Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan(1890 – Forever)
He was a Pashtun (Pathan) political and spiritual leader known for his non-violent opposition to British Rule in India. A lifelong pacifist, a devout Muslim,and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he was also known as Badshah Khan (also Bacha Khan “King Khan”), and Sarhaddi Gandhi (“Frontier Gandhi”). In 1985 he was nominated for the Nobel peace prize.
In response to his inability to continue his own education, Ghaffar Khan turned to helping others start theirs. The oppression of the British, the repression of the mullahs, and an ancient culture of violence and vendetta prompted Ghaffar to want to serve and uplift his fellow men and women by means of education. At 20 years of age, Ghaffar opened his first school in Utmanzai. It was an instant success and he was soon invited into a larger circle of progressively minded reformers. While he faced much opposition and personal difficulties, Ghaffar Khan worked tirelessly to organize and raise the consciousness of his fellow Pushtuns. Between 1915 and 1918 he visited every one of the 500 settled districts of the Frontier. It was in this frenzied activity that he had come to be known as Badshah (Bacha) Khan (King of Chiefs).
In time, Ghaffar Khan’s goal came to be the formulation of a united, independent, secular India. To achieve this end, he founded the Khudai Khidmatgar (“Servants of God”), commonly known as the “Red Shirts” (Surkh Posh), during the 1920s.
The Khudai Khidmatgar was founded on a belief in the power of Gandhi’s notion of Satyagraha, a form of active non-violence as captured in an oath. He told its members:
“I am going to give you such a weapon that the police and the army will not be able to stand against it. It is the weapon of the Prophet, but you are not aware of it. That weapon is patience and righteousness. No power on earth can stand against it.”
Ghaffar Khan forged a close, spiritual, and uninhibited friendship with Mahatma Gandhi, the pioneer of non-violent mass civil disobedience in India. The two had a deep admiration towards each other and worked together closely till 1947. The Khudai Khidmatgar agitated and worked cohesively with the Indian National Congress, the leading national organization fighting for freedom, of which Ghaffar Khan was a senior and respected member. On several occasions when the Congress seemed to disagree with Gandhi on policy, Ghaffar Khan remained his staunchest ally. In 1931 the Congress offered him the presidency of the party, but he refused saying, “I am a simple soldier and Khudai Khidmatgar, and I only want to serve.”
Ghaffar Khan was a champion of women’s rights and nonviolence. He became a hero in a society dominated by violence; notwithstanding his liberal views, his unswerving faith and obvious bravery led to immense respect. Throughout his life, he never lost faith in his non-violent methods or in the compatibility of Islam and nonviolence. He viewed his struggle as a jihad with only the enemy holding swords. He was closely identified with Gandhi and he is known in India as the `Frontier Gandhi’.
A Collection By Chetan