Violence or Non-Violence?
There were two freedom movements in our province, one believed in violence and the other in non-violence. The Violent movement was started.
The British had been able to deal with the violent movement by taking violent counter measures. But they had not been able to suppress the non-violent movement in spite of all their unspeakable cruelty and innumerable arrests and imprisonments.
The violent movement had created fear and cowardice in the people’s minds; it had weakened people’s courage and morale. But the non-violent movement had made people fearless and brave, and inspired them with a high sense of morality.
The violent movement preached love and brotherhood. It spoke of a new life for the Pathans, a life of dedication to their nation and to their brethren. It spoke of a great and splendid revolution in art, in culture, in poetry, in their whole social life.
The truth is, of course, that violence is born of heated, and non-violence is born of live.
One reason for the hatred was the injustice on the part of the British. Suppose some had killed an Englishman, and he was caught, the British would then not only punish the culprit, but they would make his whole village and his whole district suffer. Heavy fines would be imposed, arrests would be made, and many people would be imprisoned.
People would naturally look upon the culprit and upon his whole violent movement as the sole cause of all the cruelty and oppression they had to suffer.
On the other hand they saw that in the non-violent movement everyone tried to avoid trouble everyone tried to prevent harm being done to the innocent people. They saw that our movement was only concerned with the welfare of the country, and that made them sympathetic towards our movement.
These were the reasons why the violent movement failed and the non-violent movement was successful. I t was through non-violence that the country would be freed, through non-violence that the British would be driven out.
But the Khudai Khidmatgar movement was not just a political movement. Apart from being the apolititcal party of the Pathans, it was also a spiritual movement. It was the movement taught the Pathans love the brotherhood that inspired them with a sense of unity, patriotism and the desire to service.
The Pathans used to quarrel amongst themselves; antagonism and feuds ruined their homes and their families. Through the non-violent movement all that was changed. The British used to say, “a non-violent Pathan is more dangerous than a violent Pathan.”
This was the reason for the innumerable cruelties they inflicted on us in 1932. Al the arrests, imprisonments and other disgraceful acts of the British had only one object: to provoke the Pathans to be violent. But their mean, ignoble scheme did not work.
I shall give you just a few examples of the kind of means they employed.
The British used to strip the Pathans of their clothes. When the Khudai Khidmagars were picketing in Charsadda, the British made them take off all their clothes. Then they tied a noose round their testicles and pulled it hard. When the men fainted with the pain, they would be thrown into a tub full of urine and excrement.
This is only one example of the unspeakable humiliation and suffering inflicted upon the Khudai Khidmatgars. There were innumerable cases like this, of unprintable cruelty and shameless humiliation.
In Kohat many of our Khudai Khidmagars had been arrested. This was in the month of January and it was bitterly cold. The Khudai Khidmatgars were locked up and in spite of the bitter cold they were only allotted one blanket and one chapatti each. And there were men who did not even get that.
Many of the educated prisoners were severely whipped. Some of them were made to work the wheel of an oil-press. Many were kept in solitary confinement. In short, every kind of cruelty that anyone could think of was inflected on those poor people.
On the 24th December 1931, I was staying with my brother, Dr. Khan Saheb. I was overworked and ill. At about midnight the police came and arrested me. They took my brother also. We were taken by car as far as Attock bridge. A little later Qazi Ata Ullah Khan, and Sad Ullah Khan, my brother’s eldest son, who had slso been arrested, were brought there. Sad Ullah had just returned from England. We were all put in a special train. An inspector of police, a Sikh, escorted us. He knew Qazi Saheb and he also told us that. Dr. Khan Saheb had at one time his life. There was another inspector with us too, a Punjabi.
I have always made it a point, whenever I have been arrested, not to ask any question, nor to ask the escort or the guards to do anything for me. Qazi Saheb asked the Pakhtun officer to get him a newspaper, but the officer was afraid and he ignored the request.
