Kissa Kahani Bazaar massacre

Posted in British Raj, History, India, Indo Pak Relations, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on May 20, 2012

Did the British change or learn anything after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre? Not really. Little over ten years later, the Raj repeated the same action in Peshawar – the infamous massacre at Kissa-Kahani Bazaar; the publisher’s market in Peshawar.

Troops advancing on the protesters  |  Image source - INP; courtesy - tribune.com.pk  |  Click for image.

Troops advancing on the protesters | Image source – INP; courtesy – tribune.com.pk | Click for image.

Qissa Khawani Bazaar is one of Peshawar’s well-established market areas, a place named for its long association with publishing, and these days, sweets. Unfortunately, the bazaar is also the site of one of the most violent attempts by the British Raj to suppress the Indian independence movement.

By 1930, the Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God) had transformed from a movement to unify the Pakhtun tribes under one umbrella into a legitimate non-violent independence movement, drawing inspiration from Gandhi’s Satyagraha philosophy. However, it was the events of April 23 that year which thrust the movement into the limelight.

Following the arrest of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Baacha Khan) for a speech urging resistance to the British occupation, a number of his followers were rounded up by the police on frivolous charges. When two prominent workers surrendered, they were escorted to the Kabuli Police Station, where they were warmly welcomed by a large crowed assembled around the station.

The size of the crowd – which though noisy, had made no threat of violence – panicked the escorts, and they used force to disperse the assembly. The crowd reacted to the gunshots by slashing the tyres of the vehicles and attempting to free the two political workers.

As the British lost control of the situation, the military was brought in to restore order, while civilians from nearby collected at the scene to aid the injured. Upon reaching the scene, the famed indigenous Royal Garhwal Rifles was ordered to move forward and fire.

They refused.

Archive photos: A military vehicle burns in the empty streets. | Image source - INP; courtesy - tribune.com.pk | Click for image.

Archive photos: A military vehicle burns in the empty streets. | Image source – INP; courtesy – tribune.com.pk | Click for image.

The egg-faced leadership withdrew the Rifles and sent in the City Disturbance Column, who killed and injured members of the crowd while driving in. When the crowd demanded access to the dead and wounded, the Column was ordered to open fire.

The Market of Storytellers ran red with blood as bullets flew around for hours. However, the survivors stood their ground and faced the hail of gunfire with God’s name on their lips. After hours of firing, over 400 people had lost their live, with some estimates going as high as 700.

Gene Sharp, Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, wrote, “When those in front fell down wounded by the shots, those behind came forward with their chests bared and exposed themselves to the fire, so much so that some people got as many as twenty-one bullet wounds in their bodies, and all the people stood their ground without getting into a panic…. This continued from 11 till 5 o’clock in the evening. When the number of corpses became too many, the ambulance cars of the government took them away.”

Ghaffar Khan later wrote that this and subsequent aggression towards his non-violent movement were because the British thought a non-violent Pashtun was more dangerous than a violent one.

Though King George VI ordered an investigation into the event, historical records in the Peshawar Archives indicate that like many previous incidents, the British Government tried to covered up the Qissa Khawani Bazaar Massacre by bribing Judge Naimatullah Chaudhry.

However, Naimatullah published a 200-page report criticizing the British and passed a resolution in favour of the local people.

In the aftermath, the Khudai Khidmatgar became widely known for their resistance work while their leader was propelled to national stature and soon earned himself the nickname Frontier Gandhi for his devotion to non-violent resistance.

Archive photos: A sepoy taking aim early in the day  | Image source - INP; courtesy - tribune.com.pk | Click for image.

Archive photos: A sepoy taking aim early in the day | Image source – INP; courtesy – tribune.com.pk | Click for image.

As Khan said, “There is nothing surprising in a Muslim or a Pathan like me subscribing to the creed of nonviolence. It is not a new creed. It was followed fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet all the time he was in Mecca.”

(Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th; via Qissa Khawani Bazaar massacre: Standing tall before a hail of gunfire – The Express Tribune).

Three very interesting things about this post in the Pakistan’s Express Tribune .

One: This post refers to the Indian Independence Movement – without naming, involving, using Pakistan, Jinnah et al.

Two: Pakistan’s Express Tribune credits Gandhiji’s Satyagraha Movement for inspiring people in Peshawar, under the leadership of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan – aka the Frontier Gandhi.

Three: Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan – aka the Frontier Gandhi, was persona non grata, in Pakistan for many years – and was in jail in Pakistan.The Pakistani Establishment – and the reactionaries both were anti-Ghaffar Khan.

