Portrait of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988), was the foremost 20th-century leader of the Pashtuns (Pakhtuns, or Pathans); a Muslim ethnic group of the Indian subcontinent, who became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and was called the “Frontier Gandhi.”Ghaffar Khan met Gandhi and entered politics in 1919 during agitation over the Rowlatt Acts, which allowed the internment of political dissidents without trial. In the following year he joined the Khilafat movement, which sought to strengthen the spiritual ties of Indian Muslims to the Turkish sultan, and in 1921 he was elected president of a district Khilafat committee in his native North-West Frontier Province.Soon after attending an Indian National Congress (Congress Party) gathering in 1929, Ghaffar Khan founded the Red Shirt movement (Khudai Khitmatgar) among the Pashtuns. It espoused nonviolent nationalist agitation in support of Indian independence and sought to awaken the Pashtuns’ political consciousness. By the late 1930s Ghaffar Khan had become a member of Gandhi’s inner circle of advisers, and the Khudai Khitmatgar actively aided the Congress Party cause up to the partition of India in 1947.Ghaffar Khan, who had opposed the partition, chose to live in Pakistan, where he continued to fight for the rights of the Pashtun minority and for an autonomous Pushtunistan (also called Pakhtunistan or Pathanistan; an independent state in the border areas of West Pakistan). He paid dearly for his principles, spending many years in jail.             

(Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Gaffar Khan strongly opposed the All-India Muslim League's demand for the partition of India. When the Indian National Congress declared its acceptance of the partition plan without consulting the Khudai Khidmatgar leaders, he felt very sad and told the Congress "you have thrown us to the wolves." The visual created by his these remarks in my mind, have turned out to be the most important element in the composition of the portrait of Badshah Khan. The barbered wire is of course a demarcation line of the partitioned country and a red rose on the ‘other side’- something close to heart, which has been left behind the ‘borders’!

-Kanwal Dhaliwal