Persecution of the Red Shirt

While we were in prison the people at home suffered under a new wave of tyranny and oppression, which the Government had launched. They had practically blockaded the whole province and nobody was allowed to leave it, lest he carried any complaint abroad, and the world become aware of the cruelties the British were inflicting upon the Pathans. No outsiders were allowed to enter the Province either, lest they see the condition people were living in.

Two of my colleagues Main Jafar Shah and Min Abdullah shah managed to get out and after a hazardous jourey, and crossing the river Indus they came to visit me in prison. I was given special permission to see them, for normally I was not allowed to see visitors.

They reported to me the conditions in the Frontier province. They said they had been sent to ask me to give up the movement. They said the British wanted to crush the Pathans and destroy their very existence. They told me that after I and my colleagues had been arrested and locked up in the Gujarat prison the army arrived and surrounded Utmanzai. Then the soldiers went to the Khudai Khidmatgar office building, and they climbed up the walls to the first floor where the office was. They got hold of all the Khudai Khidmagars in the office and threw them down the road. My son Wali, who was fourteen year old then, had gone to the Khudai Khidmagar office after school hours and was sitting with the men. One of the soldiers pointed a bayonet at him. But a Muslim soldier stretched out his hand in front of the bayonet and saved Wali. Then Hassan Khan took Wali by the hand and led him down stairs.

The soldiers set on fire the Khudai Khidmatgar office and reduced it to ashes. Then they went into the village, arrested everyone who was wearing the red Khudai Khidmatgar shirt, and beat their prisoners mercilessly.

The Deputy Commissioner was going round shouting, angrily and arrogantly: “Are there any more Red Shirts?”

People were so frightened that nobody dared utter a word. A Khan from Utmanzai, Mohammed Abbas Khan, was standing there and he heard the Deputy Commissioner roar at the crowd. He ran home, put some red colouring in a tub of water and quickly dipped his shirt and the shirts of his servants in it. The clothes were still dripping wet when he and his servants put them on and ran back to where the soldiers were. Standing in front of them he said to the Deputy Commissioner: “Yes, there are some more Red shirts, here we are!”

Mohammed Abbas Khan had not been officially enlisted as a Khudai Khidmtagar, in fact he was a little impatient with us. But his patriotism had inspired him to this brave act. Of course the army arrested him too. But his courage, and his sacrifice were source of inspiration to the Pathans. Whatever oppression and tyranny the British chose to inflict on them, they would not give up their red shirts. On the contrary, the movement grew day by day. On the day of the meeting there were about five released from prison and returned home there were fifty thousand!

As a matter of fact it was the British themselves who made propaganda for our movement. They took the troops to the villages. Then they told the men to come out and they made them sit in the burning sun. After a while they asked them to put their thumb prints to a declaration, stating that they were not Khudai Khidmagars.

“But we really are not Khudai Khidmatgars,” “said villagers, and they were telling the truth!

The British Said: “Never mind, we want your thumb prints all the same.”

The men still refused, and not only that, but they were so disgusted with the British that they gave cold shoulder to anyone who dared to put his thumb print to the declaration.

Only one man weakened and gave in to the demand. When he got home his wife was washing clothes.

“How is it that you have come home?” she asked him. “Nobody else has!”

“They let me go,” he said.

“Why did they let you go and not the others?” asked the wife, and, getting suspicious, she added: “show me your thumb!”

Ehen she saw the traces of printing ink on his thumb, she knew what had happened.

She lifted the club she was using to beat the clothes and drove her husband out of the house.

“Disgraceful!” she cried. “If you are not ashamed of yourself, I am; I will no sty with a man who lets the British have his thumb print. I am going!”

The man ran back to where the other villagers were sitting and sat down with them again. The British asked him why he had come back.

“My wife will not let me stay in the house,” he said. There was another incident like this. Haji Shah Nawaz Khan, from our village, who was in prison with us, furnished security and thus got himself released. When he returned home, everyone sneered at him, and gave him cold shoulder, He became so ashamed of himself that he took his own life.

When the friends, who had come to visit me in prison, had told me all these things we decided that they must not return to the village. Instead, they were to go to our friends in the Muslim league, and inform them of the situation in the Frontier Province and ask for their help. And if they could not help, they could at least acquaint the world with the terrible conditions in the Frontier Province.

