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Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

Gafar Khan

While Mahatma Gandhi was fighting against the British regime in mainland India, the northwest fringes of the country, then known as the North-West Frontier Province and now part of Afghanistan, were witnessing the rise of yet another Mahatma- Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

Strongly inspired by Gandhi's strategy of nonviolence, Ghaffar Khan, or Badshah Khan as he was popularly known, amassed the world's first major nonviolent army in his region. He persuaded 100,000 of his countrymen to lay down guns and vow to fight nonviolently against the British regime. He termed this army the Khudai Khidmatgar, the servants of Allah. It was no mean achievement, considering the bloody and barbaric history of the Pashtun community - a history that was full of invasions, massacres, conquests and occupations. The Khudai Khidmatgar movement espoused nonviolent, nationalist agitation in support of Indian independence and sought to awaken the Pashtuns' political consensus.

A devout Muslim and committed ally of Gandhi, Ghaffar Khan worked in close collaboration with his inspirer for independence. For almost 80 long years, the Pashtun leader struggled incessantly for the rights of his people without ever raising arms. Like Gandhi, Ghaffar Khan honestly believed that the upliftment of his people was essential preparation for independence. Khan opened schools in the province, brought women into the mainstream of society, and encouraged his nonviolent soldiers to vow to do at least two hours of social work a day.

Aware of the pervasive violence in his society, Ghaffar Khan decided to invoke people on religious and humanistic grounds. To this purpose, he initiated a pledge that was to become the motto of the Afghan people in their fight for freedom. The pledge went: " I promise to refrain from violence and from taking revenge. I will sacrifice my wealth, life and comfort for my nation and people." It called people to serve God by serving other people, which helped the growth of self-respect and human dignity.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan 's amazing success story will go down in the annals of nonviolent resistance not merely for its popularity but also for its innately simple and spiritual outlook. As Badshah Khan used to say: " Nonviolence is love and it stirs courage in people... No peace or tranquility can descend upon the people of the world until nonviolence is practised."

Source: Life Positive Plus, Oct-Dec 2002

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