Protest Againts Rowlatt Act And First Inprisonment
In December 1915 my second son, Wali, was born. My eldest son Ghani was about three years old then.
After the First World War an epidemic of influenza raged all over India. My children lost their mother in this epidemic. It happened in a very strange way.
She was in perfect health, but my son Ghani had been struck down by the epidemic, and he was seriously ill. He was unconscious and we had given up hope of his recovery.
It was the time of the evening prayer and I was sitting on my prayer mat. I had finished my namaz and was praying for God’s blessings. My son was lying on a cot in front of me. His mother came into the room and walked round the cot. Then she stood at the head of the bed. Tears were streaming down her face as she raised her hands towards heaven and jumble began to pray:
“Oh lord, take this illness away from my innocent child and led me suffer in his place. Make him well, Oh Lord, and let me be ill in his stead.”
And behold, how wonderful are the ways of the Al-mighty!
We passed the night somehow. In the morning Ghani slowly began to recover, but his mother became ill. When Ghani finally recovered, his mother passed away.
When in 1918 the first World war came to an end, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. But our troubles were by on means over.
In 1919 the agitation over the Rowlatt Act began, and I also took part in it.
A protest meeting against the Rowlatt Act, which was held in our village, was attended by over 100,000 people. The meeting put a new hope in the hearts of the Pathans.
One day a protest meeting was to be held at Tahekal, a locality, near Islamia college, Peshwar, and I was on my way to attend the meeting when I learned that the British had started the war with Afghanistan and the king of Afghanistan was known to be sympathetic towards the Indian freedom movement.
To escape the martial law made us rather nervous, I and a few of my companions left for Mohmand, from where we intended to go to Afghanistan. When we arrived arrived at Mohmand after an arduous journey, I found that my father had followed us. He forbade us to go Afghanistan, and instead took us to his agricultural farm at Mohmand Nari, Where we remained in hiding. We visited our homes only at night.
The police, however, found out where we were and they came and arrested me. They took me to Mardan and put me in prison. The following day I was brought before the Superintendent of police, who gave orders to put me in fetters. But when they took me back they found that there were no fetters large enough for my feet. But the prison authorities were too afraid of the British not to obey the order. So they forced my feet into a pair of fetters that were too small for me and put me in a motorcar. Accompanied by the Superintendent of Police and the Assistant Commissioner of Mardan I was taken to Peshawar. There I was produced before the chief Superintendent of Police and, then taken to the cantonment lock-up for the night. The fetters they had put on me were so tight that I could hardly walk. The skin was rubbed off my feet and they were bleeding.
The next morning a Police Inspector an Afridi came to my cell and said: “come along, you hace to appear before the court.”
I said: “My feet are hurting, I can’t walk.”
This annoyed him and he shouted: “Your were able to walk to your meeting all right, weren’t you, but now you can’t walk to the court!”
I realized it was no use arguing with him, so I firmly said: “I will not be able to walk. If you bring a Tonga Pll go with you, but I cannot go on foot!”
Then the inspector brought a Tonga and I was taken to the court. I was told to sit outside the court-room and wait for my turn, as another prisoner was being dealt with just then. This was a man from my village. He had cut some telegraph wires and for this crime he had been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. He had been brought to court that day with a special purpose. He had been asked to give evidence that he had cut the telegraph wirse at my instigation, and as a reward for gibing this fabricated evidence he had been promised remission of his two-year sentence. But the man had refused to oblige.
When I was taken into the court-room, there were three Britishers in the court instead of the customary one. They began to interrogate me. But what could I reply? All I had done at the meetings was to agree with all the resolutions that were adopted.
One of the Britishers asked me: “Is it not true that you consort with people who are against the Government?”
I replied: “The people I move about with are all your own loyal Khans and Maliks.”
When the questions were over they sent me out, while they decided what to do with me.
Actually, the then Chief Commissioner, Sir George Roos Keppel, had a great liking and sympathy for the Pathans. Because he was the chief administrator of the martial law, he ha the power to restrict suppression to a minimum.
After an hour’s waiting I was taken back to the prison and put in the same barracks where many other Pathans were kept.
One day, quite unexpectedly and to my great surprise, my feeble old father, accompanied by some friends and relations, arrived, he was extremely happy to find me alive, for he had heard rumours that I had been hanged. My father told me that army troops had gone to Utmanzai and surrounded the village. They had collected all the villagers in the school compound and told them to sit down. Then they mounted the guns they had brought and made a great show of loading them. The people naturally thought they were all going to be blown up and they began to say their prayers.
However, not a shot was fired. But the people had all been frightened to death. And that had been sole aim and purpose of this British trick.
The troops had also looted the village and one Britisher had taken away a hunting knife from our home.
The Deputy Commissioner imposed a collective fine of Rs. 30,000 an the villagers. Several of the Khans in my village had already been sent to prison. But there was one Khan, Mohammed Omar Khan, Who was working hand in glove with the British Government and the police. Now both the police and Mohammed Omar Khan tyrannized the people till they had collected over Rs 100,000. And they kept 150 People as hostages till the last rupee was paid, and even after the fine had been collected they kept 100 men in prison.
At that time the police were making a tremendous effort to prove that I was connected with the disturbances in Afghanistan. They had even briefed a man called Ahmed Ustad to give evidence against me. But they did not succeed, because Sir Georfe Roos Keppel did not want to start a case against me.