The Punjabi officer’s special task seemed to be to shut the windows every time we opened them, lest anybody should see us. I got tired of this and said:
“What is the idea, young man? Are you trying to keep us in purdah? We are not women, you know.” But he took no notice.
When we had crossed the border into the U.P. (United Provinces, now Uttar Pradesh) we were handed over to a British officer and a White sergeant.
The British officer opened the door of the compartment and said to me: “Why don’t you get down and stretch your legs?”
What a difference a between this British officer and the Punjabi Muslim police officer. Yet we were fighting the British, we wanted to take over the Government from them and give it to people like our Punjabi brother.
After I had got back to my compartment, the Englishman came to me again, with a glass in his hand, which he offered to me in the most friendly manner:
“Have a drink.” He said/
He was rater surprised when I told him I didn’t drink. But I have never been able to forget his kindness and courtesy.
At Allahabad Dr. Khan Saheb was taken off the train and sent to Nani prison. A little further Sad Ullah Khan was separated from us and taken to Benares. When we had crossed the border into Bihar, Qazi Atta Ullah Khan was taken to Gaya. Finally I was taken to the Hazaribagh prison, which was forty miles from Hazaribagh station. I was taken there by car, accompanied by the Police Inspector from Peshawar and two British officers, one of whom was a Deputy Commissioner and the other a Superintendent of Police.
As soon as I had settled down they gave me a British newspaper to read, actually the same paper that Qazi Atta Ullah Saheb had asked for, and which the Peshawar police officer had not dared to get for hi.
Once inside the prison, the prison officer, a Hindu, asked me:
“Do you know the officer who brought you here? Who is he? Where is he from?”
I asked him why he wanted to know.
“He is a villain.” He said. “Do you know, he asked me to keep a special eye on you, as he said, you are a very dangerous man?”
I was put into a barrack and apart from the prison official I was not allowed to see anyone. I was a state prisoner.
Brotherhood in prison
The Collector came to see me once a month. I my health was gradually going down. The Collector was a very nice man. He wrote to the Government to ask whether my colleagues who were in prison in Gaya could be sent to Hazaribagh to give me company.
Qazi Saheb was in Gaya prison and he was also in solitary confinement. At least I was able to get a good night’s rest, but poor Qazi Sahib did not even get that. Like me, he was a thorn in the flesh of the government.
The Government refused the Collector’s request, but instead of Qazi Saheb they sent Dr. Khan Saheb to Hazaribagh. He was surprised to find that I was kept locked up in the barracks all the time been posted to the war in Europe they had at one time been posted to the same place. But the man was a coward and whenever Dr. Khan Saheb raised the question of going out for a stroll, he used to say: “They’ll kill me if I let you go out!”
But Dr. Saheb insisted and in the end we were allowed to go for a stroll, but only just outside the window.
The I found out that Rajendra Rarsad, Acharya Kripalani and many other political workers from Bihar were in this prison too, and I managed to see them from time to time.
I am very fond of the people of Bihar, and once I had the permission to leave the barrack I was able to meet them from time to time and we soon established a firm friendship.
The prison officer known as “Chhote Saheb” (the jailor), was a good person and he felt great sympathy for the patriots. We arranged with him that any Political Prisoners who were about to be relased would come and see us on the eve of their departure. We used to give them farewell tea-parties.
The Biharis are very nice People indeed, but they are rather orthodox and afraid of “losing caste”. Living with us made them a great deal more broadminded.
At one of our tea-parties I myself poured out the tea for our guest and handed him the cup as well as a plate of Pakoaras (a kind of savoury doughnut). Dr. Khan Saheb puit a fried brijal on his plate too. Our guest drank the tea and ate the snacks, and then he burst out laughing. When I asked what the joke was, he said:
“Just imagine! One day a Muslim postman delivered a postcard at my house. He was holding the post card by once corner and I very cautiously took it from him by the other corner, with the tips of my fingers. My brother who had witnessed this performance immediately poured water over my hands, saying: “you have been polluted.”
