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Culture ministry honoured Frontier Gandhi’s descendants who weren’t

india Updated: May 31, 2016 20:40 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Sharma
Hindustan Times
Mahesh Sharma

In this file photo, culture minister Mahesh Sharma speaks during an interview with Hindustan Times.(Burhaan Kinu /HT Photo)

It takes some temerity to pose as grandchildren of a figure of history. But that’s what happened at the inauguration of an exhibition to mark 125 years of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan —- the Sarhadi Gandhi also known as Badshah Khan -— at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NNML) earlier this month.

The exhibition was inaugurated on May 20 by culture minister Mahesh Sharma. Sitting by his side on the dais was a lady who ‘styled’ herself as a granddaughter of the freedom movement icon. Her sister and her son were also present, duly introduced to the largely unsuspecting audience as granddaughter and great grandson of Badshah Khan.

But a couple in the gathering suspected the trio’s lineage — and for good reasons! Married to an Indian Foreign Service officer of the 1964 batch, Brinda Dube is the granddaughter of Ghaffar Khan’s brother, Dr Khansaheb. She did not know the people introduced as “descendants” of Badshah Khan.

Dr Khansaheb was the first chief minister of North-West Frontier Province now known as Khyber Pukhtonkhwa. He married twice, having three sons from his first wife who was a Pakhtun and two children -- a son and a daughter -- from the second wife, an English woman.

Dubey’s mother Mariam Khansaheb married her father, Air Marshal Jaswant Singh, in 1942 and became an Indian citizen after the Partition. “We were absolutely shocked by the appearance of this person, styling herself as the granddaughter of the great Badshah Khan, even giving a speech saying that she and her family were carrying on the legacy,” recalled Dubey.

She told HT that she took up the matter with an additional secretary of the culture minister soon after the function. “I told him that she isn’t what she says she is….I followed up the conversation with an email to the official. There has been no word in response to my mail…”

Dubey also informed Ghaffar Khan’s grandson, Asfandyar Wali, the supreme leader of Pakistan’s Awami National Party. The ANP leader told HT on phone that the threesome in question had nothing to do with his family. “I appeal to the government and the people of India not to be misled by them. They’re obviously misusing the name of my grandfather.”

The only granddaughter of Badshah Khan in India is Zarine Khan Walsh who lives in Mumbai. She is the second daughter of the Frontier Gandhi’s eldest son, Abdul Ghani Khan, and had married a Canadian who died some years ago.

On being confronted by facts as stated by Asfandyar, a culture ministry official claimed the women honoured at the function were daughters of Ghaffar Khan’s “adopted” son: “We invited them on the advice of Humanities and Social Sciences department of IIT-Kharagpur where too a commemorative event was held for the Frontier Gandhi.”

Be that as it may, an official release on the function had said the minister honoured Ghaffar Khan’s ‘descendants’ by presenting them shawls. It’s another matter the real descendants of the Sarhadi Gandhi have no clue from where they were, or who they are.