A History of the Left in Pakistan – 5

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter One: The Roots of Revolution (Continued)

III. The Jihad Movement

Almost simultaneous to these events but, apparently independent of them, some other developments were taking place in India.

By early 1900s, the international situation in Europe and the Middle East was getting tense, especially for Indian Muslims. Their anxiety was increasing with the successive bad news coming from the borders of the then vast Muslim Turkish Empire. While the British Empire was in ascendancy in late 1800s and early 1900s, the Turkish Empire was disintegrating bit by bit. Much of its possessions in Eastern Europe and Central Asia had already been broken away or annexed by other empires in the previous century.

Italy had landed its army at Tripoli (in today’s Libya) in 1911, initiating the first War of Tripoli between Turkey and Italy. The Italian invasion of Tripoli was soon followed by the start of Balkan Wars in October 1912. Britain fully supported these European incursions into the areas of Turkish Empire. These invasions and gradual encirclement of the Turkey, the last bastion of the so-called Muslim Khilafat, caused great unrest in the Indian Muslims. Dr Mohammad Iqbal, Shibli Naumani, Abul Kalam Azad, and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan in Punjab wrote fiery articles and poems in support of the Turkish Muslims. Iqbal read his well-known poem Shikwa in a rally outside Mochi Darwaza in Lahore in 1913. Shibli Naumani read his Sheher-Aashoob-e-Islam at Qaisar Bagh in Lukhnow (20). Prominent newspapers like Comrade of Maulana Muhammad Ali, Al Hilal of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and Zamindar of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan created among Indian Muslims a great fervor and a longing for going out and participating in the action in support of Turks against flagrant and unjust European invasions.

Apart from their religious affinities, the Indian Muslims also shared a particularly strong bond and heightened feelings of a common cause with Turks because of their own sense of deprivation of empire in 1857 and British occupation in India. To raise support for Turkey, Indian Muslim’s religious sentiments were whipped up. Weekly Friday sermons in the mosques in every town of India exhorted Muslims to help the Turks by every means, including generously contributing in Turkish Support Funds and physically going to the war front and participating in the holy war against aggressors. Indian Muslims contributed in the Balkan War Fund in a big way, women donating their entire jewellery and dowries.

A Medical Mission, under Dr Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari was sent to Turkey as a gesture of goodwill and for treating the wounded soldiers. The fervour for support of Turkey was so high that, according to Syed Suleman Nadvi’s account, Maulana Shibli Naumani, an eminent and highly respected Muslim scholar, was present at the Lukhnow Railway Station to personally see off the delegation. At the last moment, overwhelmed by his emotions, Shibli moved forward and with tears rolling down his cheeks he kissed the feet of Dr. Mukhtar Ansari that would tread the revered Turkish land. This evidently signifies the highly emotional state of mind of the Indian Muslims at that time.

By October 1914, Turkey declared joining the war against Britain as an ally of Germany and Austria. Turkish Sultan Muhammad V, in his exalted position of Khalifa (Caliph) of all Muslims, issued a religious edict (Fatwa) declaring it mandatory for all Muslims of the world to participate in the war against Britain and its allies. In India, a Jamat-e-Mujahidin was revived following the tradition of the failed Jihad of Syed Ahmed Barailvi in early 1830s, but this time the Jihad war was to be fought against a foreign power, the Great Britain. Many students left their education and homes to join the Turkish war. A common tarana of the Muslim youth of that time was:

Lutf marnay ka agar chahyay tau chal Balqan chal
Woh bhi kiya marna keh fitrat khud tujhay day day jawab

[Should you wish to die with some joy, let’s go to Balkan
Dying naturally in a slow death is not worth living]

A Pledge on Ravi

On a cold misty evening, when the night was falling in Lahore on 16 January 1915, a group of students from few modern colleges in Lahore secretly met to discuss an idea. They gathered on board in a boat on Ravi River, lest they could be overheard by police informers. This was the time when preparation of the second Ghadar was secretly underway in Punjab. These young men decided and each took an oath to perform the sacred act of Hijrat (migration) to Turkey via Afghanistan for taking part in Jihad. These students included Khushi Muhammad, Rehmat Ali Zakaria, Abdul Majeed, and Shujaullah from the King Edward Medical College, Muhammad Hassan Yaqub from Islamia College, Abdul Bary, Sheikh Abdul Qadir, Abdul Majeed Khan, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, Zafar Hassan Aibak, and Allah Nawaz Khan from the Government College, and Abdul Khaliq from the Aitchison College of Lahore (21). The travel and crossing of the Afghan border arrangements were made in secret with the help of Maulvi Fazal Ilahi and Maulvi Bashir of the Jamat-e-Mujahidin. The first batch of these students under the leadership of Khushi Muhammad left Lahore on 5 February, 1915 for Haripur as their first stop. To keep their movements inconspicuous, the other group followed the next day. At Haripur, they stayed overnight with Abdul Rahim, the railway Station Master, changed their attire to common Pukhtun dress and Peshawari Chappals. The students left British territory by crossing the Indus River from a then small princely state of Amb, in the Hazara district, south of Swat valley in present day Pakistan, to enter the independent tribal area between British India and Afghanistan. Staying at some rag tag isolated camps of Jamat Mujahidin at Asmas and Chamarkand in the Pukhtun Tribal Area, these students, swinging in the spirit of Jihad, entered Afghanistan arriving in Jalalabad on 29 March 1915. Here they met with their first rude shock when they were swiftly detained under the orders of a senior Afghan official visiting Jalalabad from Kabul.

They detained students were taken to Kabul after over two weeks in confinement with little food and no facilities. One of the students, Abdul Majeed Khan had fallen sick, running high fever. But, the students were put on mules with their hands tied and were carried to Kabul. Arriving in Kabul around 13 April they were again put into confinement. The health of Abdul Majeed Khan deteriorated and he died in confinement on the night of 19 April in Kabul. Abdul Majeed was the only son of his young widowed mother in Lahore, who that night must be still waiting for his son who had one day quietly disappeared never to return home. Zafar Hassan Aibak, the other detainee from the Government College, says in his autobiography that the detainees were shifted to another ‘house’ in Kabul with scant facilities in June 1915 and there was no hope for their release. Apparently, no one in Kabul was bothered about these ill-fated young men from Lahore.

Jihad in the Making

At that time another effort to raise an army and organize a ‘Jihad’ to liberate India from the British colonial rule was underway elsewhere. Following in the footsteps of the first ‘Jihad’ undertaken by Syed Ahmed Barailvi in 1830s, some of his radical successors in the Darul Uloom at Deoband, near Saharanpur, U.P. planned to raise a Muslim army with the help of Muslim rulers of Turkey and Afghanistan. This army was to carry out a Jihad for both defending the embattled Turkey and liberating India against the British Empire. Maulana Mahmudul Hassan, the principal of Darul Uloom together with Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi and few of his deciples left for Hijaz, still a Turkish province, and reached Kabul in October 1915 (22). Obaidullah Sindhi, originally born in Sialkot, was a convert from Sikh religion, graduated from Darul Uloom, Deoband, and an energetic student of Maulana Mahmudul Hassan. He went to live in Sukkur and established a religious school at Amrot, and later at Pir Jhanda, in Sindh (hence later known as ‘Sindhi’). He and Maulana Mahmudul Hassan were quietly working for the cause of independence (23).

