Until I saw Rang De Basanthi movie I was not aware of this great Pathan patriot. I would have read a word about him in my schooling while reading about Kakori Train Robbery. But not completely about him like the way we learnt about other leaders. So here I’m paying my tribute to him with my words.
Born on October 22, 1900 in a Pathan family which was famous for militancy he too belonged to that stream of Indian nationalism which glorified with the blood of martyrs India’s struggle for freedom. The adoration he had for Ram Prasad Bismil paid the way for his entry to the Freedom Struggle. Khan’s elder brother who was the classmate of Bismil, often used to share about the bravery and shayari Urdu poetry of Bismil. This increased the keen interest in meeting Bismil with Ashfaq.
After trying for 2 complete years Khan met Bismil in 1922. After formal introduction, he told Bismil that he wrote poems under the pen-names of ‘Warsi’ and ‘Hasrat’. Bismil listened to some of his couplets in a private get- together at Shahjahanpur. Sharing same interests, it took no time for them to become good friends…
Their friendship grew day by day with poems. Ashfaq used to write and show his poems to Bismil and Bismil used to correct or improve them immediately. The poetic alignment between them was great and that was proved to others in the poetic conferences called Mushaira in Urdu language. The conference was overwhelmed with surprise.
HINDUSTAN REPUBLIC ASSOCIATION
When Mahatma Gandhi withdrew the non corporation movement after the Chauri Chaura incident in 1922, many Indian youths felt dejected and among them Ashfaq was one. Bearing the thought that India should be free ASAP, he joined the revolutionaries… Ashfaqulla Khan and Ramprasad Bismil together formed Hindustan Republican Association. The founder of the Association was Shachindra Nath Sanyal. The objective of the association was to make India free from the clutches of the British.
The revolutionaries decided to make the British hear through their actions, subsequently, they organized a meeting on 8th August 1925 in Shahjahanpur and it was decided to loot the government treasury carried in the No:8 Down Saharanpur-Lucknow passenger train.
On 9th August 1925, Ashfaqulla Khan and eight other revolutionaries looted the train under the leadership of Ram Prasad Bismil. Just ten young men had done this difficult job because of their courage, discipline and patience, leadership and, above all, love for the country. They had written a memorable chapter in the history of India’s fight for freedom. These revolutionaries were Ramaprasad Bismil, Rajendra Lahiri, Thakur Roshan Singh, Sachindra Bakshi, Chadrasekhar Azad, Keshab Chakravarty, Banwari Lal, Mukundi Lal, Mammathnath Gupt and Ashfaqulla Khan.
BETRAYAL OF A FRIEND
After a month, everyone except Ashfaq was arrested. Somehow Ashfaq made his way to Delhi. There he met a Pathan friend.
“The worst pain in the world goes beyond the physical.. It is the betrayal of a friend.” Ashfaq too experienced that pain on that day. Friendship, duty and even the feeling of belonging to the same place – none of these could check the Pathan’s greed for money. The Pathan had fed him, talked to him in a very friendly way and then had betrayed Ashfaq to the police.
In one of his poems he declares, ‘Oh my motherland, I live only to serve you. Whether I am sentenced for life or given a death sentence, I shall sing thy glories even with my chained hands.
‘Death comes but once;
Why fear it?’
So Ashfaq has sung in one of his poems. This is the faith of all revolutionaries…
IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH
Ashfaqulla choose the path of service to the motherland. That path led him to the hangman’s noose. He who sacrificed his ancestral property for the motherland, he who reduced his parents to beggars, prosperity for the sake of the country and he who sacrificed his all including his own life for the freedom of the country, for the sake of the motherland stood there facing his death on 19th December 1927…
When his chains were released, he reached for the hanging rope and kissed it by saying these words: “My hands are not soiled with the murder of man. The charges framed against me are a bare false. Allah will give me the justice.” And at last he recited in Arabic the shahadah. The noose came around his neck and India lost one of its shining stars in the sky.