Malik Mehr Dil Mahsud, the Pashtun who rebuffed Jawaharlal Nehru

Malik Mehr-Dil Mahsud ends the conference before Nehru has finished his speech by raising his arm at Nehru. Robin Hodson (the Political Agent of South Waziristan) intervenes. Photo published in Life Magazine, November 11, 1946.

Malik Mehr Dil Khan Mal Khel Manzaey Mahsud of Karma had been a gallant raider of his time. In 1919 he raised a lashkar and fought against British. Later he turned pro-British. In 1925 a murderer was arrested from his house in Tank for which he and his son were arrested. However, his influence in the tribe and pro-British attitude helped him in getting out of the trouble. He was made “Khan Sahib” in 1928. [1] [2]

In 1947 Nehru and Dr Khan Sahib met a Mahsud jirga in South Waziristan. Robin Hodson, who was the political agent of South Waziristan, witnessed Nehru’s address to the Jirga there. “Instead of remaining seated, to my astonishment Nehru got up and started addressing the tribesmen as though he were at a political rally, waving his arms around and marching up and down. At Jirga, it is customary to sit on the ground and the person addressing the meeting would be seated on a chair. But Nehru’s manner didn’t please them “. Again he said that he would set them free from slavery of the British, but the reply — in Urdu for Nehru to understand– came:  ” we are not the slaves of British and we are certainly not going to be your slaves” [3]. Malik Mahr-Dil said : “Hindu, if the British pay us money, there is a good reason. Our private parts are of extraordinary size as you will find out to your cost before long” [4]. With that Mehr-Dil advanced towards Nehru with intention of slapping him.
The son of Malik Mahr-Dil Mahsud, Mir Badshah, joined British-Indian Army and lost one of his eyes in the First World War [5]. The one-eyed Mir Badshah led a large lashkar of Mahsud tribesmen to fight the Indians in Kashmir in 1948. Alam Jan, a grandson of Mahr-Dil, joined Pakistan Army and rose to the rank of Lieutenant General. 
Hostile Malik tribesmen squat in a wide semi-circle and listen glumly as Pandit Nehru begins to talk, pointing his finger towards them for added emphasis. Malik Mehr-Dil Mahsud is sitting in the front. Photo published in Life Magazine, November 11, 1946.
Mahsud tribesmen walk out as Nehru (seated left) and his party sit by silently. After Nehru had called them “pitiful pensioners”, they shouted at him “Islam is in danger”. Photo published in Life Magazine, November 11, 1946.

Notes and References

1- “Khan Sahib” was a title conferred by the British-Indian government on their subjects. It was a title one degree lower than Khan Bahadur, but higher than that of Khan.
2- “History of the Pathans” , By Haroon Rashid, Vol-V, p-66
3- “Afghan Frontier: Feuding and Fighting in Central Asia” By Victoria Schofield, p-238.
4- The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition & Memory in the North West Frontier By Mukulika Banerjee, p-185
5-  “History of the Pathans” , By Haroon Rashid, Vol-V, p-67
Local Pashtun tribesmen hurl stones at Pandit Nehru’s convoy from embankment near Landi Kotal fort in the Khyber Pass. Photo published in Life Magazine, November 11, 1946.






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