In Kabul they met with Afghan leaders and religious Ulema, many of whom had been students in Deoband. Presenting them the plan for building a volunteer army in Kabul and invading India to liberate it and set up an Islamic government with an Afghan prince on the throne, the Indian Ulema won support of some key members of the royal family, including Sardar Nasrullah Khan, the Amir’s brother and Prince Inayatullah and Prince Amanullah, the two sons of Amir Habibullah Khan (24). Maulana Mahmudul Hassan proceeded to Hijaz for enlisting support of the Turkish government and the Sharif of Mecca. Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi stayed back in Kabul to ensure further cementing the support from Habibullah Khan, the Amir of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the joint delegation of Berlin Committee-Ghadar Party also arrived in Kabul from Istanbul and joined hands with Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi. The Turkish diplomat Kazim Bey and German diplomats Dr Von Hanting and Oskar von Niedermayer in Kabul lent their support to the delegation. Getting to know about the plight of imprisoned Indian students from Lahore, the Indian ledaers had them released after about eight months of confinement.

Finally, with the support of the Amir of Afghanistan, a ‘Provisional Government of India’ was established in Kabul on 18 December 1915. Raja Mahindra Partap Singh was appointed as the President and Maulvi Barkatullah as the Prime Minister, Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi as Interior Minister, Maulvi Bashir of Jamat Mujahidin as War Minister, C.R. Pillai as Foreign Minister. Khushi Mohammad, Rehmat Zakaria, Allah Nawaz Khan, Zafar Hassan Aibak, and Abdul Bari from the Lahore students group were also given official responsibilities in the provisional government. Turkish and German government officials acted as advisors to the newly formed ‘Provisional Government of India’ (25).

Ghalib Nama, Golden Letter, and Reshmi Rumal

In Hijaz, Mahmudul Hassan had succeeded in obtaining personal letters of support from Ghalib Pasha, the Turkish Governor of Hijaz province that was then included, together with other territory of present day Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq as part of Turkish empire. It was also proposed that a Muslims’ army will be raised by Maulana Mahmudul Hassan under his command from Arabia and Turkey, with headquarter at Medina. The Turkish Fatwas and Ghalib Pasha letters called for a general Jihad against the British and exhorted all Muslims to join the war efforts. Copies of Ghalib Pasha Letters were sent by Mahmudul Hassan by hand with Mohammad Mian Ansari to Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi in Kabul for further building upon it. Copies of these Jihad letters, later more commonly known as ‘Ghalib Nama’, were distributed secretly in Muslim lands.

After establishing the Provisional Government and armed with the supporting measures from Germany and Turkey, it was decided to send diplomatic missions to Russia, Iran, and Japan approaching them for support on the assumption that they would be inclined to support an Indian liberation effort against Britain. The Germans, who were abetting the Indian Provisional Government against Britain, did not think it was opportune time for approaching Russia for the support, however, Raja Mahindra Partap did not agree with the German ambassador and expecting Russian support he relied mainly on the age old rivalry between Russia and Britain in their ‘Great Game’ for expanding into Asia and controlling India.

The Provisional Govt delegation to Russia included Mahindra Partap, Maulvi Barkatullah, Dr Mathra Singh, and the Lahore student Khushi Mohammed. The delegation carried a letter addressed to Czar written on a ‘Golden Plate’. But the Indian delegation was stopped at Tashkent and was prevented from going further. The Czarist governor received the ‘Golden Letter’ with a promise to send it to the Czar in Moscow. The delegation was made to cool their heels at Tashkent for the reply. Weeks passed by but no reply was forthcoming. Eventually the failed mission was sent back to Kabul in Feb 1916.

Obaidullah Sindhi prepared a detailed report written on a large piece of Reshmi Rumal (silk cloth) in his own hand and it was secretly sent to Sheikh Abdul Rahim in Hyderabad, Sindh for arranging to send, or personally carry it, to Maulana Mahmudul Hassan in Hijaz under the cover of Hajj pilgrimage. The courier selected for the job of carrying the Silk Letter from Kabul to Hyderabad was Abdul Haq, a trusted man of the Lahore student Allah Nawaz. Abdul Haq, later suspected to be on the roll of British secret police, instead of going to Hyderabad, went to Allah Nawaz’s father, Khan Bahadur Rab Nawaz Khan in Multan, who happened to be a loyal subject of the British government. In spite of his own son being involved, Rab Nawaz promptly informed the British police and the famous Reshmi Rumal eventually reached in the hands of Michael O’Dwyer, the British Governor in Punjab.

The Indian Provisional Govt’s second Mission headed towards Japan via Russia included Dr Mathra Singh and a Lahore student Abdul Qadir. Armed with prior information of their movement leaked from Kabul, Russians arrested and handed them over to the British who transported them back to India. Dr Mathra Singh who was already sentenced to death in a Ghadar Party trial in Lahore was immediately hanged. Abdul Qadir was placed in confinement, where he soon died, probably succumbing to excessive torture. The third delegation comprising of two students Abdul Bary and Shujaullah heading for Iran also met the same fate. They were arrested at Mashhad in Iran, tortured, and sent back to India to face long terms in jail. The arrests of these delegation members and the hanging of Dr Mathra were, however, kept secret to keep the provisional government in Kabul in the dark and to keep tracking their movements (26). Amir Habibullah was playing a double game and was waiting to see which side was winning in the First World War. He kept promising the Indian provisional government that he would declare war on India as soon as the German and Turkish forces reach near Afghanistan in their march to victory, but on the other hand, he was busy negotiating with the British officials for additional favours, using the Indian revolutionaries under his control as the bargaining chip.

Initially, Germany was scoring quick victories on the western front and did not expect a major threat from a weakened Russia from the east. Turkish army was also scoring initial successes against Britain greatly raising hopes for its final victory in the war. But Russia, in alliance with France, quickly built up its massive army and attacked Germany opening the eastern front. Meanwhile, Amir Habibullah Khan had quietly informed the British agents about the Indian delegation to Russia. This was meant to put increased pressure on the British Indian government in his negotiations for more favours and higher ‘subsidies’. Ironically, on the other hand the Russian Czar was also playing similar double game. Using the Golden Letter as a bargaining chip, he provided its copy to the British ambassador.

