Anil Nauriya, Against The Dying of The Light: Frontier Gandhi, Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988)

Against The Dying of The Light: Bharat Ratna Frontier Gandhi, Badshah Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988). This note is being circulated for the attention of the Presidential candidates in the forthcoming elections for the offices of President and Vice President of India and the electoral college in this election.

Recently, taking advantage of Covid lockdowns, the Haryana Government renamed Badshah Khan Hospital in Haryana after Atal Behari Vajpayee. This was done although the Frontier Gandhi, Badshah Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988), was, apart from other things, a recipient of the Bharat Ratna. He was the only non-citizen apart from Nelson Mandela, to receive the Bharat Ratna. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan went to prison in 1919 in the agitation against the Rowlatt Act in 1919 as did his 90-year old father Behram Khan in the same agitation. This was at a time when Atal Behari Vajpayee had not even been born.Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was not merely an NWFP figure; he was, as this note shows, an all-India leader and an iconic personality of the entire subcontinent who suffered long years of imprisonment both in British Indian jails and, after 1947, in Pakistan as well.

The troubling development in Faridabad is significant for the contempt that it shows towards our composite culture. It is part of a pattern of attacks in recent decades on India’s freedom movement and its highest values. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru have been targeted by majoritarian sectarian elements and the tirade against them has continued relentlessly. At a provincial and district level too there have been attempts to erase the memory of India’s freedom struggle and its leading figures. Sometime back, in Uttar Pradesh there was an attempt in Gorakhpur to rename a Park that memorialises Vindhyvasini Prasad Verma, an eminent lawyer who had been associated with Mahatma Gandhi since the days of the Champaran struggle of 1917 and had organised in Gorakhpur the protest against the Rowlatt legislation in 1919.

There have been similar attempts even in Bihar to erase the memory of stalwarts like Mazharul Haque and Syed Mahmud as, for instance, in Chhapra, where chowks named after them have been sought to be renamed. It is not difficult to see what is being aimed at by the present dispensation. They seek to erase memories of a struggle for freedom in which their participation was marked mainly by its absence.

They thus seek to ensure that these memories are not passed on to the future generations. Such attempts are evidently guided by their desire to impose a sectarian vision on the concept of India. The communal-sectarian vision they seek to advance is contrary to the spirit and experience of India’s freedom struggle and to the values embodied in the Constitution and its Basic Structure….


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