A few months later these friends came to see me again. They told me that they had travelled a great deal, and that they had talked to prominent Muslim League leaders, but without any success. The Muslim leaders, they said, were not prepared to help us, because we were opposing the British, and they could not, therefore, take our side, The British, they said, were protecting them in order that they could fight the Hindus.

Until then we had not joined the congress, nor did we have any connection with them. Now we were desperate. A drowning man has choice but to catch any straw to save himself. We were very disappointed with the Muslim League. So we asked our two friends to contact the Congress leaders and request them to help us.

In their meeting with the Congress leaders our friends were told that the Congress would be prepared to give us all possible help, if we, from our side, would agree to join them in the struggle for the freedom of India.

When our friends brought this message to us we asked them to return to the Frontier Province and put this proposal before the Provincials Jirga of the Khudai Khidmatgar movement. This they did they jirga accepted the proposal and announced that they were joining the Congress.

When the news of the Pathans joining hands with the Congress reached the British, they realized how foolish they had been. They send me a message asking me to co-operate with them in bringing about reforms.

“The Frontier Province,” the message said, “will immediately enjoy all the reforms that have been brought about in India, and in future we will do even more for you than we are doing for India. But on the condition that you resign from the congress.”

I called a meeting of all the political prisoners, Muslims as well as Hindus and Sikhs. I told the m the whole story and asked them what they would advise us to do. A number of them advised me to take advantage of this opportunity.

“Be diplomatic,” they said, “and accept the British terms.”

But I told them that I could not be such a hypocrite. “Besides.” I said “we cannot depend on the British. And we cannot now break our promise to the Congress.”

Therefore my reply to the Government was:

“You have no confidence in us, therefore we cannot have any confidence in you.”

 

 

The Siege of Bannu

Now that we had joined hands with the Congress, the Speaker of the Central Assembly, Vithalbhai Patel, send a delegation the Frontier Province to enquire into the recent incidents.

At Attock Bridge the delegates were stopped by the Government police and were told that they could not center the province. They then went to Rawalpindi and started their investigation there. They wrote a long report on the atrocities that had been committed in the Frontier Province. The pro-Congress papers all over India published this report and began making propaganda for us. The British Government seized the report but the Congress had already sent a large number of copies to America and England, where they were distributed among the people.

In May, after the firing in Peshawar had taken place, the Khudai Khidmatgars were again fired on in the village of Takkar in Mardan district, and many people were killed. The Hujra of the Khudai Khidmatgar leader was set on fire, as well as the village club building of khan Ghulam Mohammed Khan of Lundkhwar. Many other houses, too, were reduced to ashe and many people were arrested.

After that the army went to Hathi Khel in Bannu[1] district, and rained bullets on a peaceful meeting of Waziris, and several people lost their lives other.

Were arrested and sentenced to fourteen years’ imprisonment.

Then Bannu town was besieged and all exits and entrances closed, so that nobody could leave the town not even on urgent business. Bannu depended on the villages for its supply of food and it was exactly for that reason that the town was blockaded. The Deputy Commissioner thought that if the people were starved they would voluntarily turn their backs on the Congress and the Khudai Khidmatgars. And the Villages people would also get alarmed.

In Bannu town as well as in Bannu district the Khudai Khidmagars were working with great zeal and enthu.

(Contd. On p.114)

But when Badshah Khan arrived in Dera Ismail Khan, arrived in Dera Ismail Khan, all the Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs and of the town gave him such a grand reception and took him though the town in such a magnificent procession as had never been heard of in the whole history of the town. And as had never been heard of in the whole history of the town. And after hi visit to the town, Badshah Khan went to every village in the district.

In Khlachi and Dera Ismail Khan the Congress Committee and the Khudai Khidmatgars had sealed thousands of rupees worth of foreign textiles in the drapers’ shops and sales had been discontinued.

After the Irwin peat, Gandhiji had given permission to picket the foreign textile shops.

Seeing the popularity and the success of the congress and the Khudai Khidmatgar movements, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Noel and the Assistant Commissioner, Sheikh Mehboob Ali became very alarmed. Also, these two infamous officers were disappointed with the local nawabs, because they had not been able to stop the historic welcome accorded to Badshah Khan a few months earlier.