British Counter Moves

Greatly alarmed at the disturbing intelligence reports arriving from Moscow, Berlin, Kabul, and Hijaz, the British government took several counter measures to block the anti-British revolutionary activities. In Hijaz, it lured Sharif of Mecca and his sons to rise in rebellion against Turkey and snub the Indian Muslim leaders’ delegation under Maulana Mahmudul Hassan. Sharif Hussain of Mecca helped arresting Maulana Mahmudul Hassan and Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani, in Mecca and handed them over to the British police. Maulana Mahmudul Hassan and others were confined, initially at Cairo, and later, at Malta, earning him the title of Aseer-e-Malta (the Prisoner of Malta), in addition to him being declared by his Muslim followers in India the Sheikhul Hind (Leader of India). In Kabul, the British Govt promptly increased Afghan budget ‘subsidies’. The British Indian government was providing Rs.1.8 million ‘subsidy’ to the Afghan government, most of which was spent on Amir’s extravagance and personal harem of over 100 women. Some spoils were distributed among other members of royal family and key tribal leaders. The Afghan people were living in utter poverty, in mud houses, without any civic amenities, roads, schools or hospitals.

Taking the French Govt into confidence, the British government immediately sent a high powered joint delegation to Moscow and entered into the well-known agreement with Russia in May 1916 that is known as Sykes-Picot Agreement. In return for its full support, the agreement promised Russia attractive terms and some adjoining Turkish lands as part of a larger deal for distribution of Turkish Empire among Britain, France and Russia after the defeat of Turkey in the Great War.

After having successfully neutralized Amir of Afghanistan by bribing him and blocking the potential support of the Russian Czar for the Indian provisional government, the British Indian administration came down heavily on the revolutionaries in India and abroad. Widespread arrests were made. The Reshmi Rumal Conspiracy together with the ‘Golden Letter’, and the Ghalib Nama was brought to public in Aug 1916.

The Indian provisional government sent several wireless messages to the Berlin Committee and the German and Turkish governments vainly hoping for them to advance their forces via Afghanistan but Germans were too bogged down in Europe to pay attention to these out of tune desperate messages from a few ‘stirred up’ Indian revolutionaries in Kabul. Because of the conspiracy cases based on Ghalib Nama, Golden Letter, and the Reshmi Rumal instituted in India being given wide publicity, Obaidullah Sindhi faced a difficult situation. Together with the Lahore students, he was also confined in Kabul and, later, shifted to a camp at Jabalul Siraj, about 75 Km north of Kabul. Two Indian teachers employed with Habibia School (established for the children of Afghan elite) in Kabul, Maulvi Mohammad Ali Qasuri (a Cambridge University graduate and elder brother of Mian Mahmud Ali Qasuri, a well-known NAP leader during 1960s and 1970s and former law minister during Bhutto, and an uncle of Khurshid Ali Qasuri, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan (2002-2007) during General Pervez Musharraf’s reign), and Sheikh Mohammad Ibrahim who were sympathetic to the cause of Indian independence and were popular among Mujahidin, were also expelled from Kabul in June 1916 (27). Both went to the Jamat-e Mujahidin base camp at Chamarkand in Bajaur Tribal Area between Afghanistan and British India. Maulvi Bashir of Jamat-e Mujahidin and the War Minister of the provisional government also returned to the base camp. Sheikh Abdul Rashid of Lahore Government College and Mohammad Hassan Yaqub of Islamia College and few other students also moved with Maulvi Bashir to the Mujahidin base camp.

Sheikh Ibrahim, together with two Lahore students, went to Russian Turkistan via Badakhshan but all of them were reportedly killed by the British agents on their way and no trace of them was ever found. After spending few more years in trying to organize Mujahidin activities in the Tribal Area, Maulvi Mohammad Ali Qasuri managed to return to India in July 1918 and was pardoned due to influential contacts he and his family had with Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayum and Sir George Roos-Keppel, the Chief Commissioner of NWFP (28). Maulvi Mohammad Ali Qasuri, having married and settled down, entered into business and continued to provide financial support to the Mujahidin. He died in Lahore in 1956 (29).

At the Tribal Area base camp, the Amir of Jamat-e Mujahidin was Maulvi Naimatullah who was a highly eccentric, morally and financially corrupt, and autocratic person, ruling as Amirul Momineen over his personal fiefdom at the Mujahidin base camp (30). It later transpired that the the Amir of Jamat-e Mujahidin, Maulvi Naimatullah had, in fact, enetered into a secret deal with the British in exchange of a piece of land and a small pension but Amir could not openly follow his pro-Bitish course in the wake of unrest in India (31). One day, probably after getting frustrated with his own impossible situation and intolerable idiosyncrasies of Maulvi Naimatullah, Sheikh Abdul Rashid of Lahore, in a fit of anger, spontaneously killed the Maulvi. The personal guards of slain Maulvi Naimatullah instantly killed Abdul Rashid in vengeance by throwing him alive in a burning oven (32). Mohammad Hassan Yaqub, however, continued to stay with the remaining Mujahidin at the Chamarkand camp, which was now under Maulvi Fazal Ilahi from Wazirabad. Yaqub Hassan never returned to Lahore and probably died somewhere in or around the Chamarkand camp.

In Kabul, Raja Mahindra Partap and Maulvi Barkatullah were, however, not arrested as their continued presence there was a useful bargaining chip for Amir Habibullah Khan. But, by now realizing its extremely difficult position, owing to the duplicity of Amir Habibullah, the provisional government had considerably scaled down its activities. Obaidullah Sindhi was finally released from confinement after about a year with the help of Afghan General Nadir Khan (he later overthrew the next Amir Amanullah Khan and occupied the Afghan throne as King Nadir Shah) (33). Nadir Khan held Obaidullah Sindhi in high regard. But the release order from Amir Habibullah was obtained only after detainees filing a mercy petition and admission of their mistakes.

By now, totally frustrated with the false hopes of support from the Amir of Afghanistan, the Indian revolutionaries in Kabul started making attempts to approach Russia where Soviet Revolution under V.I. Lenin had already shaken the world. Lenin had publically rescinded all secret treaties and pacts signed by Czarist Russia with the imperialist powers and made public all secret agreements, including Sykes-Picot Agreement, that the Imperialist powers together with Russia had signed to share the spoils of war. He had declared full support to the national liberation efforts and the wars of independence of all colonial people in the East. Soviet Russia was the first to recognize the national government of Mustafa Kamal in Turkey that was battling against the invading Imperialist armies in their attempt to dismember and divide parts of Turkey among themselves. Rehmat Ali Zakaria and one another Lahore student were the first to escape from Jabalul Siraj camp in Nov 1917. Crossing over Russian border, they reached Tashkent in early 1918. Raja Mahindra Partap Singh visited Russia in March 1918 on his way to Berlin and had a meeting with Trotsky. But he couldn’t get some meaningful support (34) as Bolsheviks were then engaged in a bitter struggle for survival against invasion of an international coalition of forces trying to uproot the first socialist revolution in Russia.

By 1917, the tide in the First World War had started clearly turning against Germany and its allies. No meaningful diplomatic or material support was coming to the Indian Provisional Government in Kabul any longer. In the face of imminent defeat of an exhausted Germany, the Berlin Committee members were looking for support towards socialist leaders of some neutral European countries like Switzerland and Sweden. Berlin Committee members arrived in Stockholm, practically relocating the activities of the Committee. Chattopadhya, Har Dayal and others attended the International Socialist Conference held in Stockholm in May 1917, raising the issue of the Indian independence at the conference. Here they met Russian Bolshevik leader Torinvsky.

