violence in the face of violence. Yet, as Ghani explains, this was the best tactic. The Red Shirts grew in stature with the local population as their followers were beaten and worse for protesting colonial restrictions.
On April 23rd, 1930, the British shot hundreds of Khudai Khitmatgar and other demonstrators packed in the streets of Peshawar's Kissa Khani [Storytellers] Bazaar. One British Indian Army regiment refused to fire at the crowds. This massacre set off a chain of demonstrations across India that culminated in the Civil Disobedience Movement and famous Dandi March and Salt Satyagraha of 1930. One of the key conditions of the Gandhi-Irwin pact that followed was Ghaffar Khan's release. Ghani Khan described in the text of the interview how this forged a lasting bond between the two men.
Ghani Khan got to know Gandhi well during the 1930's and 1940's, and often visited Sevagram and Wardah. He remained very fond of Gandhi.
The first limited election were held in NWFP in 1936. Ghaffar Khan was banned from the province. His brother, Dr. Khan Sahib, led the party to a narrow victory and became Chief Minister. Ghaffar Khan returned to Peshawar in triumph on August 29, 1937 on what the Peshawar daily Khyber Mail called the happiest day of his life.
Ghani Khan wrote a famous colum for the Pukhtoon called Gade Wade, or literally The Confused Utterances of a Madman. He translated it as Nonsense. Instead of his real name, he signed it The Mad Philosopher.
The next few years saw the Khudai Khitmatgars increasingly identified with Congress and Gandhi, while the non-Pathan populations of the province gravitated towards the Muslim League. The former wanted a united India, the latter an independent homeland for Muslims called Pakistan. In the 1945 elections, following another spell in jail, Dr. Khan Sahib barely hung on to power in a split assembly.
In his official role, Ghani Khan was leader of the Zalme Pukhtun, or Red Shirts youth wing. He was also among the moderates who argued for finding an accomodation with Pakistan once the NWFP Referendum results were clear. When that didn't work out soon after 1947, he was arrested. No charge were ever filed. In keeping with colonial law, all his moveable property except books and paintings were confiscated. He spent the next six years in jail.
Since his release Ghani Khan continued to write and paint.
His work continued to celebrate and poke fun at Pathan identity. His book The Pathans, first published in 1947, remains the best humorous introduction to the people of the Frontier.
Ghani Khan continued to manage considerable properties. He became friends with his former British opponents like Sir Olaf Caroe. His poetry and wit, often published in Pushto from Kabul in Afghanistan entertained Pathans of all political persuasions. He died in Mohammad Naray on March l5, l996. He is buried next to his mother and his wife Roshan.