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Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and the Khudai Khidmatgar movement the British in India's northwest frontier province


Women praying


In 1929, the Khudai Khidmatgars movement (Servant of God) led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, agitated non-violently against the British in India's northwest frontier province. On April 26/27, 1947, the Zalmai Pukhtoon (Pashtun Youth) group, an organization composed of Pukhtoon youth armed with firearms, was formed to protect Khudai Khidmatgars (Servants of God) and members of the Congress party against the fear of violence by the Muslim League activists.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and the Khudai Khidmatgar movement inspired thousands of Pashtuns (also called Pathans), known for being violent fighters, and others from the arms to use civilian resistance and challenge British rule. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan founded several reform movements before forming the Khudai Khidmatgar, Anjumen-e Islah ul-Afghan in 1921, the farmer organization Anjuman-e Zamidaran in 1927, and the youth movement Pashtun Jirga in 1927.

Ghaffar Khan was a Pashtun who enormously admired Mahatma Gandhi and his principles of non-violence and saw supporting the Indian National Congress as a means to express his discontent with the British border regime. Their leader advocated for independence, heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha movement. Khan organized their social-political activities as the Khudai Khidmatgars or servants of God movement.

Unfortunately, their leader was arrested several times because they considered him to be an agent of the state of his country, and in 1948, the Khidmatgars movement was banned. Their leader was greatly distressed by the prospect of partitioning their favourite country, yet still pledged loyalty to the newly created nation of Pakistan. The Khudai Khidmatgar Movement supported the INC's successful elections in the new provincial government led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan's brother, Khan Sahib, who was to stay in power for the majority of time till the creation of Pakistan in 1947.



Mules on a mountain track


The Khudai Khidmatgars also won elections in 1946, allied with the Indian National Congress, with Dr Khan Sahib being re-elected as chief minister. During his brother's two-year tenure as the Chief Minister, major reforms were introduced by the Congress Party, including land reforms, the promotion of the teaching of Pashtu, and the release of political prisoners. On 12 August 1948, when Bacha Khan and deposed chief minister Dr. Khan Sahib were both in custody, more than 600 supporters of the Khudai Khidmatgars, protesting their release, were killed in the Babrra Massacre by the Government of Pakistan in the district of Charsadda.

Some Khudai Khidmatgars had attended a meeting of the Indian National Congress at Lahore in 1929 and asked its members to address their grievances. With a stoppage, Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, gave the ex-Congressman Abdul Qayyum Khan free rein in dealing with Congress and Khudai Khidmatgars.

The erstwhile ally set up the breakaway Muslim League, which proved unable to compete with Qayyum Khans. Its lowest ebb, and ultimate demise, came in the wake of the independence of Pakistan in 1947 when Muslim League chief minister Abdul Qayyum Khan banned the movement and launched a violent crackdown against its members, which culminated in the Naqshbandi Massacre.

The movement faced severe pressure from 1930 onwards, and the leadership, led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, was actively seeking political allies in India to help alleviate the pressure exerted by British authorities. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan did not want to contest elections for the provincial governor in India's northwest frontier province, as he was worried about the potential moral impact that political office would have on the movement. Faisal Khan said that the Khudai Khidmatgars would do the work in various parts of the country and called this programme the main step in reviving the Khudai Khidmatgars from November 2008, when a decision was taken for revival at the meeting in New Delhi.

Meherban Saha, chairman of Haji, is an old-time Khudai Khidmatgar of 80 years old. Meherban Saha, chairman of Haji, recalls, while talking with Mukulika Banerjee, Badshah Khan's words seemed to be amiable... agreeably talk to Pathan, he would do whatever. Dr Khans Sahib's son, Ghani Khan, criticised feudal landowners, which infuriated many HaniyaKhans and Nawabs, some formerly sympathetic to the movement. Khudai Khidmatgar was based primarily on two things, firstly, serving the human race through emphasising such things as education for all, encouraging poetry, music, and literature, and eliminating the virulent roots of violence among the Pashtoons.



A Muslim Women

The reason is evident, the Pakhtuns are following already established stereotypes; therefore, in this struggle, Khudai-Khidmatgar tried their best to remove the notion of deeply embedded stereotypes from Pashtoon society based on the reforms of society-culturally as well as the education networks. Non-violence became a basis for Khudai-Khidmatgar with the goal that Pashtoon society was already dominated by tribal feuds, as discussed before. So, to eradicate that curse from Pashtoon society and unify them on one platform. Faisal Khan, associated with the National Alliance of Peoples Movements, has also mentioned the necessity for such an organisation at this point where the vested interests are creeping into this area of social activities so that having an organisation which works without any hunger for earthly rewards becomes a necessity at this point of time.

Best regards,

Eddy Jackson


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