With the increasingly adverse reports for Turkey and Germany coming from war fronts and of victories of the British and allied forces, the support of the Afghan government to the ‘provisional government’ also cooled off till it was completely withdrawn in 1919. The Berlin Committee was formally dissolved in November 1918 after the defeat of Germany in the First World War, with all its active members having been moved to Stockholm. After Turkey signed the armistice, the Khairi brothers also left for Moscow via Berlin. They were probably the first among Indians arriving in Soviet Union on 16 November, 1918. They were accorded a warm welcome as representatives of the Indian freedom fighters by the Soviet authorities and were met by V.I. Lenin on 23 November. They also addressed many public meetings and international forums. After the Berlin Committee’s formal liquidation, its members contacted Torinvsky and other Russian revolutionaries they had met at Stockholm. Eventually, Viren Chattopadhya, together with 12 of his colleagues including, Agnes Smedley, Bhupendra Nath Dutta, Ghulam Nabi Anbia Lohani, C.R. Pillai, Nalini Gupta, and Shafiq Ahmed reached Petrograd, sometime in March, 1921. These Indian revolutionaries initially worked with the Russian Propaganda and Publication Centre in Petrograd. Later, they moved to Tashkent meeting M.N. Roy to work for the Military & Political training school established by the Communist International. The Berlin Committee revolutionaries were essentially Indian nationalists and were not keen on joining the communist party, which was formed on Roy’s initiative without consultation and taking any of the Berlin Committee revolutionaries in confidence. They were particularly irked by M.N. Roy’s style of work and his handling of the issues relating to Indian revolutionary struggle. For a while, the Russians tried to intervene and bridge the differences between Roy and the Berlin Committee group but the gulf widened. Eventually, a disappointed Viren Chattopadya and his colleagues left for Germany towards the end of September, 1921.

Lala Har Dayal stayed back in Sweden and lived there for about 10 years. After all his years with secular and progressive Ghadar Party and the Berlin Committee group, Har Dayal seems to have gone on a tangent during his stay in Sweden. He was soaked into a kind of fundamentalist Hindu religious political philosophy. He wrote many articles against Muslims in India, reflecting the extremist aggressive Hinduvta ideology of Savarkar’s Hindu Mahasabha. He died in Philadelphia, U.S.A. in 1939.

Amir Habibullah Khan was assassinated in Feb 1919, near Jalalabad and his son Amanullah Khan took over after some resistance from his uncle Sardar Nasrullah Khan. For a while, situation again turned favorable for the Indian revolutionaries. Obaidullah Sindhi was restored and he became a close advisor to the new Amir Amanullah Khan. Other office holders of the Indian Provisional Government including Mahindra Partap, Maulvi Barkatullah, M.P.T. Acharya, and Abdul Rab were also given due respect by the new Amir. Amanullah Khan sent Maulvi Barkatullah as his special envoy to Moscow for negotiating a friendship treaty on behalf of the Afghan government. The visit proved very successful and the relations between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan considerably warmed up. Maulvi Barkatullah left Kabul in March 1919 for Tashkent and proceeded to Moscow in May 1919. Mahindra Partap Singh, M.P.T. Acharya, Abdul Rab and others also reached Moscow but they never returned to Kabul.

With the departure of Raja Mahindra Partap and Maulvi Barkatullah and others from Kabul, the Provisional Government of India was now almost solely entrusted to Obaidullah Sindhi and some of the Lahore students, including Zafar Hassan Aibak, Allah Nawaz Khan, and Mohammad Ali. They tried to infuse a new life in this all but dead government. However, under severe pressure from Britain, the Provisional Government was made totally restricted after conclusion of the Third Anglo-Afghan War in August 1919.

Hijrat Movement Begins

Ironically, at this time when Indian nationalist revolutionaries in Kabul were being expelled or leaving in disgust, and the Turks, now led by Mustafa Kamal, were taking measures to wrest all political and secular powers from the institution of Caliphate in Turkey, the Indian Muslim Ulema, quite senselessly, were working to develop a highly emotional and explosive situation for Muslims in India.

As part of the general unrest during Khilafat Movement enthusiastically joined by the Congress’ Civil Disobedience Movement led by Gandhi, the Muslim Urdu press created a sensational and emotionally charged atmosphere among Indian Muslims for performing Hijrat (migration) from British India. While some of the leading Muslim Ulema were clearly against it, many other prominent Ulema of mainly Deobandi school together with a large number of low level prayer leaders in the mosques declared India as Darul Harb (an abode of war; a place where Muslims must either wage a war or migrate from) and encouraged Muslims to leave India for a Darul Islam (an abode of peace; an independent Islamic country) in Afghanistan and fight for the restoration of old glory of the Muslim Caliphate. Newly installed King Amanullah Khan in Afghanistan also gave this frenzy a great impetus by issuing a Royal Firman (edict) that the Indian Muhajirs will be welcomed in Afghanistan and will be provided with full support including land and re-settlement loans. Amanullah was clearly indulging in his dream of a greater Afghan empire comprising of Central Asia and parts of British India, including fertile lands up to the river Indus (the NWFP and parts of northern Punjab provinces of the British India). Amanullah Khan had also envisaged to enlist a regular army from young Muhajirs of good families (Khanzadas) after their military training at camps in Jabalul Siraj and Katghan. The Indian Muhajir army was, however, supposed to be a volunteer corps not entitled for pay.

Many prominent Muslim Ulema and religious leaders supported the call for Hijrat (migration) and Jihad (holy war) (35). Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had also given his full support to the call for Hijrat (36). On the other hand, some equally prominent Ulema had clearly opposed the idea of Hijrat and Jihad (37). Even, Maulana Mahmudul Hassan, who had already returned from his confinement in Malta, opposed the idea of Hijrat to Afghanistan but the emotional appeal of the fiery clerics and calmour of Urdu press proved too potent. The most prominent Muslim cleric of the time, Abdul Bari of Farangi Mahal, Lukhnow, was also personally opposed to the declaration of India as Darul Harb, but his rather academic response to a question from Maulana Aziz Amritsari explaining permissible conditions for performing Hijrat and Jihad was conveniently used to construe his support for the cause (38). Although, Maulana Abdul Bari subsequently issued clarification and denied supporting the Hijrat and Jihad but it was too late and the clarification and denial couldn’t reverse the tide. It’s, indeed, a moot point whether those Ulema and nationalist leaders who supported the call for Jihad did all this deliberately to mislead people, knowing full well the implications of the situation abroad, or they did it, albeit foolishly, but in good faith? Probably, it was more of the latter than the former.

Apparently, not having a clue of the real international situation and the alignment of forces and their respective strengths, some pious and well-meaning sentimental Muslims, unwittingly, had fallen prey to the deceptive situation. They started undertaking migration to neighboring Afghanistan. Initially, a slow trickle of Muslims migrating to Afghanistan, it gained strength and, soon, turned into a significant movement.

