Home » Languages » English (Sr. Secondary) » Biography of Bharat Ratna “Abdul Ghaffar Khan” complete biography for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Biography of Bharat Ratna “Abdul Ghaffar Khan” complete biography for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan


Known as an uncrowned Pathan king, the Red Shirt Khudai Khidmatgar (Servant of God), the pride of the Pathans, Fakher-e-Afghan, Badhshah Khan (Sardar), the Sarhadi Gandhi (Gandhi of the Frontier), Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was a symbol of peace and sacrifice in the subcontinent.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan was a scion of a leading family belonging to the Mohamadzai Pathan tribe of village Uttamanzai in the Charsadda Tehsil of Peshawar district in the erstwhile North-West Frontier Province of British India, now forming a part of Pakistan. His father, Khan Sahib Bahram Khan, was the Headman of the village and was highly respected for his noble character and honesty. He was granted big jagirs by the British for his valuable services during the so-called Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. But in the later part of his life, he developed hatred for the British and was even arrested during the agitation against the Rowlett Bills. He died in 1926, at the ripe old age of 95.

The story of the Frontier Gandhi’s life reads like a romance. The fifth child of his parents, he was born in 1890 in a rich, aristocratic family of the Khans of the Mohamadzai tribe. He married for the second time when his first wife died. He had three sons and one daughter.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan had his early education at home and also in a Nlaktab (Muslim school) of a Moulvi where he was given religious instruction. He joined the Mission High School at Peshawar for his regular schooling and studied up to the Matriculation. He could not pass the Matriculation examination and was sent to Aligarh where he studied Urdu papers. He read the daily Zamindar edited by Maulana Zaffar Ali Khan and the Al Hilal, an Urdu weekly of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. These readings created in him an interest in politics and turned him into a patriot. Later, it was planned to send him to England for higher education but it could not materialise. As a student, he was greatly influenced by the missionary spirit of the Principal of his School, Rev. Wigram, and resolved to serve his community as his Principal had served his faith in a missionary spirit. The Haji of Turangzai, a pioneer of national education in the province, was another man who created in him his love for national education. Abdul Ghaffar Khan studied Gandhiji’s life critically and always showed a readiness to take a leaf out of his book. His close association with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and other top-ranking Indian nationalists greatly influenced him in his political outlook.

He was a man of great courage and simple habits. He was a devout Muslim, believed in his own religion and had equal regard for all other religions. Abdul Ghaffar Khan made his religious views known to his large audiences at public meetings. He often declared, ‘The Holy Koran says in so many words that God sends messengers for all nations and for all peoples and they are their respective Prophets. All of them are ‘Ahle Kitab’ (Men of the Book) and the Hindus are not less ‘Ahle Kitab’ than the Jews and the Christians.” Again, “The fundamental principles of all religions are the same, though details differ because each faith takes the colour and flavour of the soil from which it springs.” “I cannot contemplate a time when there will be one religion for the whole of the world.” About Hindus, he remarked: “If they are idol-worshippers, what are we? What is the worship of tombs? How are they any less devotees of God when I know that they believe in one God.” “He is a devout Muslim,” wrote Mahatma Gandhi, “During his stay with me for over a year, I never saw him miss his Namaz or his Ramzan fast except when he was ill. But his devotion to Islam does not mean disrespect for other religions.” Some of his critics and adversaries have often called him a ‘Hindu’ for his liberal attitude towards religion.

On return from Aligarh, Abdul Ghaffar Khan associated himself with the Haji of Turangzai as early as 1911 and took an active part in establishing several national schools in the province. However, his regular nationalist career started from 1919 when he plunged into the agitation against the Rowlatt Bills. He made his first political speech during this agitation in his village in condemning the Rowalit Bills. He was arrested but later released.

For more than the biblical span of three score and ten, he served and trained the people in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He taught them to become fearless. Cooperation with fellow citizens in a life of service and in a struggle for self-reliance remains his goal.

Like his mentor Mahatma Gandhi, he shunned pomp. He lived like a saint but not as a recluse. His had been a life of stark simplicity. A devout Muslim, he held all faiths in equal respect. His religion had been service of man.