My prison sentence came to an end after six months. I can endure personal misfortune and difficulties and face them bravely. But all these events did great harm to my people, because from now on the Pathans were deeply involved in politics.
I have, until now, experienced martial law twice. The first time was in 1919, when it was imposed by the British. The second time was in 1958, after Pakistan had been created.
Let us take a brief look at both the martial laws, and how they were administered, so that we may get an idea of the different methods employed by these two Governments.
When the British imposed martial law, they were on the one hand involved in a war in Afghanistan, and on the other they had to deal with the growing disturbances and the violent agitation in our country. To ensure peace and quiet and the smooth running of their administration the British could see no other way but to impose martial law. But it was imposed for only tow or three months.
In Pakistan there was peace and quiet. The administration judiciary and public order were running normally when suddenly martial law was imposed. The purpose was to force upon the country a government of a few individual, to deprive the people of their democratic rights and to obstruct the election. The country was under martial law for four years.
Judging by results, the two martial laws had one specific and important point in common.
The British martial law made it clear to the Indian people that the time had come to throw off the yoke of foreign rule. Sp they intensified their struggle for freedom and in the end the British had to give us our independence and leave the country.
In Pakistan, too, that martial law has made people aware that their Government was not a representative Government, but it was, imposed upon them by tyranny and oppression.
The British could not permanently establish their rule by the use of force and oppression and neither will the Pakistani rulers be able to do so. Their rule will come to an end once day, like British Rule came to an end.
Why were we Arrested
When I Came out of prison, I noticed a new zeal gathered, whether for celebrations or sorrow, the conversation always focused on the country and the people, they no longer lived in fear, there was a new awakening and enthusiasm. The Khilafat movement had also started with great force and clamour.
The Indians as a people have a peculiar tendency to take a greater interest in other countries than their own. If the Indian Muslims had taken as much interest in their own national movement as they took in the Khilafat movement, they would not have lagged behind Khilafat movement, they would not have logged behind the other communities of the world.
On the other hand, the Khilafat movement also did the Indian Muslims a great deal of good, for it made them more organizes. Not only in the towns, but even in the villages Khilafat centers were founded. The only regrettable thing was that they could not keep their organization going. People had not yet learned how to run their organizations and how to make them strong and firm. And as long as people have not learnt that, no country can hope to create and maintain any kind of order.
The question arises how people can be taught this. I think two things are essential. In the first place, people must have the right way. Secondly, they need the right kind of leaders to guide them, to carry the torch of their faith, their religion, and their ideal,
God has sent many great messengers into this world and India has been especially blessed by His bounty. But, remember, if there were not the love of God and His messenger devoted themselves to service, the messenger could not have carried out his mission successfully.
Religion is also a movement. If selfless, undemanding and holy men and women join this movement and dedicate themselves to the service of their country and their people, this movement is bound to be successful. Such people will be a blessing to mankind. Through their contribution their country and their people will flourish and prosper.
When I came out of prison my parents, who wanted me to marry again had arranged my betrothal and the marriage was to take place soon. With a friend of mine, Abbas Khan, I left for Peshawar to do some shopping. When we reached Sardaryab, the police were waiting for us by the bridge. They arrested both of us but form there our case was referred to Peshawar. In Peshawar we were taken straight to the bungalow of Mr. Short, the chief G.I.D officer. We were made to stand on the road outside the bungalow while the police officer who had accompanied us, went in to report our arrival.
By the evening we were still standing there. It was December and, therefore, very could Mr. Short was sitting comfortably by the fire but he left us standing outside in the cold night,
My fried Abbad Khan asked me: “Why were we arrested? What have we done? And what shall we say when we appear before the officer?”
I said: “Answer every question truthfully. Be careful, but do not tell any lies”
It was late in the night when at last Abbas’ name was called out, and he was taken inside. Then I was also brought before Mr. Short.
Mr. Short was notorious for being a very harsh man. It appeared that there had been a bomb incident in Nowshera and it was in this connection that Abbas and I had been arrested. Mr short began to ask me questions and I replied, loudly and clearly.
“Speak softly!” short.
So I gave my next reply in a soft, gentle voice.
“Speak up!” shouted Mr. Short.
I said: “When I speak loudly you ask me to speak softly, and when I do you want me to speak up! Would you kindly tell me exactly in what manner you wish me to address you?”
I could see that this made him very angry, but he did not say anything to me. He only called the policeman and handed me over to him. The policeman took me away and put me in the lock-up at sadar police station. Nobody thought of giving me anything to eat and I spent a hungry night there. Abbas Khan had been put in a lock-up at another police station.
The nigh was very cold, and so was bare. Some stinking, half-rotten, lice-redden blankets were lying on the floor. It made me sick just to look at them. But it was bitterly cold. I had no alternative but to cover myself with those dirty rages. When I woke up in to morning my clothes were full of lice. I sighed and began to pick them off one by one.
I was kept in this cell for a week and then I was taken to Mr. Short again, who then gave order for my release. I asked him: “May I know why I was arrested? And why I was kept here for a week?”
He said: “I was making enquiries.”
I asked again: “Could you not have made enquiries before first or make the arrest first.”
I said: “But I am a human being after all. Did you not think of my position? There was no reason to put me to all this inconvenience. I wasn’t going to run away. If your enquiries me.”
“What do you mean by your Position?” he said harshly.
I simply said: “Very well.” And left the room. Then I returned to my village.