"Pakistan Chronicle" (Texas, USA), August 26, 2016.
"The Belcha: Allama Mashriqi’s Powerful Symbol for the Khaksar Tehrik"
On Allama Mashriqi’s 53rd death anniversary
By Nasim Yousaf
“We have SPADE as our symbol…Spade is another sign of humility and our carrying it on our shoulders shows that we are out to proclaim to the world THE DIGNITY OF LABOUR. Spade levels up the ground. We are here TO LEVEL UP ALL SOCIETY! A rich man with a spade considers that he has come down a bit to meet his poor brother. A poor man with a spade thinks that he has got a powerful weapon to strengthen him. Spade in this movement has worked wonders indeed! [translated from Urdu]”
– Allama Mashriqi, All Faiths Conference, 1938
Allama Mashriqi was born on August 25, 1888. Mashriqi was a revolutionary, reformer, and humanitarian, who founded the Khaksar Tehrik (Movement) to bring freedom to the Indian subcontinent (now comprised of Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan). When Mashriqi became sick near the end of his life, President Ayub Khan visited him in the hospital and offered him medical treatment in Switzerland at the Government’s expense (Mashriqi did not accept the offer, as it was against his principles to use public funds for personal treatment). Mashriqi died in Mayo hospital in Lahore on August 27, 1963. His funeral procession was approximately 1.6 kilometers long and included over 100,000 people, one of the largest funeral processions in South Asian history. This article is written in honor of his 53rd death anniversary and focuses on his choice of a belcha as the iconic symbol for his Khaksar Tehrik.
Mashriqi chose the belcha (a spade or shovel) as the symbol of the Khaksar Tehrik. This tool became such an integral part of the Khaksar Tehrik’s image in British India (now Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan), that the movement was often referred to as the Spade Movement or Army of Spades. Why did a man of Mashriqi’s stature choose such an unconventional tool to represent his party? As it turns out, Mashriqi’s choice of a spade was well thought out and highly symbolic.
For Mashriqi, the belcha was the perfect symbol for his party for multiple reasons, as expressed in his book Isha’arat and a piece published in Al-Islah (on July 26, 1935) entitled Qual-e-Faisal (No. 11). First, the belcha was a laborer’s tool and had been used for centuries around the world. The selection of a working man’s tool as the Tehrik’s symbol not only reflected Mashriqi’s belief in the importance of the labor class, but also his sense of humility and simplicity. By requiring all Khaksars to carry the belcha as part of their uniform, Mashriqi hoped to impart these values in the Khaksars and unite them. Mashriqi believed that when all members of the movement stood together with a belcha in hand – whether rich or poor or Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or Sikh – the differences between them would be shattered and they would grow stronger as one people and one nation. The belcha also had a special religious significance for Muslims. The Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had used the tool in trying situations (for example, the Battle of Trench). Taking inspiration from the Prophet, Mashriqi used the belcha as a symbol for awakening the nation from its slumber to rise up against British rule.
Along with its religious and philosophical symbolism, the belcha also represented the construction of the country’s infrastructure, thereby uplifting the nation. The belcha further signified the challenging nature of this monumental task and the hard work that would be required to bring freedom to the subcontinent. The belcha appealed to the masses; it was a powerful visual reminder that this was a movement for everyone, not just the so-called “elite.”
Finally, the belcha served a very practical purpose for the Khaksars. As soldiers in a private army, the belcha was the ultimate multi-function tool for the Khaksars. It could be used for defense, digging a trench, as a container to drink water, a pot to cook on, a plate to eat on, a walking stick, etc. And unlike guns or other weapons wielded by a traditional army, the belcha could not be banned, yet it could still be used to teach soldiers basic principles around discipline and defense.
Thus, the belcha was a most befitting selection for Mashriqi and his Khaksar Tehrik. It was the perfect reflection of the movement’s commitment to humility, service, simplicity, unity, and uplift of the masses. Indeed, it was the ideal symbol for an organization that ultimately mobilized millions to bring freedom to India. In Mashriqi’s words, “Spade in this movement has worked wonders indeed!”
May God rest Mashriqi’s soul in eternal peace.