Muslims sold or gave away their houses, shops, chattels, and personal belongings and undertook en-mass Hijrat (migration) to Afghanistan and Turkish lands. Barrister Jan Mohammad Junejo organized a special train of Muhajirs from Sindh to Peshawar. This was the second major Hijrat movement of Indian Muslims after Syed Ahmed Barailvi’s first Hijrat movement in early 1830’s. Starting in May 1920, enthusiastic Indian Muslims left for Afghanistan without even bothering to find out how and where they would be staying in their adopted country. As if in a trance, they believed in a hazy dream of an ideal Muslim state that was supposed to be waiting, with open arms, to welcome them. Young and old, people from NWFP, Punjab, Sindh, UP, and Bihar together with their women and children were heading for the Afghan border in the NWFP, in droves by trains, oxen carts, Tongas (horse-driven carts), and on foot. But most (about 85%) of the Muhajirs were Pathan tribesmen from Peshawar valley and the adjoining areas.

The migration started with only a few. Initially, a few scores arrived in Peshawar, it being the first camp on their way. Then it soon grew into a sizable movement. Amir Amanullah Khan also, perhaps unwittingly, lent impetus to the movement by issuing a thoughtless statement that ‘the whole country of Afghanistan would welcome Indian Muhajirs’. Probably, it was, for him, intended more to score a few rosy points in his vain attempt at projecting himself as a ‘leader of the Muslim world’ than to expect a real migration in significant numbers. Certainly, he had underestimated the zeal of some pious Indian Muslims. As Gail Miault remarked, “[s]oon the Khyber Pass was clogged with caravans of bullock carts, camels, and people afoot, carrying their few worldly belongings toward the promised land” (39).

Although, the Hijrat Movement started under the influence of religious leaders of Deoband, it grew rapidly without a central leadership or guidance. It was a spontaneous movement. Thousands of people left their homes and hearths and reached Peshawar to cross the border. In all, from 20,000 to 50,000 Indian Muslims, as per varying estimates by British Government agencies operating in NWFP at the time, crossed over the Afghan border during May-Sep 1920 (40), and about 300 of them eventually crossed into Turkistan to reach Turkey for Jihad (41). Notables of Peshawar made camping arrangements for Muhajirs in the Namak Mandi of Peshawar. Volunteers of ‘Hijrat Committee’ distributed free food and water among Muhajirs. The British government didn’t stop anyone from crossing the border but officials kept a close eye on the movement of people.

A Dream Turns Sour

Initially, the Muhajirs were temporarily provided with some shelter by the Afghan Government but, soon, their number arriving in every week was beyond the limited capacity of the Afghan government. A panicked Amir Amanullah Khan tried to stem the tide and urged Obaidullah Sindhi and the Ulema in India to stop people undertaking Hijrat in such large numbers. The limited Afghan border forces even tried to stop ingress by poiting bayonets towards the onslaught of faithfuls but the momentum was too great for them to resist in any meaningful way. The movement was without a central leadership. It was no longer possible to put a lid on it. Intoxicated with a dream of Pan-Islamism and living in a free Muslim country and holy Jihad, the Indian Muhajirs were entering into Afghanistan in droves with calls of Allah-o-Akbar on their lips. But, a somewhat different reality slowly dawned upon them. Travelling and walking across highly rugged terrain of Afghanistan with little modern built infrastructure, the environment was particularly harsh and inhospitable, especially for those non-Pukhtun Muhajirs who had never seen this part of the world. Few Afghans they met on their way were visibly poor and illiterate, living in most primitive and savage conditions. Most of the Muhajirs camped in open fields near Jalalabad under open sky. The spirits were still running high but following nights unfolded a new bitter reality for many. The hapless Indian Muhajirs camped in open fields on occasions proved to be sitting ducks before birds of prey. At places, armed bands of local tribesmen started robbing the bewildered Muhajirs, and abducting their young women. ‘Tribesmen fell upon the stream of migrants, looting their possessions and rustling their livestock. Others were felled by hunger, thirst, and heat’ (42). While situation was rapidly deteriorating in the Muhajirs’ camps, more groups of enthusiastic Muhajirs were joining in. The initial shock and a sense of shame and humiliation prevented many of these Muhajirs to quickly retrace their steps and return to their homeland.

Unfamiliar with the rough terrain, many Muhajirs took flight to whichever direction they could find an escape from this calamity. Many perished in their endeavors for finding a safe way back home. ‘A large number of returning Muhajirin perished through exhaustion or disese. The road from the Frontier to Kabul was dotted with Muhajirin graves… According to eye-witnesses, the Khaiber Pass was littered with corpses.’ (43). Those who managed to reach Kabul were put under restrictions in special camps in Jabalul Siraj. It took a few months before the news of the plight of the Muhajirs in Afghanistan started reaching back home and the flow of the new groups slowed down, eventually stopping it in large measure by Sep 1920. The Hijrat Movement grew rapidly like a balloon and was deflated as quickly in a few months.

Its weaknesses and total lack of planning notwithstanding, it was an enormous human tragedy, which, usually, does not even find a brief mention in our history books. The religious leaders, surely, had no clue of the implications of what they were exhorting to equally uninformed people, to undertake. It was not a forced Hijrat undertaken under some compulsion. It was, on the contrary, a deliberate and voluntary action undertaken without any homework and prior thought process. But as Gail Minault observed, ‘[t]he eruption of this movement showed the strength of religious feeling among rural Muslims and the energy that could be released by tapping it.’ (44). This movement, in a strange way, however, played an important role for the future course of events. Many of the more ambitious and determined people from these Muhajirs persisted in their efforts and moved forward in spite of the difficulties.

But this great human tragedy was used by the Afghan Government as a bargaining chip in its rounds of negotiations with the British Government at Missouri and Kabul, following the Third Afghan War. Sardar Mohammad Tarzi, the Afghan foreign minister and father-in-law of Amir Amanullah Khan managed to obtain from Obaidullah Sindhi a few confidential letters addressed to notable Muslim leaders of India, including Mohammad Ali Jauhar, and Dr M.A. Ansari asking them to incite Muslims to rise in revolt against the British Indian government. Sardar Tarzi made Obaidullah Sindhi believe that these letters will only be used in the event the British government did not agree to meet Afghanistan’s just demand for acknowledging it as a truly independent sovereign country and agreeing to a home rule in India. Sardar Mohammad Tarzi, however, without even raising the issue of home rule in India, showed Maulana Sindhi’s letters to his British counterparts, with a view to push them for obtaining maximum concessions for himself and Amanullah Khan. The British conceded many Afghan demands but, in return, upon information provided by the Afghan delegation, widespread arrests of the Indian revolutionaries were made, multiple conspiracy cases were instituted, and many revolutionary workers were executed and jailed.

