A Change of Prisons
Before I left the Peshawar prison they had fettered my feet again, but when I arrived at Dera Ismail khan prison the fetters were removed. I was put in a cell, and the following day I was given twenty seers of corn to grind, on a grindstone of course. But maggots appeared to have had a go at the corn first, for not one grain was hard, so it was not a hard job this time.
The jailor was an elderly Muslim, who had been a soldier before he became a prison official. He could not speak English and was due to retire.
The superintendent of the prison was an Englishman who could not speak any language but English. There fore all the work in the prison was done by Gangaram, the deputy jailor. The elderly Muslim jailor was all right, but Gangaram was a very dirty man and the kind of person who took brides. He used to stir up quarrels among the prisoners and the demand bribes from among the prisoners and then demand bribes from them for not taking any action against them.
One day, when I was grinding corn, the jailor came and said:
“You may stop grinding corn.”
I said: “Why?”
He replied: “You are the only one in this prison who is here on behalf of God. How could I justify myself before Him if I made you grind corn?”
To please him I stopped, but as soon as he had gone I started again. But he was watching me through a small hole in the door and after a few minutes he came in again and said:
“I allowed you to stop, why are you still grinding?”
Not far from me, in the next row of cells, another prisoner was also grinding corn.
I said to the jailor: “Do you see that man? Well, there you have a robber and murderer grinding corn. Why should I mind grinding corn for my cause, which is pure and holy?”
The following day the jailor told the man in charge of the grinding to give me flour to grind instead of corn. But when the man brought me the flour he also gave me some corn.
He said: “If the superintendent comes round, please pretend to be grinding to corn.”
I asked him: “Why?”
He said: “If he sees I’ve given your flour, he’ll sack me.”
“I don’t want you to lose your job,” I said, “And I don’t lying either. So please let me grid corn like everybody else.”
The food in this prison was terrible. They must have put cement in the bread, it was impossible to chew it. The vegetables were so bad that even the prison cat, when I offered her some one day, refused to eat them! The jailor very kindly said that he could have food sent form his own house for me, but I asked him not to. The man who took round the milk, wanted to give me some. Doctor’s orders, he said. But I refused that too, for milk was not part of my prison diet, and I did not want to take anybody else’s ration.
Then Gangaram began to send hi agent to pester me for bribes.
“Give Gangaram some money,” he said, “he will get you out of the solitary cell. We peshawaris feel very ashamed to think of you in this solitary cell, and grinding corn as well. If you don’t want to bride Gangaram, we are prepared to pay him from our own pockets.”
“Listen,” I told him, “Bribing is a social evil. I will have no part of it. You know that I am here because I refused to furnish security. If I have to bribe anyone, I may as well pay the security!”
Gangaram also corrupted the young prisoners. Anyone who paid him five rupees could have young prisoner to stay with him in his cell for the night.
One day I said to the jailor: “You are a good Muslim. You pray five times a day. But you don’t protect the honour of young Muslim boys in this prison? How are you going to account for that before the Almighty? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” In the other prisons in Peshawar where the jailors are Hindus, nobody would dare to touch a young Muslim boy.”
The food continued to be bad. One day, when I was busy grinding corn, the Superintendent came to my cell. A small blow of vegetables was still lying on the floor. I showed it to the Superintendent and said: “I offered this food to the cat, but she wouldn’t touch it. Yet you expect human being to eat it!”
The Superintendent, who was a doctor, looked at the vegetables and said: “There is nothing wrong with this food!”
I thought it was no use arguing this point any further. So, changing the subject, I said: “Would you mind taking a look at the man in the cell opposite? He is in fetters and so am I. But look at the difference! I grind the same amount of corn as he does every day. He is a prisoner and so am I. But is my crime the same as his? Tell me, how you treat prisoner like me in your country?”
The Superintendent left the cell without a word.
But the following day I was sent to the workshop to make envelopes. And when I was the Superintendent again he told me: “It won’t be long now before you are taken out of the solitary cell.”
There were prisoners from all over the Frontier Province in the workshop. They often quarreled amongst themselves and even came to blows, mostly over the boys. They all used to come to blows, mostly over the boys. They all used to come blows, mostly over the boys. They all used to come and talk to me. I told them to stop fighting and to give up their vices, and I was happy to see that they listened to me.
Many of the prisoners were afraid of the hard work and they used to bribe Gangaram in order to get out of it. I told them also to give up this bad habit.
When Gangaram saw his business dwindle he conspired to get me removed to another prison. He reported to the Superintendent that I was creating trouble for him, that I was trying to propagate my Ideas among the prisoners, and that he would not be responsible for maintaining discipline unless I was removed. In fact he made out quite a case against me.
The Superintendent came and questioned me. He knew very well that Gangaram was lying. But it was a question of discipline, and Englishman will go to any length to maintain discipline. So I was transferred to Derea Ghazi Khan Prison, having spent two months of my sentence in Peshawar prison and two months here. During those four months I had lost 45 lbs. in weight. The bad food had affected my gums and I had pyorrhea.
On the day when I was to be transferred a Police car, with all its curtains drawn, drove up to the gate. My feet were fettered, the handcuffs tied my wrists and an iron collars my neck. I was wearing the prison clothes that had always been too tight and too short. I could not look at myself. God only knows what a sight I was others! I was put into the motorcar and transported to Dera Ghazi Khan Railway station. We missed the train and had to spend the night at the station. Nobody was allowed to come near me, neither was I allowed to go near anyone. They did not even remove my handcuffs. My escort were all Pathans, and the sub-inspector in charge, Nadir Khan was a man from my district. He was known as “dacoit”.
In the morning, when the train came in, I was put in a so-called servants’ compartment. Great care was taken, especially at the stations where the train stopped, that nobody should come near to see who I was.
We go down at Ghaziaghat, where I was handed over to another escort. The officer-in-charge was a Hindu. He took off my handcuffs and said: “Come on, let’s walk up and down the platform.”
As we were strolling long, Nadir Khan came up to us and said to the Hindu office:
“What are you doing? Oh, I am done for!”
The Hindu police officer said: “Don’t worry! He is in my charge now and I take full responsibility. You may go now.”
We had to cross the Indus River. On the other side I was put in a Tonga, and we finally arrived at Dera Ghazi khan prison.
When we arrived at the prison gate, I found Ubeid-ul-Rashid Khan, the son of Colonel Ubid-ul-Majid, and Lala Dani Cahand Ambalvi waiting to meet me. Some of his friends and relations had also come with him. As I was going inside he said to me:
“When I saw you arriving I was sure that a very dangerous robber and murderer was being taken to prison.”
“When I saw you arriving I was sure that a very dangerous robber and murderer was being taken to prison.”
Once inside, my fetters were removed.
This was a small prison, housing political prisoners from Punjab. There were two barracks, one for C-class prisoners and the other for special class prisoners. I was put with the C-class prisoners, because there was no other class for prisoners from our province. But at least the chapatti was good there.
The Superintendent was a very good man. He used to give the political prisoners wheat which they themselves cleaned, ground into flour and made into chapatis. They also cooked their own vegetables. But the best thing for me was that my fetters had been removed.
All the C-class prisoners were Sikhs and Hindus. They were very kind and they treated me with great courtesy.
The work we had to do here was rope-making, but I could not manage it, and I asked the Superintendent work instead.
The special class prisoners had discovered my identity and they urged the Superintendent to transfer me to their barracks. He not only agreed to that, but also gave me a Charkha , and changed my prison work from rope making to spinning.
It was by God’s infinite mercy and grace that I was transferred to this prison. I don’t know how long I could have carried on and preserved my health in the other prison. Apart from that, I could not have been in a better and more wel-bred company than I was here, and I took full advantage of this opportunity to get to get to know the Punjabi people. For all of us it was an excellent chance to become more familiar with each other’s ideas and beliefs. Most of the other prisoners were released long before I was, and they wrote to the papers about me. They protested against the Government ‘s treatment of me as a C-class prisoner in such strong terms that in the end the Government had to treat me as a special class prisoner.
The Superintendent sent me to Lahore Central Jail for dental treatment. As I have already mentioned, my teeth and gums were very badly affected by the poor quality of the food in Dera Ismail khan prison.
The jailor here, one Khan Allaudin Khan, had no sympathy for nationalist prisoners. On the contrary, to get into the good books of the British, he was extremely harsh with them. In return the British had given him carte blanche to treat the prisoners in any way he fancied. And his treatment of political prisoners was particularly bad.
