Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Nehru in Waziristan

The main purpose of Nehru's visit to NWFP was to boost the morale of the Congress and push their cause on the Frontier. This was against the advice of the governor , Sir Olaf Caroe, and the Viceroy. When Nehru arrived at Peshawar Airport, he was greeted by a large and hostile league demonstration. It was an ugly situation and he had to be taken out through a back door. Nehru then visited Tribal areas.[1]

The first town in tribal territory on Nehru's itinerary was Mirmashah, where he was to address a Jirga. But according to reports reaching the British, the Utmanzai Wazirs were not impressed with his pledge to 'set them free', calling out, 'why dont you speak pashto? Go back to Hindustan'. His reception at Razmak was no better. The tribesmen fired on the plane before it even arrived. Robin Hodson,  who was the political agent of south Waziristan, witnessed Nehru's address to the Jirga there. 'Instead of remaining seated, to my astonishment Nehru got up and started addressing the tribesmen as though he were at political rally, waving his arms around and marching up and down. At Jirga it is custom to sit on the ground and the person addressing the meeting would be seated on chair. But Nehru's manner didnt please them. Again he said that he would set them free from slavery of the British, but the reply -- in Urdu for Nehru to understand-- came: 'we are not the slaves of British and we are certainly not going to be your slaves'. Using the contemptuous word for an Indian, kortunai, they said that if they had to deal with any Indian , it would be Jinnah. This made Nehru frantic with rage. He said he was more powerful than the British and had kicked them out, swinging his foot. The Mahsuds greeted this with laughter and the meeting broke up in disorder. When Nehru was advanced upon by a Mahsud with an umbrella, it was Robin Hodson who stood in to protect him. Hodson was therefore somewhat surprised to listen to All radio India saying that political officers there had arranged a demonstration against Nehru.

At Wana , Ahmadzai Wazirs refused to meet him, and debagged the suited and booted Hindus who went to visit him. Abdul Ghaffar khan, who, together with Dr.Khan Sahib accompanied Nehru throughout the trip , spoke scathingly of the British officers in Waziristan calling them 'suave and cunning'. He attributed the docility of tribesmen to the allowances given them by British. Nehru journeyed onto Tank and Jandula , where he met some of the smaller tribes. 'Here the tribesmen received us warmly and brought back sheep to present us', noted Ghaffar khan. Back in Peshawar Nehru's next stop was Khyber pass, But the Afridis refused to grant usual tribal protection and the recently reconstituted Khyber rifles were called in to protect the party against against sniping and stone throwing. After tea in Torkham , they returned to Peshawar without meeting an Afridi. [2]

The account of the details of Nehru's visit is available from a letter which the political agent of South Waziristan wrote to his wife:

"Abdul Ghaffar Khan opened the proceedings by telling the Waziris that the great Nehru had heard of how they had been oppressed by the Firangis and had decided to come and investigate their condition. They were poor and the new Indian government was determined to give them schools, to teach them their religion , to build hospitals and to civilize them. The Wazir spokesman replied more in grief than in anger that Abdul Ghaffar had got it all wrong. The Utmanzai Wazirs were oppressed by no one, nor did they need instruction in teaching of Islam from a man whose son had married a Parsi and whose niece (Dr.Khan Sahib's daughter Marium) was married to a Christian. This remark infuriated Dr.khan sahib who called them paid toadles of the political agent. This remark was too much for the jirga who leapt to their feet in protest. Smouldering with indignation the party then departed [to meet Mehsuds]. A Mehsud Jirga was assembled in the residency garden. Nehru spoke in Urdu. The Mahsuds probably didnt understand much. But when he said that those present were all debauched by British robbery, it was too much for old kaka. Mir Badshah's father , who in the coarse way that Mahsuds have, said 'Hindu, if the British pay us money. there's a good reason. Our private parts are of extraordinary size as you will find out to your cost before long. 'With that the old boy stumped out. The political agent tried to persuade Nehru to end his tour after this but Bacha khan begged him to continue. Things only got worse however as their car was pelted with stones, injuring the two leaders with flying glass. (Hunt and Harrison 1980:231) [3]

Malak Mehr Dil Mahsood giving Jawahar Lal Nehru a Piece of his Mind while Political Agent Robin Hodson tries to stop the approaching Malak.

Mehsud Tribal Maliks sit in semi-circle, listening to Nehru who is pointing finger at them for added emphasiz

Tribesmen walk out

Nehru's Route is guarded by Khyber rifles, who have just driven off some tribesmen with rifle fire. The troops are now crouched in a cut by the side of the road to protect Nehru in case tribesmen return when Nehru resumes his journey

tribesmen hurl stone at Nehru convoy from embankment near landi kotel fort

Nehru examines hole in the windshield


1.  Disastrous Twilight: A Personal Record of the Partition of india by Major-General Shahid Hamid
2. Afghan Frontier: At the Crossroads of Conflict By Victoria Schofield, p-238
3. The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition & Memory in the North West Frontier
 By Mukulika Banerjee, p-185

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