I came to love the Bihari leaders and they will always occupy a special place in my heart. The Bihari women are no less brave and courageous than the men and they have made great scrifices for the cause of the freedom of the country. I will tell you a story of just one Bihari woman. She was a prisoner in the same prison and the “Chhote Saheb” told me her story. He said:
“This woman prisoner’s husband, who is a pleader, came to visit her today. He had brought the children with him. There were five of them. He begged his wife to keep the two youngest children with her, and he said he would look after the others. But the women refused. ‘I would have looked after all of them’ she said, ‘but you wouldn’t listen to me. Now they are your responsibility!’
The “Chhote Saheb” had asked her what she meant and she told him:
“When the Congress bugle sounded and called us to the fight for freedom I asked my husband to join the ranks of the Congress. But he said he was busy with a court case and he wanted to see that trough first. After that, whenever I asked him when he would be ready to do his bit for the freedom of the country, he had some excuse or other. When I realized that he didn’t really want to join in the struggle, I decided that I would have to court arrest, and I went picketing. Ant that is why I am here now, in the same prison as is Rajendra Babu.”
There were many men and women like that in this prison.
Three years later, when I was released from the prison, this courageous woman invited me to her house.
Thought I was a state Prisoner, my children were not given any allowance while Dr. Khan Saheb’s and Qazi Saheb’s Families did receive allowances. So did the mother of Asad Ullah. The result was that Ghani had to return from America, before he had finished his studied, because he was short of funds.
I owned considerable property, but I had been in prison for a long time and there was no one to look after it. I received no income from it, because my tenants that is my agricultural employees were, at the Government’s suggestion, making away with my profits.
I was finally released after three years’ imprisonment, but I was not allowed to go to either the Frontier Province or Punjab.
We were told that we could go anywhere in India, as along as we stayed away from Punjab and the Frontier Province. We had many friends in Bihar, former political prisoners. So from Hazaribagh we went to Patna, where we visited Rajendra Prsad and other friends. Then we went to Wardha, where we had been invited to stay with Gandhiji and Jamnalal Bajaj.
That year, 1934, the All India Congress was meet in Bombay.
When the news of our arrival in Wardha got around, the Reception Committee decided to elect me President of this Congress. Rajendra Parsad even sent me a telegram to inform me that I had been elected.
But I refused> I sent telegram saying: “I am a soldier and I am a Khudai Khidmatgar I only want to serve.”!
After a few days in Wardha I went to Calcutta where the Corporation give me a warm reception. I had the impression that many Muslims had settled in Bengal and that they were politically backward. So I thought I should do something for them and I gave several lecturers in Calcutta. In my talks I told the Muslims:
“I have come here to be of service to you. I really want to work in the villages, because that is where the most miserable people live.”
There was a Muslim Society in Calcutta of which Suhrawardy and some other Muslims like were also members. Instead of helping me to visit the Bengali villages, these Muslims did all they could to stop me going there because they were afraid they would lost their leadership. I was very disappointed with these Muslims.
But then Professor Prafulla Chandra Ghosh, who was a friend of mine and a member of the Congress Working Committee, said he would take me to the villages. “But,” he added, “There is no life in the Muslim villages.”
I was very glad that a Bengali was going with me, for the people in the village knew only Bengali and I could not speak Bengali.
Prafulla Babu took me to many villages and wherever we went, I started work in my usual way. I talked to the people. I told them that India used to be a land of gold, that there used to be plenty of milk and ghee in very house, and rice in abundance.
How was it then, I asked them, that today they were under-nourished and naked? “Why?” I asked the villagers, who were listening with great interest. “Why are you so poor today?” Then I explained that as long as the country was not free, as long as they themselves did not hold the reins of government, they would never be able to fill their stomachs.
Having talked to the people like this for a few days, I held a public meeting. About fifty people came to hear what I had to say. But the second meeting, a few days later, was attended by two hundred villagers. More and more people came to the meetings after that.
Meanwhile the date of the Congress session in Bombay was drawing near and we had to leave. I told Prafulla Babu that these villages were by no means dead. It only needed someone to light up the spark of life that was still alive.