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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Socio-educational reform movements in NWFP A case study of Anjuman-i-Islahul Afaghina - II

Socio-educational reform movements in NWFP A case study of Anjuman-i-Islahul Afaghina - II
Dr Abdul Rauf

Khuda’i Kidmatgars and Azad High School The faction led by Abdul Ghaffar Khan laid more stress on the political expediency and thus the reform movement which was launched to gradually educate and socially reform the Pakhtun community came to be riddled with agitational and revolutionary politics. While the results of the latter might have taken some time to fully reveal themselves, the outcome of the former soon gripped the entire movement. During the same period, several revolutionary youth organizations like Naujawanan-i-Bharat Sabha made their appearance and in some cases, even British officials were also physically attacked, killed and wounded. In NWFP, the need for the formation of an organization which could use the potential of the Pakhtun youths, particularly that of the rural areas, who constituted the majority population of the province, was also felt. A conference for this purpose was held on September 1, 1929 which was presided over by Khushal Khan of Bariqab and after extensive deliberations Da Zalmo Jirga, a Youth League, was formed. Abdul Akbar Khan and Mian Ahmad Shah were appointed its president and general secretary, respectively. The organization ostensibly adopted the creed of non-violence. Its banner displayed a “hammer and sickle”, on the communist pattern. This pattern of the flag was, however, soon discarded in order to dispel the possibility of the wrong impression that the Youth League was a Russia-inspired body. For the establishment of its units in the whole province, the Jirga visited Tal, Hangu, Bannu and D.I. Khan, highlighted the poor condition of the community and emphasized the need for an organization to reform the society. In January 1930, a meeting was held in Utmanzai. To carry out the practicable programme of the reformation of society in the villages a volunteers corps was needed. Several people presented themselves for the task. These volunteers were named the Khuda’i Khidmatgars (the Servants of God), and they worked under the supervision of the Youth League. These volunteers were bound by an oath of discipline to follow and enforce the organization’s policy as determined by the high command. The oath was as follows: I am a Khuda’i Khidmatgar and as God needs no service, but serving his creation is serving Him, I promise to serve humanity in the name of God. I promise to refrain from violence and from taking revenge. I promise to forgive those who oppress me or treat me with cruelty. I promise to refrain from taking part in feuds and quarrels and from creating enmity. I promise to treat every Pathan as my brother and friend. 1 promise to refrain from antisocial customs and practices. I promise to live a simple life, to practice virtue and to refrain from evil. I promise to practise good manners and good behaviour and not to lead a life of idleness. I promise to devote at least two hours a day to social work. The members of the organization considered it a religious movement launched for the advancement of religion and that they were serving religion by being members of this organization. According to common practice in those days, it was thought necessary that these volunteers should have a separate uniform. As the white colour was not suitable for manual work it was decided that all volunteers would dye their shirts, trousers and turbans in chocolate colour which was misrepresented as red in the British official records and the organization was quickly dubbed as “the Red Shirts”. The British administration was quick to connect it with the “Red Menace”, which had already occupied British minds as the Red Communists’ movement in Russia. Sarfaraz Khan was appointed the president and Rab Nawaz as Salar (commander) of the organization. These volunteers were asked to drill in military style. They occasionally accompanied, Abdul Ghaffar Khan in uniform to inspire the people to enlist themselves in the organization. By the end of March 1930 the number of volunteers enrolled in the Charsaddah sub-division was reported to be between 2,000 and 2,500. In the beginning of 1930s the activities of the leaders of the Anjuman-i-Islahul Afaghina came to be dominated by their involvement in the Khuda’i Khidmatgar movement and thus the Anjuman eventually came to be transformed into the Red Shirt movement. Throughout April 1930 the process of touring and enlisting the volunteers continued. During these meetings Pushto poetry was recited which depicted the glories of the country before the arrival of the British, who brought misery and disunity. The poetry of Khan Mir Hilali, Mahmud Makhfi, Abdul Khaliq Khaleeq, Abdul Akbar Khan Akbar, Tursam, Fazl-i-Wahid Mulla, Amir Nawaz Jalya, Gul Ahmad and Khadim Muhammad Akbar aroused the national feelings of the people very much. On April 23, Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his colleagues Abdul Akbar Khan, Hajji Shah Nawaz, Mian Ahmad Shah and Sarfaraz Khan were arrested in Nahaqi near Peshawar under section 40 F.C.R. and sent to jail. All refused to furnish a bond for their release except Hajji Shah Nawaz, who on his release was treated by his community with such contempt that he committed suicide. After the arrest of the leaders, a meeting of the Youth League was held on April 27, 1930, in which Khushal Khan of Bariqab and Qaim Shah were elected president and secretary of the League, respectively. An