By now Obaidullah Sindhi had also seen through the duplicity of Afghan leaders and started looking for help towards the newly established Soviet Union for the independence of India. He allowed Lahore student Khushi Mohammad to leave for Tashkent for seeking help. Khushi Mohammad reached Tashkent in mid 1920 and met M. N. Roy and others. Eventually, the Indian Provisional Government was formally disbanded in 1922 under instructions of the Afghan Government. Obaidullah Sindhi and his colleagues quietly left for Tashkent. They reached Termez in Soviet Union in Oct 1922.

Jihadi Revolutionaries

Among those who crossed the border for Hijrat there were many young people who were highly enthused with the idea of waging a war against British colonialists for the liberation of India and the Muslims as a whole, with Turkey as its centre. These included Syed Rafiq Ahmed (Bhopal), Shaukat Usmani (Bikaner), Fazal Elahi Qurban and Sheikh Firozuddin Mansoor (Punjab) (45). The real name of Shaukat Usmani from Bikaner in Rajputana was Maula Bux, a college student. In his love for Usmani (Ottoman) Government of Turkey, he had changed his name to Shaukat Usmani (Glory of Ottomans). Soon, a few more young men arriving in Kabul included Mohammad Akbar Khan, Gohar Rehman and Sultan Mahmud Tarin from Rihana, Haripur, Hazara, Akbar Shah Miankhel from Nowshehra, and Mohammad Shafiq Siddiqi from Akora Khatak who had quit his job with the Irrigation Department in British India in protest of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. These young revolutionaries joined hands with Obaidullah Sindhi and Abdul Rab of former Berlin Committee, and the group of Lahore students who were already there for few years.

With the Afghan-British negotiations already underway, Amanullah Khan’s support for the Indian revolutionaries had started cooling off. The Muhajirs were again shifted to Jabalul Siraj camp. There were now about 180 Muhajirs placed at the camp who still wished to move ahead and join the Turkish army in their war against Britain. But, they were, for all practical purposes, put in confinement and forgotten by the Afghan government. The Muhajirs had no other choice but to either return to India in humiliation or to wait for opportunity to move towards Turkistan. They split themselves into two groups. One was led by Mohammad Akbar Khan of Hazara, and the other was led by Mohammad Akbar Jan of Peshawar. The first group proceeded around July 1920 to Mazar Sharif for crossing Jaihun River (Oxus or Amu Darya) to enter into Russian Turkistan from the point where present day Hairatan dry port is located. They reached Termez, across the border in present day Uzbekistan, on their way to Anatolia in Turkey via Turkmenistan. At Termez, these Muhajirs were welcomed by a small contingent of soviet army. The local governor of Termez tried to persuade the Muhajirs to abandon their journey to Turkey informing them of the rapidly changing situation on the war front but the would-be Jihadis were too excited with the idea of joining the Turkish army in defense of Muslims to fully appreciate the war situation.

From Termez, Amu River runs as a border between Afghanistan’s Balkh province and present day Uzbekistan for about 100 Km before it enters into Turkmenistan. Acting against the Soviet military officers’ advice for waiting for a steamer boat for undertaking upward journey from Termez, the Mujahidin boarded country sail boats for their next destination at Kirki in Turkmenistan via Amu River. After this it is a horrible and tragic story of these Jihadis’ long ordeal. The untold stories of these adventures have been well recorded in many memoirs and autobiographies of those people who survived the calamities and returned home after years of wandering (46).

Soon after leaving Termez on sail boats shortly before reaching Kirki, the Jihadis were captured by savage Turkmen Basmachis. The word is derived from Uzbek word Basmak, which means armed robber and highwayman. The Turkmens robbed Muhajirs, cruelly beating them and depriving them of their money and last material possessions. Riding on horses and lashes in their hands, they made the Indian Muhajirs run bare foot on the rugged terrain under a hot summer sun. Muhajirs’ pleadings and appeals for the Muslim brotherhood, with repeated recitation of Quranic verses and Kalma-e-Shahadat (an avowed declaration of being Muslim) fell on deaf ears. These Turkmens were the soldiers of former Amir of Bukhara, banded together, financed, and supplied with weapons by the British agents to rise in revolt against the newly established Soviet government. The legends of these savage armed brigands’ exaggerated piety, bravery, and heroic fight against communist Bolsheviks was widely propagated during those days by the British and European journals among unsuspecting Muslim population of India and the Middle East. The Amir of Bukhara, Syed Salimuddin, had been defeated only weeks before and a Soviet Peoples’ Republic was founded with Usman Khwaja as its first President. Bukhara had long been degenerated into a centre of decadent and stagnant reactionary interpretation of Islam. According to 1911 census, there were 1,440 religious schools and 1,320 Madarsas where about 200,000 religious students were enrolled. In the religious schools of Bukhara, the teaching of not only natural and social sciences but even Islamic history was prohibited, lest the young students get misguided.

The Turkmen soldiers and religious leaders declared the captive Indian Muhajirs as Jadeedis (The Modernists) and ordered their killing by a firing squad. Moments before the execution was to be carried out, a Red army contingent arrived at the spot and attacked the Turkmen positions. After a pitched battle for few days, the Turkmen militants dispersed in haste. Exhausted and impoverished due to extreme hardship and hunger during about two weeks of captivity, the Indian Muhajirs were finally rescued by the Bolsheviks.

It was quite ironic that one set of ‘soldiers of Islam’ fighting a Jihad against the Godless Bolsheviks were committing atrocities against another set of ‘soldiers of Islam’ coming from afar to fight a Jihad against the British! It was an identical story, a déjà vu that was to be witnessed about seventy years later in Afghanistan when the Islamic Mujahidin were to fight a Jihad financed and managed by the American CIA and Pakistan’s ISI against Russian army in 1990’s and the fierce battles to be fought between Taliban Jihadi groups turning against Pakistan’s army in 2000s. Even today, the misguided fervour of Jihad among many educated Muslim young men in Pakistan and the western countries to join forces with Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and ISIS in Iraq in their fight against US and NATO forces has striking parallels with the Jihadi fervour of Indian Muslim students during 1915-1920 for fighting alongside Turks and against the British.

The Indian Muhajirs finally reached Kirki after losing communication with the outside world for some time received news of Turkey and other countries at Kirki after a long time. The Muhajirs were utterly confused when they learnt that the Turks under Mustafa Kamal have declared establishment of a Republic at Smyrna and have dissociated from the Ottoman Caliph and that the Turks no longer recognize the Khalifa as their spiritual or temporal leader. The Soviet Union was the first to recognize the new Turkish republic. The Turkish army was now fighting for survival of its country against occupation armies of the West. Clearly, Turkey was in no position to help India win its freedom nor was it interested in maintaining the relic of a decadent Khilafa, so dearly cherished by the Indian Muhajirs. But still many of these Muhajirs were in a state of disbelief and wished to move ahead on their journey. But this time they did not take the risk of again falling into the hands of Basmachis. The Muhajirs proceeded from Kirki to Charjui, about 137 Km southwest of Bukhara in Uzbekistan by a Russian steamer. They were given a warm send off with a military band by the Soviet army.

