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49. Khansaheb's Ahimsa

In the storm that shook most of the members of the Working Committee, Khansaheb Abdul Gaffar Khan stood firm as a rock. He had never any doubt about his position, and his statement, which I reproduce below, should serve as a beacon light to all of us:

"Some recent resolutions of the Congress Working Committee indicate that they are restricting the use of non-violence to the fight for India's freedom against constituted authority. How far and in what manner this will have to be applied in the future I cannot say. The near future will perhaps throw light on this. Meanwhile it is difficult for me to continue in the Congress Working Committee, and I am resigning from it.

I should like to make it clear that the non-violence I have believed in and preached to my brethren of the Khudai Khidmatgars is much wider. It affects all our life, and only this has permanent value. Unless we learn this lesson of non-violence fully, we shall never do away with the deadly feuds which have been the curse of the people of the Frontier. Since we took to non­violence and the Khudai Khidmatgars pledged themselves to it, we have largely succeeded in ending these feuds. Non-violence has added greatly to the courage of the Pathans. Because they were previously addicted to violence far more than others, they have profited by non-violence much more. We shall never really and effectively defend ourselves except through non-violence. Khudai Khidmatgars must, therefore, be what our name implies — pure servants of God and humanity — by laying down our own lives and never taking any life."

It is worthy of the Khansaheb and all that he has stood for during the past twenty years. He is a Pathan, and a Pathan may be said to be born with a rifle or sword in his hand. But the Khansaheb deliberately asked his Khudai Khidmatgars to shed all weapons when he asked them to join the Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act. He saw that this deliberate giving up of the weapons of violence had a magical effect. It was the only remedy for the blood-feuds which were handed down from sire to son and which had become part of the normal life of a Pathan. They had decimated numerous families, and non-violence seemed to the Khansaheb to have come as a longed-for salvation. The violent blood-feuds would otherwise have no end and would spell the end of the Pathans. He saw as clear as daylight that, if he could persuade his people not to retaliate, the suicidal feuds would cease and the Pathans would be able to give a better account of their bravery. They took up his message, and put into practice what with them became non-violence of the brave.

Being so clear about his own faith and that of the Khudai Khidmatgars, there was for him no escape from resignation of his membership of the Congress Working Committee. His continuing on it would have been anoma­lous and might have meant an end of his life's work. He could not ask his people to join as recruits in the army and at the same time forget the law of tribal retaliation. The simple Pathan would have argued with him — and the argument would have been irresistible — that the present war was a war of retaliation and revenge, and that there was no difference between it and their blood-feuds.

I do not know how far the Khansaheb has succeeded in carrying his message to his people. This I know that with him non-violence is a matter not of intellectual convic­tion but of intuitive faith. Nothing can, therefore, shake it. About his followers he cannot say how far they will adhere to it. But that does not worry him. He has to do his duty which he owes to them. The result he leaves to God. He derives his Ahimsa from the Holy Quran. He is a devout Musalman. During his stay with me for over a year I never saw him miss his Namaz (prayers) or his Ramzan fast except when he was ill. But his devotion to Islam does not mean disrespect for other faiths. He has read the Gita. His reading is slight but selective, and he immediately assimilates what appeals to him. He loathes long argument and does not take long to make up his mind. If he succeeds in his mission, it would mean the solution of many an­other problem. But the result no one can predict. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord."

Sevagram, 16-7-'40

Harijan, 21-7-1940