intensive campaign followed the arrest of the aforementioned leaders and the simultaneous incident that occurred in Peshawar city on April 23, in which several people were killed, resulted in the rapid spread of disaffection throughout Peshawar district and the adjacent areas. Every effort was made to expand the organization of the Youth League and to increase the number of its volunteers. Laws of the British Government were defied by holding public meetings and payment of revenue was withheld to inflict financial losses on the government. In some instances telegraph wires were also cut down. The villagers were instructed to abstain from reporting cases to the police and instead refer them to the Jirgas of the Youth League. The accused were brought before Jirgas for trial and if found guilty punishments were awarded to them according to the laws of the Shari‘ah. Sometimes the criminals were rewarded for surrendering themselves for punishment under the Shari‘ah. Consequently, the Government declared the Youth League an unlawful association on May 13, 1930. The leaders of the organization, however, continued their activities by working in secret and avoiding any overt act that would force the authorities to take action against them and thus effectively remove them from the political arena. Thus they succeeded in keeping alive the organization. The Khuda’i Khidmatgars affiliated themselves with the Indian National Congress in August 1931, after taking assurances of maintaining its separate identity by retaining their constitution, rules and programme and the distinctive name of their party. However, the common people henceforth looked at it as an offshoot of the Indian National Congress. Visit of the Indian Leaders to the Azad School The efforts of the school were appreciated by Maulana Zafar Ali Khan in 1927 but other Muslim leaders neither appreciated nor visited the Azad School. It was the Indian Congress leaders Nehru and Gandhi, who not only visited the institution but also assured it of their supports. In 1938, Mr. Nehru visited the Azad School. According to Jehanzeb Niyaz, a student of the school at that time, Mr. Nehru along with Bacha Khan was welcomed by the students at the corner of the road decorated with flags etc. The students were allowed to chant only three slogans, Hindustan Azad (freedom to India), Fakhr-i-Afghan Zindabad (Long live the Pride of the Afghans, a title given to Bacha Khan by the people), and Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great). After the guests were seated on the stage, a school teacher, Fazl Karim, recited his Urdu poem in which he described the pathetic conditions of the school building, welcomed Nehru, wished independence for the country and prayed for Nehru to become the first prime minister of India. Nehru in his speech discussed the Indian situation and eulogized the people for their struggle for the independence of their country. Bacha Khan also spoke on the occasion. The visit of Mr. Nehru was followed by Gandhi’s visit from May 1 to 8, 1938 to the province. He also visited the School along with Bacha Khan. After getting a warm welcome from the students and teachers, Gandhi spoke appreciatively of the efforts of Bacha Khan for training the youth of the nation. He said he expected this generation to excel in each and every field of life. He donated Rs.500 from his ashram to the students. A part of this sum was allocated for scholarships while the rest of it was used to entertain the students with sweets. According to Jehanzeb Niyaz, such visits boosted the morale of the youth and created self-confidence among them. It is noteworthy that Pakhtuns attached great importance to the people who visited them in their homes and usually did not turn down their requests. Conclusion The formation of the Anjuman-i-Islahul Afaghina was one of the responses of the Pakhtuns to the local, national and international socio-economic and political conditions. No doubt, the efforts started in the beginning of the century were the extension of the thought of Shah Waliullah as reflected in the ideas of the ulema of Deoband. However, a local touch was given to these efforts in the shape of Anjuman-i-Islahul Afaghina keeping in view the realities of the area. Activities relating to the spread of education and cleansing of society of unwanted social evils demanded an apolitical leadership. In fact, restraint from politics is one of the prerequisite for all work of social uplift of a society. In the early days of the Anjuman, the leadership successfully carried forward its objective of educating the most uneducated community of the subcontinent. In the words of Jehanzeb Niyaz, “Bacha Khan’s movement was not very much political. A large part of it was reformative, that is why this movement was named lslahul Afaghina.” Gradually, however, the Anjuman lost its apolitical identity and became a politically inspired movement, which proved a death knell for its existence. The Anjuman did not succeed in achieving its objective of the development of an indigenous educational system parallel to the British system of education. The skilled and trained personnel needed for such a task could never be gathered and consequently, despite its initial successes, the Anjuman-i-Islahul Afaghina could not reach anywhere near the achievements of Aligarh, Deoband and Nadwa as far as establishing its distinction in the domain of higher education was concerned. Even the very limited number of visionary leaders like Nasrullah Jan, Ahmad Shah, Makhfi and others were eventually dominated by those who attracted more to the political expediencies of the