Today we observe the 29th death anniversary of Badshah (Bacha) Khan and remember an unforgettable disciple of non-violence who raised a unique army of around 100,000 soldiers who took an oath to not touch any weapons.
The army’s zeal for freedom, its legacy of heroism, honesty and sincerity, and its display of courage and death-defying fearlessness emanate from a higher consciousness that impels men to sacrifice and uphold causes that are close to their hearts.
The saga of their colossal losses and sacrifices for the honour, glory and freedom of their motherland made them heroes – not only of the hour, but for all times.
These battle-ready heroes and their quiet sacrifices are examples of how to show loyalty to a cause. The splendid mosaic of their lives, thoughts and deeds is remembered in history. Bacha Khan’s philosophy of non-violence is integral to the evolution of man. He used this philosophy as a weapon of truth, love and faith.
Bacha Khan not only demanded discipline from his Khudai Khidmatgar but also displayed it himself. Bacha Khan fostered thousands of Khudai Khidmatgar who showed their utmost readiness to cheerfully suffer the highest forms of punishment and prove the triumph of non-violence to the world.
Anyone who offered to be a Khudai Khidmatgar had to take the following oath: “I shall never use violence, I shall not retaliate or take revenge and shall forgive anyone who indulges in oppression and excesses against me”. Once a Pakhtun took the oath, he committed to it for the rest of his life, no matter what happened. This is what the followers of Bacha Khan have shown in letter and spirit.
The oath they took was not a mere formality. Those who took the oath did not swear allegiance to the Khudai Khidmatgar with certainty, not hope. Faith made it easier for them to take this oath without any reservations. Never in history have people taken an oath to a leader with absolute confidence as the Khudai Khidmatgar did to Badshah Khan.
With enormous joy, they took an oath to a fighter who demonstrated his leadership over decades and chose the right way – even when those who were part of his movement failed to understand why he did. They took an oath to a man whom they knew followed the laws of providence – which he obeyed independently of the influence of earthly powers.
Their loyalty was unbreakable. Thousands were persecuted, maligned and mocked because of their faith in Bacha Khan and many of them sacrificed their lives.
On October 27, 1942, 50 Khudai Khidmatgar were beaten and arrested when Bacha Khan was delivering a speech in Mirwaiz Dheri, Mardan. Bacha Khan was severely beaten by the police. Two of his ribs were broken and he was arrested and sent to Haripur Jail for two years.
The massacre of Qissa Khwani Bazaar took place on April 23, 1930 and hundreds of non-violent Khudai Khidmatgar were killed. When Khudai Khidmatgar who were standing in front during the massacre were wounded by gunshots, those who were standing behind came forward with their chests bared and exposed themselves to the fire. Some people received as many as 21 bullet wounds in their bodies. All of them stood their ground without getting into a state of panic until the Royal Garhwal Rifles could not shoot any further.
On May 28, 1930, the massacre of Takkar took place, in which again hundreds of empty Khudai Khidmatgar were killed. On the August 24, 1931, the Hathikhel massacre in Bannu took place. This involved the killing of about 80 civilians by the Frontier Constabulary and the British Indian army. On August 12, 1948, the Babara incident took place, in which 1,200 of Khudai Khidmatgar were massacred under the orders of the then chief minister.
They made the service of humanity their model and took it to be their good fortune to live a life that the best warriors of any a freedom movement could only dream of. They remained united for all those years to their chosen duty and in it found the charm of living.
We cannot forget those who bore their fate with quiet heroism and worked not to gain control of the state, but fought for the souls of farmers, workers and the middle class. All the dangers and sorrows that they suffered are not comparable to the dangers and sorrows experienced by any front soldiers in any freedom movement across the world.
The Khudai Khidmatgar have earned the gratitude of all those who enjoy the blessings of life in a free world. These men shared a desire for national freedom, peace, dignity and honour. It includes all those who fought, sacrificed, suffered and also risked their lives for the freedom of their motherland and the future of its people.
We must always be aware that, wherever we are, we owe a lot to the great disciple of non-violence as his leadership enabled our every victory. Do not seek Bacha Khan with your mind. You will find him through the strength of your hearts.
The writer is a former MNA.