For more information on Allama Mashriqi, visit the following page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AllamaMashriqi.1
Special Note: Some writers have falsely claimed (for vested reasons) that Mashriqi adopted the belcha as his party’s symbol because he was influenced by Adolf Hitler and his Labor Corps (Reichsarbeitsdienst). Nothing could be further from the truth. Mashriqi saw the importance of the belcha even while he was a student in England at Cambridge University (1907-1912) and had the symbol in mind for his Tehrik in the 1920s (he wrote about this in Isharat, see Chapters 16 and 17). Hitler did not start his Labor Corps until 1934. More importantly, Mashriqi and Hitler’s philosophies were polar opposites. Mashriqi, a humanitarian, believed in the unity of the human race, regardless of religion, class, color or creed (anyone - whether Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, Christian or any other faith - could join Mashriqi’s Khaksar Tehrik). There are also many examples of the Khaksars providing assistance to both Muslims and non-Muslims, including the Khaksars saving lives during the Bengal Famine of 1943 and the Muslim-Hindu-Sikh riots (at the time of partition). And while the Khaksars used military-style activities as a last resort to liberate the country from foreign rule, they never believed in the destruction or massacre of people.
Nasim Yousaf, an author and historian, has written 15 books and digitized several files of rare documents related to the Indian sub-continent’s history. He has been featured in various American publications (including Marquis’ Who's Who in the World) and his books are available in top research and academic libraries around the world.
© Nasim Yousaf 2016
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"Government of British India on Allama Mashraqi and Khaksar Tehreek (Movement): A Select Chronology" by Nasim Yousaf *New Book*
A descriptive timeline of the correspondence of the Secretary of State, Viceroy of India, Provincial Governors, and high officials, intelligence reports, and other events
(Focal Period: 1930s and 40s)
An unprecedented academic undertaking toward the Indian subcontinent’s history, this landmark publication presents a timeline of the Government of British India’s materials as well as historically important events and news, relevant to Mashraqi and his Khaksar Tehreek (Khaksar Movement). It contains descriptive information on the secret and private correspondence of the Secretary of State for India, Viceroy of India, Provincial Governors, and other high officials. It also includes descriptions of classified and confidential documents and intelligence and Provincial Governors’ fortnightly
This work is among the most comprehensive chronologies ever created on the subject and caters to researchers, historians, educators, authors, journalists, students, movie/documentary makers, and the like. It is complimentary to the other chronologies already published by the editor and should be used in conjunction with those works:
1) Pakistan’s Freedom & Allama Mashriqi: Statements, Letters, Chronology of Khaksar Tehrik (Movement), Period: Mashriqi’s
Birth to 1947
2) Pakistan’s Birth & Allama Mashraqi: Chronology & Statements, Period: 1947 - 1963
"Punjab Government Shelves Plan to Build Allama Mashriqi Museum and Library"
The Punjab Government seems to have s...helved plans to build an Allama Mashriqi Museum and Library for unknown reasons. Over a decade ago, The Daily Times (June 09, 2004) reported that the Government of Punjab was moving forward on plans to build an Allama Mashriqi Museum and Library in Lahore. The Daily Times wrote at the time:
“The Punjab government plans to build a library-cum-museum in honour of Allama Inayatullah Khan Mashriqi. The museum will house his articles, artefacts, unpublished manuscripts and a 1942-model Renault-Benz Mercedes…The sources said the Punjab government wants to preserve the heritage of the late Allama Mashriqi to inform future generations about the genius of the man. The orders to build the museum reportedly come from top Punjab government officials, who met with the late Allama's family…”
Further highlighting Mashriqi’s caliber, The Daily Times wrote, “British newspapers wrote about Allama Mashriqi in 1930 calling him ‘a genius of untold possibilities.’” The Daily Times referred to him as "the biggest mathematician in any nationality of the world.”