“Frontier Gandhi” is the name given him by his people in the North-West Frontier Province, now a part of Pakistan. That name became his because he taught them the principles and practice of non-violence just as it was done by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa and India. His people were Pathans, described and feared by the British army as the “fiercest warriors in the world”. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was also popularly known as Badshah Khan.

To the British colonial rulers, the Frontier Province was the land to be condemned for the “highest murder rate in the world”. The Pathan appeared to them as a predatory free-booster who pursued blood -feuds as his favourite pastime. Raids, kidnappings and ransom collected from victims were given by the British as his main occupation and means of livelihood. Actually he opposed their colonial and military presence. But the British had no respect for “independent spirit, his hatred of control and his love of his land”.

All this came into play during India’s struggle for independent which Gandhiji started to lead in the nineteen twenties. By joining it in thousands, Pathans demonstrated that the matches guerrilla fighter” in mountain war-fare, famed for his valour, stamina, marksmanship and skill in the use of arms, was also brave enough to invite suffering upon himself. Time and again he showed the greater bravery of non-violent non-cooperation or civil disobedience.

The man who worked for and achieved his people’s historic transformation was Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. “A king among men by stature and dignity of bearing”, this is how C.F. Andrews had spoken of him, “practising ahinsa or non-violence and enjoining it upon his followers, and implicitly taking his instructions from Mahatma Gandhi”.

This Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan did by setting up an organisation and starting a movement to which all true “servants of God” could belong. It was conceived primarily as a movement for social reform and economic uplift. The ideal of Khudai Khidmatgars, as their name implies, was to become true servants of God. In other words, they had banded together to serve God through service of humanity.

The Khudai Khidmatgar Movement aimed at teaching the Pathans industry, economy and self-reliance by educating them. It inculcated among them self-respect and the fear of God which “banishes all fear”. In 1929 Badshah Khan decided to convert his small body of volunteer workers into a political organisation to carry out the Congress Party’s non-violent resistance to British rule as also welfare programmes.

They sought purity in personal life. They did not divide humanity according to religion—Muslim or Hindu or Christian. They were pledged to non-violence in word and deed and to the service of their fellow beings without expectation of remuneration or reward.

Red shirts were their uniform, since white khadi (hand-spun, hand-woven) shirts were too readily soiled and a brick-red dye was to be had easily in Peshawar district of the North-West Frontier Province. Until April 1930, the Khudai Khidmatgars did not number more than 500. In 1938 their figure stood at over one hundred thousand. They bore no arms although this seemed their natural bent and gift, especially in opposing Britain’s presence in their home lands. They became messengers of peace under Badshah Khan’s leadership.

On 6 April 1919, there was a meeting at Utmanzai. Over a hundred thousand people including Abdul Ghaffar Khan, attended it. In the words of his son Ghani, “The simple Khans of Hashtnagar collected in a big mosque. They said he was their king, a Badshah. The Assistant Commissioner arrived with soldiers and artillery and surrounded the village, disarmed the inhabitants, fined them sixty-four thousand rupees, and carried away sixty respectable old Khans as hostages until the fine was paid”.

The British tried to frighten Bahram Khan, then about seventy-five years old and a loyal friend of the British, by telling him that they would “shoot the Badshah”. When he refused to be frightened, they arrested him as well. Then the son, Abdul Ghaffar, was taken before the jirga. He was asked if he was the Badshah (King) of Pathans. “I said I did not know, but that I knew I was a servant of the community”. He would not take the prohibitory laws and restrictions on assembly or movement—known as the Rowlatt regulations—lying down. ‘The jirga used all kinds of threats and specious arguments. But I remained adamant”.

Thus both father and son had their baptism of fire. There was no case filed or trial held. “I was taken to the jail handcuffed and I had fetters on me all the time. I was twice my present bulk in those days, weighing 220 lb. There were no fetters to fit my legs… They were hard put to it to find a pair, and when they did put one on me, the portion above the ankle bled profusely. That did not worry the authorities, who said I should not take long to get accustomed to them.” Badshah Khan was released from prison in six months.

