In conversation with Dr. Shandana Khan

In this month’s candid live session, Dr. Shandana Khan joins Daastan to talk about the life of the social reformer, Bacha Khan.

Meet Dr. Shandana Khan

Dr. Shandana Khan is the Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Support Programmes Network. She has over 20 years of expertise in rural development at the grassroots and policy level, mostly in the Rural Support Programmes. Her areas of expertise include project management, design, and social assessment. Moreover, her work centres around policy advocacy with funders, as well as the highest levels of government and related institutions. She holds a Master’s degree in Social and Political Sciences from Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.  In addition, Dr. Shandana has a Master’s degree in International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Insights into the book

The book “My life and struggle; autobiography of Badshah Khan” not only narrates the life of the social reformer Abdul Ghaffar Khan, but it is also a testament to the birth of a non-violent freedom fighter in the subcontinent. According to Dr. Shandana, the contents of Bacha Khan’s biography dives into the cultural aspects of Pakhtuns, the political and social context in which Bacha Khan worked as a social reformer. His book discusses about Pashtoon culture by highlighting the process of Badl, Pashtoon Wali Courts, place of women in society, and the attitude towards education. Moreover, he pens his struggle as a freedom fighter and the struggles he faced in achieving the vision he had for his people.

Dr. Shandana

“My life and struggle, The autobiography of Abdul Ghaffar Khan is the story of a brave man who fought non violently to free India from the yoke of British colonialism. Furthermore, he  stood for Hindu-Muslim unity, women empowerment and the reformation of Pakhtuns for a better and just society.” — Yash Sharma for Goodreads

Life of Bacha Khan

Abdul Ghaffar Khan was born February 6, 1890 in Utmanzayi, Punjab. Due to his services as a social activist and reformer, the public remembers him by many names. Badshah Khan, Bacha Khan and Fakhr-e-Afghan are his most famous pseudonyms. Since his youth, Bacha Khan was an active participant in the works of community service. For instance, he established a school in Utmanzayi just at the age of 20. He also founded the Khudayi Khidmatgars (servants of God) during the 1920s.

Even though he set out to inculcate the lost values of unity, non-violence and wisdom in the people of subcontinent, he was met with a lot of resistance. Despite the hurdles placed in his way in the form of death threats, imprisonment and exile, he did not waver. Dr. Shandana shares an account of Bacha Khan’s life where his father received death threats. In response to those threats Bacha Khan responded;

“Why do you pray 5 times a day, father?

His father said, “because it is compulsory”.

To this Bacha Khan replied, “for me educating and reforming my people is compulsory”. 

Bacha Khan left a legacy of peace and welfare for his people. He is a hero celebrated among Pashtoons, who showed them a path of reason and harmony in times of conflict, bloodshed and war.

Dr Shandana Khan’s Message

While staying on the topic of modern education and social reformation, Dr. Shandana highlights how Bacha Khan held onto his roots and culture and inspired the same in the generations to come.

“He believed in discarding the parts of one’s culture that furthered the narrative of violence, injustice and ignorance and promoting the ones that were beneficial.”

For instance, Dr. Shandana says “he fought hard against the societal ills such as the jirga systems, violence, baseless land and blood feuds.” However, when it came to upholding his cultural values; he advised young people to get modern education but at the same time he also urged them to learn their mother language and promote it.

We hope you enjoyed today’s live session with Dr. Shandana Khan. For more literary goodness, stay tuned.

Noor Hashmi
Noor Hashmi is a student of literature at Numl University. She is an aspiring poetess. She runs a blog by the name of “Diaries of Huda” sharing her journey through poetry. In her free time, she loves to paint and bake.

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