Frontier Gandhi’s grandson, Asfandyar Wali Khan (also spelled Asfandiyar Wali Khan) is seen as a threat by fundamentalists – and the Pakistani Taliban attempted to assassinate him in October 2008. As the 2ndlook post ‘Behind The Web of terror’, on December 17th, 2007, pointed out, the answer to the Pakistani problems in the North West tribal areas was Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. On October 3rd, 2008, the Frontier Gandhi’s grandson was the target of suicide bomber. The terrorists are obviously worried that Khan Abdul Khan Ghaffar Khan’s sensibility may make a comeback.

Behind The Web Of Terror

“…one who knows the higher criminal world … for years …I have …been conscious of some power behind the malefactor, some deep organizing power which … stands in the way of the law, and throws its shield over the wrong-doer. Again and again …I have felt the presence of this force, …when I seized my thread and followed it, …it led me, …to ….” Arthur Conan Doyle – The Final Solution

Syria For Dessert

The Root Of All Terror

In today’s world, behind all terror you will similarly see another baleful influence. No, it is not Osama bin Laden. Osama is either a minor reactionary (in Marxist terms) or a diluted repetition of the Hashishi influence.

Hashishis were major source of terrorism in the Dark Ages in Europe and Middle East. Their influence was finally extirpated by Genghis Khan’s army – which systematically went after this band of mercenary killers. The English word assassin is derived from Hashishis.

The source of modern terrorism is the USA.

The formation of Israel

Similar to the Middle East carve-up after WW1, and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, USA’s baleful story started immediately after WW2. The creation of the US cat’s paw in the Middle East – Israel. Less than 1,00,000 Jews were considered more important than the 5,00,000 Palestinian’s. This was American solution, aided by odious British legalities, (the Balfaour Declaration) to the Jewish persecution in Europe.

Just why, did Muslim Palestinians in Asia have to pay the price, for Christian persecution of Jews in Europe.

The Jews promptly forgot all about persecution – and started a new chapter in persecution. Palestinians became homeless – no passports. They could not go anywhere. Israel did not want them as Israeli citizens – but as a source of cheap labour, without rights. Jordan accepted a few. Syria was persuaded to accept some. They became stateless citizens – property of the UNHCR. And Palestinians started a new chapter in terrorism!

What Can Palestinians Do

The biggest successes in post WW2 world have been those that followed Gandhiji – Poland, South Africa, Martin Luther King and others. Odds are in favour of following the Gandhian way. The one unique military success in the last 60 years of struggle by emerging nations was Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Minh from Time MagazineLike Haitian generals, time and again, Ho Chi Minh, drove back Western colonials – each time they went back on their word. The French had promised freedom and de-colonialisation after WW2. Thereafter, they tried wriggling. Ho Chi Minh wouldn’t let them move.

The French created a mess – before leaving in 1956. Just like Britain did in India (by creating a Pakistan and Kashmir). US decided that they could ‘clean up’ – and make Vietnam into another client state like other SEATO (now ASEAN) members. 20 years later, the US admitted defeat and decided to slink away. The Chinese decided to take swipe. Same story.

Three of the five permanent members of the Security Council, (supposed Super Powers or mini-Super Powers) tried their hand at Vietnam. All failed. And after defeating these ‘Super Powers’, the Viets did not flex their muscles with any of their neighbours.

Ho Chi Minh’s quiet leadership, his frugality, his unblemished personal life inspired the Viets to take on the world – and win. After becoming President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, he lived in a ‘gardener’s cottage and then a peasant house built on stilts beside a pond.’ Just like Gandhiji, he died just before seeing his dream came true. Ho Chi died in 1969 – a few years before the last of the colonialists was thrown out.

His was the kind of war that Gandhiji always believed in – ethical, moral. Without hate, rancour, ill-will or subjugative ambitions. Ho Chi Minh was truly the second coming of Gandhiji – the predicted Kalki. This is the success that Middle East freedom fighters need to learn from. Regressive practices by rag-tag terror outfits corrupt the freedom struggle – and dilute the stability of the outcome.

The Islamic DemonisationNext was Iran.

They foisted a corrupt Reza Shah Pahlavi in Iran. A king no one wanted. The Shah of Iran wrote new chapters in state repression.

In 1974, I was introduced to a visitor from Iran in Hyderabad, India – someone my father picked up an acquaintance with. He was afraid of speaking anything in our house in India – 2500 miles away. He was afraid as if the Savak (Shah’s secret police) was in the room next door. He was from an Iranian minority that spoke Aramaic – and the first time I came to know that Aramaic was one of the language in which the Bible was originally written (but that is another story).

The Shah of Iran worked against his own nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq – to protect Western Oil interests. To turn public opinion,

declassified documents detailing the 1953 U.S. overthrow of Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq reveal that something actually called the “CIA Art Group” produced cartoons to turn public opinion against the democratically elected leader.

The CIA, led by Kermit Roosevelt Jr., and the British intelligence, launched Operation Ajax. Finally, in 1979, the Shah was replaced by the regressive regime of Ayatollah Khomeini, which has taken Iran out of the USA orbit – but kept Iran from progress for the last 30 years. Iran has become a source of de-stabilisation various parts of the world (Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc) – in its anti USA crusade.

US Targets Paula Abdul For Regime ChangePakistan – Old Story.

Pakistan was a part of the USA troika with Iran and Turkey in the CENTO alliance against USSR. Pakistan’s next ruler will be selected by the USA. During the Kargil war, India was talking to the USA. USA called the shots – and decided to replace Nawaz Sharif with Musharraf.

Pakistan was the training ground for New York sub-way bombing, 9/11 terrorists, for the Mujahiddin in Afghanistan and for the rogue trade in nuclear material with AQS Khan. India’s Kashmir and Khalistan problems – direct result of USA foreign policy.


Iraq started a war with Iran in 1980 (prodded by USA) against Iran. As a reward. Saddam wanted Kuwait. Before the Kuwaiti invasion, Saddam took USA “permission”. By the time USA realized what was happening, Kuwait was over. USA did a volte-face – and Saddam became a demon. Today, Iraq has become a quagmire of a civil war amongst Iraqis. The cost of an alliance with the USA. The war on terror has become another foray for the America-Australia-Britain-Canada (ABC) Axis – at a cost to the rest of the world.

“By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!” So said President George Bush in a euphoric victory statement at the end of the Gulf War. Did Iraq have to pay the price for exorcising the Vietnam ghost in the American mind?

Osama was operating from Afghanistan.

What did the USA have to do there!! It started with USSR. The King Of Afghanistan – Zahir Shah was replaced by a USSR backed group. A despotic, directionless regime replaced Zahir Shah. The secular voice of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, an avowed Gandhian, in Afghanistan was silenced by Pakistan – an USA ally.

Afghanistan decayed into a regressive nation – which the USSR decided to change! The civil war between the mujahideen (armed by the USA) and the Russians pushed back the character of the Afghans by 1500 years. An USA supply agreement flooded Afghanistan and Peshawar with for arms and armaments. Waziristan in Pakistan, NWFP has practically been conquered by the Mujahideen. The touch that kills.

Teror Outsourcing?Who’s next?

Saudi Arabia? One of the Central Asian Republics! Anglo Saxon propaganda overdrive tells us that Islam is to be blamed. Hardly!

Three causes for this US policy.

Oil – Cheap oil. Never mind the cost to others.

Oil – All it can get. And then some more.

Oil – For no one else. Uncle Sam wants it all.

Three Monkeys – Toshogu Temple

Amazingly, one of the US presidential hopefuls, John McCain, even blames a Muslim for killing Gandhiji. This was demonisation of Muslims by the American political establishment at its best.

Post Script

The first step

On February 22nd, 2008, the Deoband Seminary, the most respected Islamic seminary in South and South East Asia, issued a anti-terrorism declaration at a huge public meeting attended by hundreds and thousands of people. This set up a new direction in Islamic social dialogue – where a non-establishment, Islamic theological group came out against terrorism. Subsequently, some other ‘liberals’ jumped onto this bandwagon.

And then …

In October 2008, Pakistan was sent on a cold turkey … by Saudi Arabia, China and the US. Pakistan has been forced to go to IMF which is prescribing a heavy cut back in defence spending.

But most interestingly …

On October 3rd, 2008, the Frontier Gandhi’s grandson was the target of suicide bomber. The terrorists are obviously worried that Khan Abdul Khan Ghaffar Khan’s sensibility may make a comeback. Suddenly the world has been reminded about Khan Abdul Khan Ghaffar Khan.

Coincidentally, in India, a film was made on Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. The LA Times recently ran an column on him. The answer to the Pakistani problems in the North West tribal areas was Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

And the tribal chiefs of Pakistan and Afghanistan Pashtuns decided to call for a ‘mini-jirga’ on violence – to decide on the future of the two countries.

Hopefully, this a new beginning for Pakistan …

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