Badshah Khan attended the session of the Indian National Congress at Nagpur in 1920. He took a leading part in the Civil Disobedience Movement. He led some pilgrim exiles who made an exodus to Kabul as a protest. They suffered many hardships in their march to and from Kabul.

In 1921 Badshah Khan was again imprisoned by the British authorities for no other crime than establishing national schools. What they feared was the spread of his influence. For even from distant malakand, Bajaur and Swat the tribesmen were sending their children to those azad (national) schools. He was sentenced to three years’ rigorous imprisonment. He was subjected to all the hardships of jail life—solitary cell, fetters for months, grinding the corn, and so on. He lost 20 kg in weight. He had attacks of scurvy and lumbago.

All the while, Badshah Khan behaved as model prisoner. He followed jail rules cheerfully, putting up with privations of prison life. He never asked for a favour or compromised on principles. He started a crusade against corruption in jail. Under his influence, one constable tendered his resignation because he could not make both the ends meet without indulging in corrupt practices. The jail authorities took alarm and transferred Badshah Khan to Gujarat prison in Punjab. Here again his honesty and observance of jail discipline became a source of embarrassment to the more easygoing fellow prisoners.

During the civil disobedience campaigns of 1930 and 1932 a virtual black-and-tan regime was set up in the Frontier Province. Standing crops of civil resisters were burnt. Stocks of grain were spoiled by pouring kerosene oil. Houses were pulled down and set in fire. Under martial law, there were lathi charges and shootings, indignities and brutalities. An American tourist has observed, “Gunning the red shirts was a popular sport and pastime of the British forces in the provinces.” Khudai Khidmatgars were stripped naked, made to run through cordons of British soldiers who kicked them and jabbed them with rifle ends and bayonets as they were made to run. They were thrown off from rooftops, ducked in dirty ponds and subjected to indecent tortures. Some were maimed for life. So much for the civilising mission of empire builders.

In 1947 India got independence in a truncated form. Pakistan was carved out of Muslim-majority areas of the Indian subcontinent. This gave a fresh lease of life to tile unholy alliance between the British armed and civil authorities on the one hand and the rabid Communists of Pakistani Punjab on the other. For secular and freedom loving Pathans, the partition of India was a disaster. The Frontier Gandhi rightly said it was like “throwing to the wolves” by Indian nationalists, including the Congress party, of Khudai Khidmatgars and other non-communal forces. After 1947 the Frontier Gandhi was for long years in the jails of Pakistan.

It is odd to think that they could face the British. Then they came out with glory and success after long suffering. But they could not overcome the combined operations of the British officers and civilians who had stayed behind and the Pakistani counterparts.

Certainly, it indicates how imperialism seeks a new lease of life under altered conditions. In the recent years therefore, some of his friends and critics have thought of the Frontier Gandhi as a disappointed leader. As a leader of his people, he may have failed in the political game of power relations. But he will always stand out as a shining example among the world’s peace-makers and Khudai Khidmatgars, of man’s unsubdued spirit and struggle for freedom. And freedom’s battle, “though baffled out is never lost”.

During the Indo-British negotiations in 1946-47 he vehemently opposed the partition of India. It was perhaps the bitterest disappointment for him when the Congress leaders accepted partition. He expressed his anguish at the Working Committee meeting and felt hurt at the way he and the nationalist Pathans had been let down h’, those by whom they had stood fast under all circumstances.

After the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan, Abdul Ghaffar Khan did not rest. He started agitation for the establishment of Pakhtoonistan and was jailed quite a number of times by the Pakistan Government. After his last imprisonment he lived in exile in Afghanistan for a long period during the Military Dictatorship in Pakistan, returning to his homeland at the end of 1972.

Abdul Ghanar Khan subscribed fully to the doctrine of non-violence. It had almost become a matter of faith with him. He believed that his people needed non-violence more than anybody else. He always enjoined upon his followers to remain non-violent even in the face of the worst provocation.

He strongly favoured national education and established a National School in his village and tried to establish its branches all over the province.

The attitude of Abdul Griaffar Khan towards social reform was modern. He firmly believed in the uplift of the Pathans and the depressed classes and worked whole-heatedly towards that end. He was against untouchability. He believed in female education and emancipation of women. He was against regionalism.