There were both Khilafat movement and Congress movement, I was put in a solitary cell, and not with the other Khilafat prisoners.
There were a number of Sikhs in these solitary cells.
They had been put there because when they were in the barracks they had all been chanting in unsion: Sar sri Akal .
A great feeling of power and strength had taken possession of the Sikhs, and the worse they were treated the stronger and more powerful they felt.
When the Khilafat movement prisoners found out that I had been sent here and that was kept in a solitary cell they all raised their voices in one mighty protest. The very next day I was lodged with the political prisoners, and I met Agha Safdar, Malik Lal Khan, Lala Lajpat Rai and other Congress leaders, and we had the opportunity to talk and have lengthy discussions. With Agha Safdar and Malik lal Khan I began to study the Holy Koran, but Mailk Lal khan soon gave up. He said that I interpreted the Koran in my own way. The poor man was used to follow the beaten track and he had not learned to think for himself there fore our independent interpretation made no impression on him at all.
A few days after my arrival in Lahore Central Jail, the dental surgeon came. His name was Dr. Prem Nathand as I was to find out, he was indeed the image of love. I was taken to the office, where the doctor examined my teeth, extracted a few and cleaned the rest. He told me that I had pyorrhea and he prescribed medicine as well as a nourishing and balanced diet.
I asked the doctor how much I owed him for his services. I told him that I was well-to-to and able to pay his fee. But he refused to take any payment. When I insisted he said:
“Listen, what crime have you committed? You are here because of your love for your country and your people. I would be ashamed of myself if I accepted payment from you. I can’t make a great sacrifice like you, but I can at least offer you this small service!”
Then he picked up his bag and left.
A Few day later I was send back to Dera Ghazi Khan prison.
I was taken by train, under police escort. It was summer and a very hot afternoon. We had to change trains at Sher Shah Station. An interesting incident occurred there.
The police officer in charge was a very nice man and he wanted to take me to the waiting room, but we found the door closed. The police officer knocked. Someone opened the door and we saw a Pir Saheb and his mureeds. Who were taking an afternoon nap? The police officer brought a chair for me to sit down, and then he saluted and went outside.
One of the Pir Saheb’s mureeds was working the fan that hangs from the ceiling but my arrival had disturbed the Pir Saheb’s afternoon nap. He had seen how the police officer brought a chair for me and saluted me and somehow he was under the impression that I was a high ranking police officer. There was a lovely little child in the Pir Saheb’s party. There was a lovely little child in the Pir Sahbe’s party. It appeared that he was a great Pir from Nissa Sharif, and he had been to India to collect alms and offerings. Judging by the amount of luggage he had, boxes and suitcases, he must have collected a considerable amount.
The Child came and sat by me. She was not afraid or shy at all. That made me feels happy, for I love small children. A little later, when I went outside, she followed me. As the Pir Saheb still thought I was some high official, he did not mind and did not say anything. But outside on the platform someone recognized me and soon I was surrounded by people. When the Pir saheb realized I was a “Khilafat man” he sent one of his mureeds to call the child back. But she did not want to leave me and started weeping. In the end the police officer had to take her back to the waiting room.
Then our train came in and soon I was back in Dera Ghazi Khan Prison.
IN my barrack at Dera Ghazi Khan prison there were a number of Hinds and Sikhs, but only a few Muslim. There was a teacher, Gurditamal, a worthy man, of whom I became very fond. When he prayed he used to chant Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, but did not make him a peaceful man. He used to lose his temper at the slightest provocation.
When the Sikhs gathered together they chanted: Sir jave, ta jave, mera Sikh dharma na jave. (I may even lose my head, but I will not lose my Sikh faith.) I greatly enjoyed listening to them.
I think the reason why the Sikhs can put so much more felling and emotion into their religious practices than the Hindus or the Muslim is, that their Holy Book, the Guru Granth Saheb, is written in their mother tongue. Therefore they understand the teachings and the prayers of their religion better. The Hindus say their prayers in Sanskrit and the Muslims in Arabic, and many Hindus and Muslims say their prayers without really understanding the meaning.
Actually, we spent our time very pleasantly in this prison. And we were able to remove, to a certain extent, the false impression the British had given the Hindus of us, the Pakhtuns.
