Wednesday, the 11th December, 1946, Constituent Assembly Debates, New Delhi 

I feel with great sorrow the absence from this House of our Muslim League brethren. I regret to say that my Muslim brethren are displeased with the people of the North-West Frontier Province, especially with me. They say that I am not with them, Many a time while travelling in the train I am told such things, I always tell them that I am always with Muslims, never separating myself for one moment from them. Where, however, they say that I am not with the League, I tell them that the League is a political party and it is not necessary that one should be with it. Every man is free to have his own opinion. No one should be compelled in ways which are employed these days. Everybody has a right to do what he honestly considers good for his country and people. Nobody has got the right to ask me why I am on the side of the Congress. I admit that the people of the North-West Frontier’ Province are much behind you in literacy and in wealth. Our Province is a small one while yours are larger but I can say that the people of the North-West Frontier Province, if not ahead, are in no way behind you in many things.

We are with the Congress because we are tired of slavery. It is true that we are behind you in education but in the war of non-violence of 1942, only our Province fought it in non-violent ways. You all know we possess more-weapons of violence than any other Part of India and yet we adopted non-violent methods. Why ?

Let us see what violence is and what is non-violence. I tell you that whether we are Hindus or Muslims we can win the people only by being non-violent because violence breeds hate and non-violence creates love. You cannot bring peace to the worked by violence. One war’ will compel us to fight a second war more disastrous than the first. Violence begets hate in the minds of people. I am glad Badu Rajendra Prasad. believes in non-violence and I am sure that, if he guides this House to tread the path of non-violence, he Will guide it to success.

That was Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as the Frontier Gandhi, participating in the  first session of the Constituent Assembly.

How many today would believe that the North Western Province wanted to remain part of secular India with even representatives of Baluchisthan participating in the Constituent Assembly debate ?

The New York Times in its obituary to the Frontier Gandhi on 21st Jan, 1988, when he passed away at the ripe age of 98 had this to say:

The causes he fought for from the early 1920’s until his last arrest by the Pakistan Government in 1976 were the independence of India, a unified India as homeland for both Hindu and Moslem, and Pathan autonomy in the Pakistan created when India gained independence in 1947. The only goal he attained was the first.

More from the New York Times on the Frontier Gandhi’s struggles post partition

Realizing on the eve of India’s independence that partition could not be blocked, Mr. Ghaffar Khan unsuccessfully sought the establishment of a separate Northwest Frontier State to avoid the old Pathan province’s absorption into Pakistan. The new state of Pakistan, of which Mr. Jinnah was the Governor-General, promptly jailed Mr. Ghaffar Khan and his politically active older brother, Dr. M.L.A. Sahib Khan, for anti-state activities. They were held for six years, until 1954. Although Dr. Sahib Khan made peace with his jailers and joined Pakistan’s first coalition Government as Minister of Communications in October 1954, Mr. Ghaffar Khan took a different political tack that was to put him back in jail on many occasions in the years ahead: the drive for an autonomous Pathanistan. In the 1960’s, still at odds with the Pakistan Government, Mr. Ghaffar Khan went into exile in neighboring Afghanistan.

The most telling remarks on how the NWFP, or the wasteland across the Durand Line that Nitin refers to, was lost to us come from this piece in the New York Times reflecting on the Frontier Gandhi, post 9-11 with the war on Taliban raging in Afghanistan. Calling him the “Peacemaker from the Pashtun Past”, it had this to say

This forgotten chapter suggests that Islam is more mutable than either its radical adherents or its Western detractors allow — and that Pashtun history offers an extraordinary precedent for peace as well as a legacy of war.

Nitin’s post on India’s response to Musharraf’s second coup in Pakistan imposing emergency a.k.a. martial law, also has a raging debate on what attitude India must have to the developments along the Durand Line including some suggestions of a re-integration with India.

Offstumped closes this piece reminding everyone that 60 years back a Pashtun NWFP being part of a secular India was not outside the realm of the possible.

 Much blood has flown across the Frontier ever since, thanks to Frankensteinistan, but with it Offstumped asks, have any hopes of producing another Gandhi  ?

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