About his attitude towards the British, he often used to say that he hardly trusted their word. He had no personal animosity towards them but was very sore over the British painting his province as a ‘province of murderers’ and for the cruelties perpetrated on his people.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan believed in the cult of ‘Charkha’ and favoured the development of village industries.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan founded an organisation known as the ‘Khudai Khidmatgars’ (Servants of God) for carrying on his work. Its aim in the beginning was social reform but later on it expanded its activities. At Sardaryab, a national centre for the Khudai Khidmatgars was established. The organisation became very popular among the masses.

Public platform was his main forum through which he spread his ideas on politics, the ‘Khudai Khidmatgar Movement’, education, social reform, etc. However, he did not ignore the press. He started a monthly journal in Pushto, the Pakhtoon, in 1928 but it was closed down in 1930 after his arrest. It was revived the following year but had to be closed down again. After a few years it was again published as Das Roza in April 1938, but its publication was again suspended in 1941. It made its appearance again in 1945 as a weekly but was closed down after two years.

The political awakening among the Pathans has been largely due to the work carried on by Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his close associates over a period of nearly three decades. For his work and great sacrifices, he is highly respected and called ‘Fakher-e-Afghan’ (The Pride of the People). Due to his close relations with Mahatma Gandhi, he was called by the people ‘Frontier Gandhi’. For his quality of leadership, he was also known as `Bacha Khan’ which means a Sardar or leader. ‘Badshah Khan’ is another name by which he is popularly known.

For the people of the Indian subcontinent, the happy memories of the visit to Bombay and Delhi of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan will remain linked with two major events. India was observing the fortieth anniversary of freedom it became an independent nation on 15 August 1947 and then choose to remain in the Commonwealth of Nations–formerly the British Commonwealth.

Owing to sudden illness, this oldest and most famous of Mahatma Gandhi’s co-workers in the non-violent struggle for India’s freedom could not join all the public functions and celebrations linked with the anniversary. Happily, however, he slowly recovered in hospital and later convalescated back home in Pakistan. But his presence in India in August 1987 was a matter of great joy and pride for the Indian freedom fighters still around and for all friends of independent India.

His visit gave the Indian Government a welcome opportunity to confer on the Frontier Gandhi its highest honour Bharat Ratna. The award marks the recognition of his great contribution to the attainment of freedom by peaceful and non-violent non-cooperation with the British. It also came as a tribute to his continuing and active interest in the cause of peace and the spread of Mahatma Gandhi’s message of love and truth. He was then 97.

Frontier Gandhi Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a stalwart of India’s freedom struggle and a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, died in Peshawar on January 20, 1988. A born soldier, Badshah Khan fought throughout tirelessly till he called it a day after 98 years of glorious life.

Badshah Abdul Ghaffar Khan had a striking appearance. He was tall and well-built. He had simple habits. He used khadi and his dress was always unostentatious. He was courteous and easily accessible.

A grateful nation, India, condoled the death of the Frontier Gandhi with a five-day state mourning. The Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, flew into Peshawar immediately on hearing of Badshah Khan’s demise and paid homage to the departed leader. A 12-member high level Indian delegation led by the Vice-President, Dr. S.D. Sharma, participated in the funeral of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

People from all walks of life paid rich tributes to the apostle of peace. The President, R. Venkataraman, described Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan a great legend of our time. His long adventurous life symbolised the aspirations of the North-West Frontier for an identity. He was unswerving in the commitment to the cause of Pakhtoons and was, as Gandhiji described him, their uncrowned king. The Vice-President, S.D. Sharma, said that Badshah Khanepitomised humanist way of life and represented eternal human values of Mahatma Gandhi as well as the great generation which fought for freedom in the subcontinent. The Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, said Badshah Khan had the vision of one humanity and the greatest interest of peace and harmony for all humankind. He worked for a world free of hunger, a world free from poverty, he worked for a world full of peace where there would be no anger and hatred, no fear or cowardice, where there will be no jealously and suspicion.


The main objective of this website is to provide quality study material to all students (from 1st to 12th class of any board) irrespective of their background as our motto is “Education for Everyone”. It is also a very good platform for teachers who want to share their valuable knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *