Congress Khassadars

The Light (Pakistan), 8th June 1937 Issue (Vol. 16, No. 22, pp. 3–4)

Sardar Aurangzeb Khan’s communication, elsewhere in this issue, replying to ungenerous flings on Nawab Sir Abdul Qayyum, the Frontier Premier, by a Congressite Muslim young man, gives us some sad musings on the Red Shirt Movement [a social reform movement] which once promised to be a great movement. We hold no brief for Sahibzada Sir Abdul Qayyum. But we consider the flings unfair to a man who, whatever his human frailties, has literally grown grey in the service of the Pathans. The Sahibzada started his career of public service when our young friend was not yet born. The worst that can be said against him is that he has been in the good books of the British Government. That is perfectly true. But it is equally true that he has, in season and out of season, exploited that influence with the Government for the advancement of the Pathans. He has given the Pathans an institution, a monumental achievement, to shut eyes to which seems to us the height of ingratitude. He has done for the Pathans exactly what the late Sir Syed Ahmad did for the Muslim community as a whole and what Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya has done for the Hindu community. No Hindu in any part of India would dare utter one word against Pandit Malaviya, whether a Congressite or non-Congressite. But this young gentleman, in a moment of elation at his victory at the polls perhaps, had the heart to say unkind things of a man to whom the Pathans owe so much. And the gentleman is himself the product of the institution which the Sahibzada, as his worst opponents would concede, has fostered with right paternal care! Even in the field of politics, who can honestly deny his incessant, though less spectacular, work long before the Red Shirt Movement appeared on the stage? He missed no opportunity to advance the political status of the Province and his advocacy of that cause on the floor of the Assembly and before numerous committees, commissions and finally at the Round Table Conferences—all this, remember, without a gallery to look upon his exploits and applaud him—should certainly entitle him to a soft corner in a Pathan’s heart who is not altogether lost to all sense of gratitude. But the young Mr. Qayyum, the Sahibzada’s namesake and critic who is yet to make his maiden speech in the Assembly, calls him “reactionary.” This looks like a child sitting on its father’s shoulders and crying in exultation:

“Lo! I am taller than Daddy.”

But all this, as we said, put us to sad musings on the Red Shirt Movement of which Mr. Qayyum is the latest manifestation—a movement once so full of promise but now unwittingly drifting, as we apprehend, into a force of disruption.

We are by no means of those who would dismiss the Red Shirts as mere hooligans and their sufferings in the cause of freedom as carrying no value. It would be neither correct nor fair to deny the contribution they have, in their own way, made towards the freedom movement. In fact, time and again we have advocated in these columns a due recognition of their sacrifices. Among them we have friends for whose sincerity of purpose and devotion we have great respect. It pains us all the more therefore to see the movement drift in directions which, instead of making it the greatest force for the consolidation and advancement of the people have made it the greatest force for disruption.

What is it but disruption that whereas several other Provinces where Muslims have a bare margin of majority have set up stable ministries and have already started on a programme of solid substantial reconstruction, the Frontier Province, which is a predominantly Muslim Province, is still playing fast and loose with the Constitution? This is dissipation of a great opportunity for the amelioration of the lot of the people. And it is a pity that the responsibility for it should lie with a movement which rose in the name of the people.

In the neighbouring Province of the Punjab the Muslims have shown the good sense and practical statesmanship to join hands with Hindus and Sikhs for the good of the Province. But in the Muslim Province of the NWF [North-West Frontier], Muslims have not been able to join hands with Muslims. This is not playing the game. Constitutional government presupposes cooperation, and even the opposition is a form of cooperation. The responsibility for this division again lies with the movement which should have promoted unity and solidarity.

The pity of the whole thing is that instead of putting the good of the people above all else, the Red Shirt leaders have made the lot of the people a mere pawn in the game of the Congress. They may not be conscious of it but this is exactly what it comes to. The mere fact that all their thinking must be done for them either by a Kripalani or a Rajagopalachrya and they must look for their orders to Allahabad rather than consult the good of their own people confirms that contention.

The greatest sin against a people is to divide and sub-divide them among themselves. That is what the Congress has been accusing the British Government of in dealing with the Indian people. The Congress is doing exactly the same with the Musalmans [Muslims]—dividing them into Congress and non-Congress Musalmans. No man who knows anything of the far-reaching results of such wedges into the solidarity of a people, however trivial looking in the beginning, can for a moment brook such liberties with their national solidarity by anybody. Recently when the Congress called upon the country to observe the Frontier Day, the Hindu Sabhas all over India protested against this on the ground that it would lead to a division in the Hindu community, splitting it into pro-Frontier Day and anti-Frontier Day groups. The solidarity of a people is the sole guarantee of their existence. Mahatma Gandhi resented any interference in the untouchables question on the part of outsiders. He considered the Premier’s Award, recognising the separate identity of the untouchables, as the vivisection of the Hindu community and started a fast-unto-death against it. The Frontier Gandhi [Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan] is, however, unwittingly sharpening the Congress knife for the vivisection of the body-politic of Islam.

We have no doubt as to the sincerity of purpose behind the Red Shirt Movement. In its manly stand and suffering in the name of freedom we saw the vision of the coming of a great independent Pathan nation. Sheer lack of brainpower, however, it seems, has, to all intents and purposes, reduced it to the position of subservience to the Congress. The British Government, in order to keep the unruly transborder Pathans in order, maintains a force from among themselves known as the Khassadars. Do our friends, the Red Shirt leaders, realise that the Congress has imposed a somewhat similar role on them? It is up to them to say whether they would behave as Khudai Khidmatgars [“Servants of God” — A Pathan non-violent movement against the British, led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan] and put the good of their people above everything else or whether they would submit to Congress dictation and throw away this opportunity for the amelioration of the lot of the people.