One day a Hindu friend said to me:
“I have been told that the Pathans drink human blood. Do they really?”
“Oh yes,” I replied, “frequently.”
“Good heavens,” he cried out.
Then he asked again: “But why do they drink it?”
“Because it is very tasty,” I said.
“Good heavens!” he cried again.
Then I asked him: “My friend, from where did you get this idea? Have you ever been to the Pathan country? Have you ever seen a Pathan, for that matter?
Except me, of course.”
“No, I haven’t,” he admitted.
“Then who told you this?” I asked him.
His reply was that he had read about it in some book.
One day we heard that the Inspector-General of Prisons, Col. Wade, was to visit our prison. He was known to be a very under man, he treated prisoners as if he were the Almighty himself he was in every respect an unpleasant person.
When he entered the barracks and saw that the Hindus were wearing Gandhi caps and the Sikhas black turbans, he became very angry with the jailor and enquired why did he allow this.
Our Superintendent, who was also British, but a very kind-hearted man, told the Colonel: “It is my fault, not theirs.”
Before the Inspector-General left the prison he gave order to take the Gandhi caps and the back turbans off the heads of the prisoners. We did not hear about this order till the next day, however, when it was read out to us.
Sardar Kharak singh told the Superintendent:
“But, Sir, we are special Class prisoners and the Government allows us to wear out own clothes. Therefore we can dress as we like, and the inspector General’s order is illegal and a violation of our rights.”
But the superintendent said: “What can I do about it? I only carry out orders. Therefore I am telling you to remove your Gandhi caps and turbans.”
We did not argue with him because we knew it would make no difference. But after he left we sat down together and discussed whit was to be done. We came to the conclusion that, as we had permission to wear our own clothes, that implied the right to wear the kind of clothes we liked, and if that happened to be Gabndhi Caps and turbans, nobody had the right to forbid them. Therefore, we decided, we would not obey this order.
The next day when it was found that the prisoners were still wearing Gandhi caps and turbans, they were taken to the office one by one to have their headgear removed.
We then decided not to wear any other clothes either, except loin cloths.
Wearing a Gandhi cap or a turban has no special meaning to the North West Frontier people and I was not used to wearing either. But I told my friends that would not allow me to do this, however, as, they said, this was purely a Punjabi affair.
When the Deputy Commissioner of Dera Ghazi Khan, Mr Wilson, came to visit the prison, Sardar Kharak Singh spoke to him on behalf of all the prisoners. He told him that we were allowed to wear our own clothes and that this right could not suddenly be taken away from us.
The Deputy Commissioner said: “The right to wear your own clothes does not apply to caps or turbans.”
Sardar Kharak Singh said: “Do you mean to say that caps and turbans are not clothes?”
The Deputy Commissioner said, “No…” and another argument would have followed, when suddenly the Sikhs began to chant: sat sri Akal! To bole so nihal!
The air was filled with the roar and the Deputy Commissioner rushed to the office, where he decided that the prisoners must be punished for this demonstration.
The next day the superintendent announced that anyone who refused to dress properly would be charged, according to prison rules and regulation, and taken to the court. The Muslims then compiled with the order, but not the Sikhs and the Hindus. They were duly taken to the court and the Magistrate sentenced everyone of them to the court and the Magistrate sentenced everyone of them to an additional nine month’s imprisonment.
C-class prisoners like myself were allowed to write one letter every three to write one letter every three months. Consequently I knew very little very little of what was going on in my district. Relatives, whom I was allowed to receive once every three months, brought me some news from the province, but that sis not keep me up to date.
I heard that our movement had started with a bang. In those days people were not yet meeting minded. Moreover the Government did not allow people to attend meetings and that made them afraid too. My colleagues hit upon the idea of holding meetings in the mosques. People would meet for Mulud Sharif a lecture. The students from our school were always in the majority at those meetings.
Ghani, my son, was now nine years old. Wali could already read the Koran very well. Ghani made excellent speeches, and the Koran very well. Ghani made excellent speeches, and at the end of a speech he always said:
“Oh people! Go and ask this Government why they are keeping my father a prisoner! Go and ask them what crime he has committed!”