New Horizons

After reaching Charjui, a large railway and river transport staging station on Amu Darya the group was again split into two opposing groups. One group wished to proceed to Turkey to join the war while the other group by now had a change of heart and wished to turn to Tashkent and seek help from the Soviet forces. Shaukat Usmani (47), who had been a staunch supporter of Haji Shahabuddin and thus far had been solely guided by his Islamic religious motivation, had seen through the harsh reality of the situation. He parted way from his group. The group that finally left for Tashkent via Bukhara by train was led by Mohammad Akbar Khan (Hazara) and included Firozuddin Mansoor (Sheikhupura) (48), Mir Abdul Majid (Lahore), Sultan Mahmud & Gohar Rehman (Hazara) (49), Shaukat Usmani (Bekanir), Rafiq Ahmed (Bhopal), Abdul Rahim (UP), Abdul Hamid (Ludhiana), Mohammad Shafiq (Akora Khatak), Mian Mohammad Akbar Shah (Noshehra), Masood Ali Shah, Abdul Qadir Sehrai, Fida Ali Zahid, Abdulah Safdar and Ghulam Mohammad (all from Peshawar). The youngest among the group was Firozuddin Mansoor, 17, and the oldest was Abdul Hamid, 28 years old. The group reached Bukhara by end Sep 1920.

The other group under the leadership of Haji Shahabuddin included Fazal Elahi Qurban (50), reached Baku at a time when an intense battle between Turks and the Greeks was being fought at Smyrna (now Izmir). Baku was an important military station from where regular materials and weapon supplies were being dispatched in support of Turkish army. The Mujahidin arrived in Baku to join the Turkish war at Smyrna. But Turkish military officers at Baku were in no mood to let these Indian Mujahidin join in. The Indian volunteers were seen with great suspicion to be the British agents. Unfortunately, the news of the arrest of a British Muslim agent Mustafa Saghir (from Muradabad in U.P., India) in Anatolia had just reached Baku. Arriving from India in the guise of a Muslim volunteer on his mission to assassinate Mustafa Kamal, Mustafa Saghir was arrested by the Turkish army. The British secret police had hired Mustafa Saghir to assassinate Mustafa Kamal to demolish Turkish war efforts against Greeks. Captured with ample documentary evidence of his mission, Mustafa Saghir was tried in a military court and was executed. With the breaking of this news, the fate of the newly arrived contingent of enthusiastic Indian Mujahidin was completely sealed. On the contrary, now they were viewed as highly suspect in Baku.

Frustrated with the denial of access to Turkish war and after interaction with the members of the Baku branch of the Indian revolutionaries, these Indian Muhajirs again split into two groups: a few realizing the folly of their misdirected mission wished to join their former colleagues in Tashkent while others, by now, thoroughly frustrated, wanted to return homes. The group led by Haji Shahabuddin that set out for returning to India, unfortunately, met with more disasters. Most of them perished on their way or were brutally killed by Turkmen Basmachis. Those who were killed by Turkmens included the group leader Haji Shahabuddin. Only a few managed to reach their homes and tell their tragic stories.


20. Ibid, Op Cited, Pg. 195.
21. Ibid, Pg. 193.
22. Raees Ahmed Jafri Nadvi, Karwan-e-Gum Gashta (The Lost Caravan).
23. Zubair Ahmed Firdausi, Reshmi Rumal Tehreek, Nigarshat Publishers, Lahore, 1988, Pg. 43.
24. Mohammad Anwer Hussain, Ulema’s Freedom Struggle & Concept of Pakistan, Pg. 78. 25. Shaukat Siddiqi, Op Cit, Pg. 218.
26. Shaukat Siddiqi, Op Cit, Pg. 227.
27. Abdullah Malik, Dastan-e Khanwada-e Mian Mahmud Ali Qasuri, Jang Publishers, Lahore, 1995, Pg. 78.
28. Muhammad Ali Qasuri, Mushahidat-e-Kabul-o-Yaghistan, Anjuman Taraqi-e-Urdu, Karachi, 1955, Pg. 143-146.
29. Abdullah Malik, op cit, Pg. 80-81.
30. Muhammad Ali Qasuri, op cit, Pg. 108-110.
31. Ghulam Mohammad Jaffar, Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, Baitul Hikmat, Vol. 41 (1993), Islamabad, Pg. 60 as quoted by Dietrich Reetz, The Flight of the Faithful: A Britsih file on the exodus of Muslim Peasants from North India to Afghanistan in 1920, Verlag Das Arabische Buch, Berlin, 1995, Pg. 31
32. Shaukat Siddiqi, op cit, Pg. 249>
33. Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, was the son of General Nadir Khan.
34. Mahendra Partap, My Life Story of Fifty-five Years, Delhi, 1947, Pg. 57-58 quoted by Arun Coomer Bose in The Indian Revolutionaries and the Bolsheviks – Their Early Contacts, 1918-1922, Asian Studies.
35. These prominent Ulema included, Ataullah Shah, Daud Ghaznavi, and Ghulam Mohammad Aziz of Amritsar, Ahmed Saeed of Delhi, Azad Subhani of Kanpur, Abdul Razzak of Malihabad, Taj Mahmud Amroti, Pir Mahbub Shah of Hyderabad, Sindh, Abdul Qadir and his son Mohyiuddin Ahmed of Qasur (father and brother of Mahmud Ali Qasuri respectively), Ahmed Ali of Lahore, and Abdul Ghafoor of Peshawar.
36. M. Naeem Qureshi, Pan-Islam in British Indian Politics: A Study of the Khilafat Movement 1918-1924, BRILL, 1999, Pg. 188-189.
37. Those who opposed the senseless Hijrat movement included, Maulanas Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Shibli Naumani, Ahmed Raza Khan Barailvi, most of the Shia Ulema, and Bashiruddin Ahmed of Quadian.
38. Maulana Abdul Bari’s reply purely in a theoretical context was, indeed, academic and a little confusing for a lay person. Instantly, inflammatory reports of his support to the cause of Hijrat were prominently published by the movement’s proponents like the Hurriyat (Delhi) of Arif Haswi, Paisa Akhbar (Lahore) of Munshi Mehbub Alam, Zamindar (Lahore) of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, and the Khilafat.
39. Gail Minault, The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Political Mobilization in India, Columbia University Press, 1982, Pg. 106.
40. Dietrich Reetz, op cit, Pg. 52.
41. Documents of The History of The Communist Party of India, Vol. Two (1923-1925), Ed. Dr G. Adhikari, Peoples Publishing House, New Delhi, India, Oct 1974, Pg. 48.
42. Gail Minault, Op Cit, Pg.106.
43. The Daily Telegraph, 26 Aug 1920, & The Ulema of British India and the Hijrat, M. Naeem Qureshi in Modern Asian Studies, Vol.13 (1979), No.1, Pg. 41-59 as quoted by Dietrich Reetz, op cit, Pg. 69.
44. Gail Minault, Op Cit, Pg. 107.
45. The others included, Abdul Ghafar Khan (Charsadda), Ghulam Mehbub and Abdul Qadir Sehrai (Peshawar), Mohammad Hassan (Balochistan) Abdul Aziz, Waris Butt (Amritsar), Habib Ahmed (Shajahanpur), Mir Abdul Aziz, Ghulam Ahmed, Haji Shahabuddin, Fida Ali Zahid, Iqbal Shaidai, and Murtaza Ahmed Khan Maikash.
46. The Muhajirs’ tragic stories are told in great detail in various memoirs and autobiographies, including, Peshawar to Moscow: Leaves from Indian Muhajireen’s Diary, and Main Stalin se Dobara Mila (I met Stalin Again) by Shaukat Usmani, Swaraj Publishing House, Banaras, 1927; Unforgettable Journey, an autobiography of Rafiq Ahmed, MS, extensively quoted in The Story behind Moscow-Tashkent Conspiracy Cases, S.M. Mehdi, New Delhi, 1967; Mushahidat-e Kabul-o-Yaghistan, Maulvi Mohammad Ali Qasuri, Anjuman Taraqi-e-Urdu, Karachi, 1955; Auraq-e Gumgashta (The Pages that Were Lost), Rais Ahmed Jafri; Reshmi Rumal Tehrik (Silk Handkerchief Movement), Zubair Ahmed Firdousi, Nigarshat, Lahore, 1988; Gumshuda Auraq (The Lost Pages), Shaukat Siddiqi, Riktab Publications, Karachi, 2011; Documents of The History of The Communist Party of India, Vol. Two (1923-1925), Ed. G. Adhikari, People’s Publishing House, New Delhi, 1974. Moreover, personal accounts of the Hijrat Movement have been provided in detail in the Autobiography of Zafar Hassan Aibak in two volumes, Sarguzisht-e Mujahidin (The Story of Mujahidin), Maulana Ghulam Rasool Meher; Mian Akbar Shah’s account was serialized in Monthly Sarhad, Peshawar in 1970; Dastaan-e Khanwada-e Mian Mahmud Ali Qasuri (Family Saga of Mian Mahmud Ali Qasuri), Abdullah Malik, Jang Publishers, Lahore, 1995; an Autobiography of Fazal Elahi Qurban was also published.
47. Shaukat Usmani was to become one of the early communist leaders of India and figured prominently in the well-known Kanpur Conspiracy Case, 1924 and Meerut Conspiracy Case of 1929.
48. Later, known as Dada Firozuddin Mansoor, a veteran of the Pakistan communist movement.
49. Gohar Rehman from village Rihana, Haripur Hazara was to be a brother-in-law of Muhammad Ayub Khan, later a General and Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army, and the President of Pakistan during Oct 1958 – Mar 1969.
50. Fazal Elahi Qurban was to be one of the earliest Muslim members of the Communist Party of India in Punjab. At the time of founding of Pakistan, Fazal Elahi Qurban was to play a central role in the first dispute and dissent among the Pakistani communists.