time. Nevertheless, the Anjuman provided a unique opportunity to the Pakhtuns of knowing how to achieve an objective through collective efforts. This organizational expertise was later on used for political mobilization also. People became active in the freedom movement led by Bacha Khan and otherwise also. All those people who supported the struggle for Pakistan were influenced directly or indirectly by the political consciousness created by the independent schools established by the Anjuman. The post-independence politics in Pakistan showed little independent decisions by the voters; however, the Pakhtuns as an ethnic group showed more maturity and independence in taking their decisions in the elections. The people of the province proved politically more aware than their compatriots in other parts of Pakistan. In elections little blame of rigging has ever been reported from NWFP as compared to other areas of Pakistan. This difference in political thinking in a more democratic way is the direct outcome of the awareness started in 1920s in this area through the socio-educational reformative movement of the Anjuman. Teachers employed in the schools run by the Anjuman were mainly those who left their studies in different colleges during Khilafat movement. They taught in these schools on nominal salaries or even without pay. They were not well trained. No doubt, these young teachers served well but for how long could they have engaged in these schools with negligible or no remuneration. On the other hand, the financial constraints of the Anjuman did not allow it to hire highly qualified and trained teachers. In the later stage, semi-skilled teachers in the schools hardly attracted good students. The donations and sponsorship of the Anjuman was badly affected after some of the leaders left the Anjuman. For example, Abbas Khan was a regular donor of Rs.500 per annum but he left the Anjuman after differences with Abdul Ghaffar Khan and stopped his financial assistance. The Anjuman was ostensibly apolitical and no doubt it was successful in achieving its objectives to some extent. But the plea of the leaders particularly Abdul Ghaffar Khan that the British rule was the cause of all miseries of the Pakhtuns was a simple explanation to a very complex social phenomenon. Such syllogisms did provide direction to the energies of people to strive for independence from the British, but as this hypothesis was not correct the Pakhtun society even after the departure of the British still continued to be afflicted with the same evils as it suffered during the British rule. The reformation of a society calls for a far more serious attention than the Anjuman’s leadership was prepared to quit it. The Anjuman with the passage of time tilted to Pakhtun ethnocentrism and nationalism. The interaction of some of its leaders particularly Abdul Ghaffar Khan with Indian National Congress diverted the Anjuman from the task of social and educational reformation to political mobilization against the British in coalition with the Congress. This development caused a rift among the top leadership of the Anjuman. In the late 1920s Indian political scene was dominated by agitational politics. The Shuddi and Sanghtan movements, Sarda Act, Rajpal Case, Cripps Mission, Nehru Report and reaction of Muslims thereto, Jinnah’s 14 Points, the British reluctance to extend reforms to NWFP, Indian National Congress’ declaration of independence in its Lahore Session and the subsequent civil disobedience movements of Congress all affected the minds and actions of the leaders of the Anjuman. The constantly inculcated longing for freedom since 1921 among the students of the schools and others now found a suitable occasion in rising against the British. The involvement of some of the leaders of Anjuman in politics thus stopped the growth and development of the Anjuman, particularly in the field of education and thus, set the Anjuman on a downward slide and finally after the establishment of Frontier Youth League and Khuda’i Khidmatgar Party in 1930, all its activities came to a stand still. The Khuda’i Khidmatgar movement which was finally affiliated with the Indian National Congress in 1930 was, in a way erected on the debris of the Anjuman. According to Prof. Jahanzeb Niyaz, one of the very famous students of the Azad School, when Dr. Khan Sahib ministry was formed, he issued the orders of the merger of the school into the local government school. Consequently, on one Friday, all the students in white clean uniform came to school, filed up in rows on the basis of seniority and started moving. First of all, the students heralded the Congress flag and another student raised portrait of Bacha Khan and entered in a government school in Utmanzai and hoisted the flag on the school and hang up the portrait of Bacha Khan in the office of the headmaster. And we happily sat on the desks with other students. The growth of the Anjuman’s school system stopped when Bacha Khan instead of sticking strictly to social and educational activities involved himself in politics. The wrath of the British Empire over the politics of Bacha Khan cast its reflection on the school system, which he had started, and the politics of his brother Dr. Khan Sahib ended the school system, which was thought to be producing anti-government students. In the beginning of this century Hashtnagar became a centre of social, educational and political activities and at the end of the century it was considered to be the hub of political change at least in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

The frontier Post.

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