This made a deep impression on our people. Their hearts were touched and a new vigour was born in them. In short, my imprisonment was of great benefit to my people. They had become interested in education, and they had also become more politically conscious. Because of my imprisonment they now looked upon our school with love and sympathy, and they even began of offer help.
My mother was very upset and unhappy for me, and the letter I was allowed to write once every three months, was always addressed to her. Her one great desire was to see me again. She would have come to visit me in prison but she was very old and Dera Ghazi Khan was very far and between us lay the river Indus. Much as I would have loved to see her, I had to discourage her from undertaking such an arduous journey. Sometimes I wish I had not, for God took her away from me before I returned home.
Towards the end of 1920 she fell ill and passed away after a few days, but nobody told me. I found out from the newspapers and I was deeply distressed.
When I returned home after my release, my sister told me that towards the end of her life my mother was always speaking of me. When her last moment came she said: “Where is Ghaffar? Has he not come back ye?”
She passed away with my name on her lips.
O f all the prisoners in Dera Ghazi Khan I was serving the longest sentence, three year; other prisoners were serving six or nine months’ or at the most one year’s sentence.
Soon many of the six months prisoners were released and so would the other have been if this agitation over the Gandhi caps and turbans had not happened. When they had served their additional nine months, the Superintendent told them:
“You had better put on the proper clothes, or I shall have to charge you again.”
This time the Hindus also complied with the order. But the Sikhs did not and they were all sentenced to another nine months’ imprisonment. Those who had complied with the order requested the Superintendent to have them transferred to another prison and their request was granted.
When the Sikhs had completed their second nine months term and realized that they would be charged again and again till they complied with the order, they also resiled and asked to be transferred. Their request, too, was granted.
Now only Sarder Kharak Singh and I were left. Kharak Singh was a very powerful man, firm and immovable as a mountain. Nobody could order him about.
Once again the Inspector-General Visited the prison, proud and arrogant as ever. When he saw us he said: “Well, Kharak Singh?”
Sardar Kharak Singh replied: “Yes, Wade?”
The Inspector-General was furious and gave orders that Sardar Kharak Singh be put in a solitary cell and that the milk, especially prescribed for him by the doctor, be stopped firthwith.
Sardar Kharak Singh was taken away and put in a solitary cell in the prison hospital. I was now all alone in the barrack, which was next to the hospital. The only way we could see each other was through a hole in the door. The Sardar soon became very weak and I did my best to give him some food through the hole in the door as often as I could manage. Sardar Kharak Singh was a fine man. In spite of all his miseries he never lost his courage and determination.
As more prisoners arrived the prison authorities decided that they needed the barrack I was occupying, and I was transferred to Mianwali prison. At Mianwali there were no barracks, only solitary cell.
There were many political prisoners: congress Khilafat, and Guru-ke-Bagh prisoners. They, too, had been transferred here from Dera Ggazi Khabn prison. They were on friendly terms with the prison au authorities.
There were separate Kitchens for Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Maulana Iqbal, from Panipat, a Khilafat movement prisoner serving a five- year sentence was incharge of our kitchen. He was an excellent cook, but he used to put far too much red pepper into the curry, which did not agree with me.
Akhtar Ali Khan, the son of Alauddin Zafar Ali Khan was also a prisoner here.
The Superintendent was queer person. It was very hot in Mianwali and dust storms occurred frequently but the water in the well was nice and cool. The Superintendent used to take political prisoners into the courtyard where the well was, so that they could have a bath. He often asked me to go with them, but I always refused.
There was a tower in the center of the courtyard, and in the evening, after the roll call, the Superintendent and the political prisoners often sat there, chatting. The Superintendent asked me to join them but I refused that too, because I knew that prison officers, although they spend all their time with prisoners, never think one as a human being but always as a prisoner. They have a queer sort of mentality.
One evening Akhtar Ali and some other Political prisoners were sitting by the tower with the superintendent when the prison doctor arrived. All the Chairs were occupied. Nobody got up when the doctor arrived, nor did anybody got up when the doctor arrived, nor did anybody offer him a chair. The Superintendent very rudely told everybody to get up send go away. The Superintendent very rudely told everybody to get up and go away. The superintendent’s rude behavior hurt and shocked me, but the themselves did not seem to mind it. The next day I saw them all standing by the office door. Begging the guard to get permission for them to go and sit by the tower again!