So they thought up a new scheme to create hostility between the Hindus and the Mulsims, a base and monstrous scheme that was aimed at destroying the effect of Badshah Khan’s tour and ruining the reputation of the nationalist movement.(Contd. On p.116)

Siasm, and the action of the Deputy Commissioner could not stop that.

There was a stream that ran from the nearby villages into the town. Malik Akbar Ali Khan God bless him managed to bring food supplies as well as cattle fodder into the town by means of this stream, and he was able to make arrangemes for the protection of the supplies too. Consequently the people of Bannu did not have to face starvation, and human as well as animal live were saved.

(Contd. From p.115)

They send for Meherban Khan and asked him to hire a few men who, at the Deputy Commissioner’s signal, would go to Dera Ismail Khan, dressed in the red shirt of the Khudai Khidmatgars. As soon as they arrived in the town they would start to behave in a conspicuously disorderly manner, cause damage to property and beat up people. Of course people would take them for Khudai Khidmatgars and they would say that the movement would turn against it.

It looked as if they were going to succeed, for the local nawabs, Khans, and noblemen joined Meherban Khan in this disgraceful and cunning conspiracy. Fries ware started in the streets and market places of Dera Ismail Khan, shops and houses were burnt down. Some Hindus and Muslims were beaten up. Soon this Government instigated trouble spread to other towns and villages. All Dera Ismail Khan went on strike. Everywhere people felt depressed and disillusioned.

Then Badshah Khan came to Dera Ismail Khan again and this noble and sincere man succeeded in pacifying the Hindus and the Muslims. People felt relief again and everybody looked forward to a lasting peace, when the noblemen, instructed by Mr. Noel, interfered again, and spoiled all Badshah Khan’s good work.

A few days later the Chief Commissioner arrived and the threatened the people and put such fear into them, that they gave up strike and stopped the hostilities.

Both the Hindus and the Muslims had made one great mistake.(Contd. On p.117)

We are greatly indebted to the late Malik Ali Akbar Khan, for it was because of his daring that the Deputy Commissioner’s shameful and inhuman scheme did not succeed, and he was obliged to lift the siege.

 

(Contd. From p.116)

They had listened to the British, who were responsible for all the trouble and the destruction, but they had not heeded the words of the angels of peace and reconciliation. They had allowed the British to fill their hearts with hatred, and some of it lay smoldering for several years, and then flared up again, when hostilities broke out in 1938.

But in the villages a sense of solidarity and brotherhood prevailed and during the terrible upheaval in 1947 the honour and the property and during the terrible upheaval in 1947 the honour and the property of both Hindus and Muslim were safeguarded wherever there were Khudai Khidmatgars in Dera Ismail Khan district.

 

[1] In those days the nationalist movement in Dera Ismail Khan was also very strong, and it was arousing great interest in the surrounding villages. In many places, such as Tank, Kulachi, Gulaman, Gulbazaar and Panpali, people were enthusiastically joining the movement. In the towns of Dera Ismail Khan, Mardan, Attock, etc. Women and children were organizing processions, One day a very long and splendid procession was winding its way through the market places and balances of the town when the Inspector General of Places and bylanes of the town when the inspector General of Police, Mr. Isemonger, ordered the procession to disperse.

 When the women refused to do this, he became very angry. He took out his revolver and aimed it at the crowd. Suddenly a young Sikh, Bhagwan Singh,, Jumped at Mr. Isemonger, caught him by the hand in which he was holding the revolver and said:

                “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, wanting to shoot at women?”

                The Inspector General’s hand began to tremble, the revolver fell to the ground, and, completely unnerved, he ran away towards the dak bugalwo. A soldier picked up the revolver.

                The Government’s revenge on Bhagwan Sigh’s act of gallantry came in August 1931, when he was falsely accused of having committed murder, However, after having spent a considerable time in various prisons, he had to be released for lack of evidence.

                In 1931m the Deputy Commissioner of Dera Ismail Khan was col. Noel, as cunning an Englishman as the famous Col. Lawrence some3how he had found out that Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who had just completed a tour of the districts of Kohat and Bannu, was on his way to Dera Ismail Khan. He did not want Badshah Khan to be given any sort of reception, neither did he want Badshah Khan to be given any sort of reception, neither did he want his tour to be successful, so he tried to enlist the help of some of his loyal and usted nawabs and noblemen to sabotage any such program. (Contd. On p.115)

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