There seems to have been no action on the museum project since the time that the Daily News wrote about it over 10 years ago. The much-needed museum/library project would have served as a tremendous resource for academic researchers, journalists, students, and others seeking to learn about Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh’s history during the crucial pre-partition and post-partition era. The cancellation of the project is even more surprising considering that interest in Mashriqi – from his life story to his impact on the demise of colonial rule in the Indian sub-continent to his political, philosophical, and religious ideas - has grown in both the East and the West. Some examples of this growing interest include:
• A large number of people around the world – from academics to writers to the general public – visit social media and other web sites that provide information on him
• World-famous research libraries (including in Australia, Africa, Europe and North America) have added books or historic materials about Mashriqi and his Khaksar Tehrik to their collections
• Digital libraries have also added rare pieces about Mashriqi and the Khaksar Tehrik to their collections
• International delegations (German and Turkish) have visited the Khaksar Tehrik headquarters to gather information about Mashriqi and his movement. Academics, journalists, students, and others also visit the movement’s headquarters.
• Prestigious publications have included information on Mashriqi and the Khaksar Tehrik
It is important to remember that Mashriqi, his family, and followers made tremendous sacrifices for the freedom of the Indian-subcontinent. Mashriqi was imprisoned and tortured, stabbed and threatened, his movements were restricted, his property and bank accounts were confiscated, the Khaksar Tehrik and Al-Islah were banned, one of Mashriqi’s sons was killed during the struggle (while other sons were tortured), his daughter and wives received death threats, and his followers were jailed, prosecuted, and tortured. Yet Mashriqi refused to surrender or cooperate and did not relent until the sub-continent was freed from foreign rule in 1947. The contributions and sacrifices of Mashriqi and his movement played a crucial role in the sub-continent’s history.
Hopefully, the Government of Punjab will take immediate steps to establish an Allama Mashriqi museum and library. The Governments of Pakistan, India, and Britain should also declassify Mashriqi and the Khaksar Tehrik’s materials. The materials that are available to libraries and other institutions today represent only a small subset of the Khaksar materials produced; the remaining materials are still inaccessible to these institutions and continue to rot in various archives in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and the United Kingdom. Even Mashriqi’s rare and historic Al-Islah weekly newspaper remains unavailable in top research libraries in the East and West (digital files are now available on the internet).
The Government must reinstate the Allama Mashriqi museum/library project to provide a balanced and accurate picture of the history of the sub-continent.
More information on Allama Mashriqi is available on the internet and social media sites, including:
#AllamaMashriqi #KhaksarMovement #NasimYousaf #SouthAsianStudies #DailyTimes #geonews #DawnNews #thenews #ARYNEWS #TheNation #ExpressNews #Thetribune #IndusNews #DailyPakistan #DuniyaNews #Pakistanobserver #TribuneIntl #WorldPTV #BolanNews #SAGlobalAffairs #DunyaPakistan #Pakistannews #PartitionofIndia #Pakistan #India #Jinnah #Gandhi
#Nehru #MuslimLeague #BritishRaj علامہ المشرقی#
Allama Mashriqi Broke Academic Records At University of Cambridge
Scholar & Historian Nasim Yousaf's book entitled "Men Like Allama Mashriqi Are Born Once In Centuries: A Collection of Articles" is in IBPA's booth at the Frankfurt Book Fair (October 14-18, 2015)
Links to his works:
... See More
Pages dedicated to respected Allama Mashriqi (Mathematician, Scholar, and Politician):
Nation Mourns Death of Legendary Freedom Fighter, Allama Mashriqi
Pakistan and India’s Bias Against Allama Mashriqi and the Khaksar Tehrik
Allama Mashriqi, His Family & the Khaksars Paid the Price for Freedom
Allama Mashriqi Broke Academic Records At University of Cambridge
Khaksar Movement Weekly “Al-Islah’s” Role Toward Freedom
Allama Mashriqi’s Book “Tazkirah” (Nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature)
Historic photos of the Khaksar Movement (Khaksar Tehrik)
(Founded by Allama Mashriqi in 1930)
Nobel Prize Nominee Allama Mashriqi - Founder Khaksar Tehrik
Einstein & Other Scientists’ Meetings with Allama Mashriqi
Tazkirah by Allama Mashriqi - Nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature
Allama Mashriqi the Great - A Hero of All Times
Scholar & Historian Nasim Yousaf
AMZ Publications (USA) on Social Media:
Books - Allama Mashraqi & Khaksar Movement (Khaksar Tehreek)