The granddaughter of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, also known as Frontier Gandhi and the first foreigner to receive the Bharat Ratna, appealed to the Indian government to grant citizenship to Pathans, and unveiled plans for a university in her grandfather’s name in West Bengal. “There are around 32 lakh Pashtuns (Pathans) in India, who have lived and worked here for generations. Yet, they are still to get citizenship. Pandit Nehru had told my grandfather that those who wanted to stay here after North West Frontier Province went to Pakistan will be Indian citizens. I urge the Indian government to help the Pashtuns here,” said Yasmin Negar Khan, 47, speaking to the media here.
Yasmin is the president of All India Pakhtoon Jirga-e-Hind (established in 1949). “We will shortly meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and appeal to set up a university in the name of my grandfather in Bengal. Pakhtuns or Pathans are in a bad condition in Pakistan also. There are atrocities committed against them. In Afganistan they are brainwashed by Taliban. We want the children and youths to come here and study in the university, where they should have a quota for admission,” she said. “India should raise the issue in the world forum about Pakistan committing atrocities. Pashtuns want their independence too. We are all for secession of Pakhtunwa in Pakistan. Then they can decide to join Afganistan.”
The Pathans in India at present do no have citizenship but only have a government-approved card. They mostly work as traders and money lenders. “Like Balochistan, Pakhtunistan (comprising of areas in both Afganistan and Pakistan) too is deliberately neglected. The Pakistan government is keeping the masses uneducated. We will soon hit the streets in protest,” she said.
In 1996 after the death of her father, Yasmin took over the mantle of the organisation that looks after the interests of Pathans. “We have family and friends in Pakistan. But we don’t get an Indian passport and therefore we cannot travel there. Something should be done for us. We also fought for independence,” said Abdullah Khan, a Pashtun living in Kolkata.