Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, India's "Frontier
Talks to Kavita
I had the pleasure of interviewing Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan
while visiting Kashmir on vacation. Badhshah Khan or Frontier
Gandhi as he was fondly known, was in Kashmir for medical
treatment, and was gracious enough to tolerate my feeble attempts
at urdu as well as my youth. His deep voice still resonates
in my ears, his sweetness and warmth, still fresh in my mind.
This interview was the only one he gave to the media as his
visit had been kept confidential for security reasons. Here
are some excerpts.
fighter and friend of India, Badshah Khan belongs to the dying
breed of patriots. For him, all the decades of the country’s
freedom have achieved nothing. Politicians still lust after
power while the masses remain steeped in misery. I sit next
to Badshah Khan’s specially built seven-foot bed listening,
in a neat hospital room with tight security arrangements.
He looks every inch a pathan, still very alert for a man past
90, full of sincerity and affection.
has your trip been so far?
Your President is a very impressive man—one of the most
sincere men that I have come across. Recently when I met him,
he said to me, ‘Baba, when you recover, you must come
and stay with me.’ I laughed and said, ‘I’m
just a faqir’ Do you know what he said in reply? In
all humility, he said, ‘Even I’m a poor farmer,
Baba.’ I was deeply touched by that because he really
meant it. It was a wonderful thing to see the President of
a country so full of humility; that is a rare quality in someone
who is in such a high position.
is wrong with Indian politics?
Remove the poverty here—poverty is the worst thing that
could happen to anyone; aur is desh mein aurton ki izzat
mehfooz nahin hain (the woman are not safe in this country)—you
must do something in that direction. But then I was told by
people that it is some of the Parliament members and political
big-wigs who were the lawbreakers. And if they are thrown
out, the strength of the party will diminish.
has become such a dirty game. Unless you give birth to a tribe
of self-less, self-sacrificing people, things are not going
to change. Take me—Jinnah mere piche bhagtha rahta
tha, ‘Baba, what do you want? Join us. Take power
in your hands.’ But I refused-I have no desire for power
or money or status.
for the political climate in the country, I have no hope at
all, nor do I see a ray of light as far as men or political
set-up goes. Now it is the women and the young people I have
turned to for emancipation. The biggest problem with today’s
politicians is that apart from their obsession with power
and money, they are busy poking their nose in the affair of
others. I say stop worrying about philosophies and military
regime—worry about your country.
thing that hurt me deeply is the religious fanaticism of the
people for their own advantage. If you read the holy book
of any religion you will see that not a single religion advocates
violence or religious fanaticism. It is something that has
not been erased by any of the political leaders of India so
far. Come to the NWFP and see how we have succeeded in erasing
all the vices that are prevalent here. Some years ago Nehru
had come there to us and he was greatly impressed when he
saw a Sikh saying Allah-o-Akbar and a Muslim saying
Sat-Sri-Akal in a procession taken out in his honor.
The people of NWFP have been able to imbibe the essence of
religion, to understand that God is one.”
you see any difference in the India of Nehru and the India
of Indira Gandhi?
None whatsoever. Tell me, it has been years since India gained
independence; what have you achieved? China got independence
after you and see where it is now.
had begged Gandhi to take the reigns of power in his hands,
for sometime, stabilize the conditions and then relinquish
it in the hands of a worthy successor. But he did not listen
to me. Both Nehru and Gandhi were greatly influenced by Patel.
I think the greatest mistake Nehru made was to take Patel
in his cabinet. And what is the consequence? Nehru was a socialist
but it is Patel’s capitalism that is deeply rooted in
India at present.
to the India of Indira, the Congress alleges that whatever
had been achieved was undone by the Janata Party. It is very
easy to criticize. However I only have this to say,Congress
is not Janata; therefore it should not make the same mistakes
that the Janata Party made. Indira was always a very able
woman, a very courageous woman. I have seen her growing up
before my eyes and I don’t think anyone can judge her
better than I can. I wonder if the people around were equally
the leaders of the subcontinent you stood head and shoulders
above the rest and not just literally. But you served the
cause of humanity by self-sacrifice. If you had become the
head of state of a country don’t you think you could
have influenced people more both by your personal example
as well as a stable way of thinking?
Did they give me a chance? I was betrayed. I wanted the NWFP
to be an independent province but when I asserted my wish,
they put me in jail and while I was in jail, they passed a
referendum asking the NWFP people if they wanted to be in
Pakistan or India. They opted for the former but as far as
I was concerned, I just didn’t matter. They forgot all
that I had done. That callousness was unforgivable. Where
was the desire then to take power in my hands? Besides I was
happy serving the people in my own humble way.
political future do you see for Pakistan?
What is there to see? We are not allowed to take out processions
or give our views openly, as you know. I was asked to edit
a newspaper but the government wouldn’t allow me.
is the future of the Pahktoons in Pakistan?
I have no news whatsoever, no letters, nothing. All I know
is that there is still a lot of fighting going on. They haven’t
been able to contact me.
your message to the masses?
Make love your religion—it is your primary duty to erase
violence and religious fanaticism. Solve the Kashmir issue.
I’m sad to see the friction in Kashmir. And as long
as I am alive, I’m there to serve humanity. I am and
always will be your humble khidmatgar.
� Copyright Kavita Chhibber