Chapter 1 – Concluded

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  • Vikram
    Posted at 04:40h, 29 September Reply

    “Even today, the misguided fervour of Jihad among many educated Muslim young men in Pakistan and the western countries to join forces with Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and ISIS in Iraq in their fight against US and NATO forces has striking parallels with the Jihadi fervour of Indian Muslim students during 1915-1920 for fighting alongside Turks and against the British.”

    I think the fervour among Muslim men (and women) in the West is very different from that displayed by South Asian Muslims. The Western Muslims, mostly Arabs joining such groups are ultimately (if not openly) motivated by nationalist concerns. After all, it is Arab lands where these groups are operating and conflicts playing out.

    Note that such ‘fervour’ is mostly missing among Iranian Muslims (despite living in a theocracy) and South East Muslims (the odd exception only proving the rule).

    So the question is why do South Asian Muslims display such a fervour and a feverish desire to engage themselves with these conflicts in faraway lands ?

    Two possible reasons come to mind. First, there is the mythology of racial origin in the Muslim world. So, these conflicts do become ‘national’ for South Asian Muslims even though they are from a different land. Second, feelings of impurity and sinfulness nurtured by living in a Hindu cultural environment, in a land associated in large part with Indic traditions. A jihad in the Middle East might be seen by many as a ‘cleanser’.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 03:40h, 02 October

      Vikram: I don’t see any nationalist dimension in this; it is much more a religious sentiment that is driving the fervour. It is concentrated in the regions where Western forces have interfered most primarily because of the desire to control oil resources. The Middle East is at the centre of this and happens to be predominantly Muslim. Add the republics where the Russians have used force like Chechnya and Daghestan and then Afghanistan which became a conflict zone in the Cold War. There was a similar sentiment in Iran when the US was supporting the Shah. Pakistan got involved as an American proxy in Afghanistan in the so-called jihad against the godless communists. There is no equivalent of similar Western involvement in the Far East but there is a strong sympathetic religious sentiment in Indonesia leading to quite a few acts of terrorism. In Thailand and the Philippines there is Muslim unrest of a localized nature.

      The argument about expiating impurity and sinfulness seems implausible. Had this been true the Muslims in India would have been much more affected; in reality they are the least involved in the fervour.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 18:31h, 03 October

      Vikram: Without knowing enough about Kerala, I can offer a general explanation for further discussion.

      It seems to me that among the Muslim labor from India working in the Middle East Muslims from Kerala are disproportionately greater as a fraction of their population than Muslims from other states like UP, Bengal, Bihar, etc. This is quite natural as migrations depend on a lot of contextually specific factors. For example, from Pakistan out-migration is much higher from rural NWFP than from rural Sindh even when the poverty levels are about the same. For details, see: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41259546?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

      The high migration from Kerala could have resulted in greater absorption of the Saudi/Middle East narrative of religious fervor and jihad, etc. compared to Muslims from other provinces in India. If the cause had been expiation of impurity and sin, one would have expected all Muslims in India to be equally affected.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 19:11h, 03 October

      I tended to agree with this explanation. But on reading this post by Kamran, I realized there is another factor at play.

      The high levels of migration among Malayali Muslims did not just expose them to a more rigid Islam, it also changed their class status, and gave them the tools to locate themselves in a global Islam vs a local Malayaliness.

      This is a factor they have in common with the Indian Muslims, undertaking hijrat/jihad in the early 20th century. There is the same search for piousness and sense of doing something for the Ummah.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 19:24h, 03 October

      Also, slightly tangential, but following the directions in the paper you linked, there has been a lot of work on migration to the Gulf from Pakistani provinces in recent years.

      I feel Table 11 on page 16 here summarizes the situation well:

      5 and 10% of the average household income of Punjabi and KP households comes from foreign remittances. The number is 0.7 and 1.5% for Sindh and Balochistan. I would suspect for non-Karachi households in Sindh, the number is vanishingly small.

      Situation in India is also interesting, 12-15% of Kerala households receive international remittances, which is followed by Punjab and Tamil Nadu. Households in UP and Bihar also receive remittances in large numbers, but these are domestic, not international. See Table A.1 and A.2 (pg 27 and 28) here: http://tinyurl.com/j7j35zk

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