What prompted the setting up of the Khudai Khidmatgar movement?
For the last 12 years i have been working as a full-time activist. I have been disillusioned and unhappy with the working of civil society at the grassroots level. I don’t believe that speeches or seminars can actually reach out to this country. We have to connect with the youth. So, we set up the Khudai Khidmatgar movement.
In earlier decades the common focus was to oust the British from India. What is the focus of this new band of Khidmatgars?
To connect with the masses, cutting across religious and regional divides. After all, Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Adbul Ghaffar Khan did exactly that and did it with so much of focus and selflessness. We have got this legacy and now our prime focus is to be there and connect with the masses…do whatever we can do for them.
How can such a movement take on the politician-police-babu nexus which can be brutal?
With sheer persistence and honesty. I’ve been jailed and faced some very adverse circumstances, but to better any situation you have to connect with the masses. In the end, only a non-violent approach helps. And i also strongly believe that no matter how hard-hearted a man can get, he loathes killings of human beings and it’s just that he has to be shown the non-violent path.
How many members have you recruited?
The response we have been receiving is overwhelming, especially from young Indians. As of now, we have over 200 members from all over the country, from different sections and religions. A member must take out one day in a month to work for the masses, whether it’s in a jhuggi cluster or to teach affected children or whatever else is required. A member must also give/donate Rs 20 a year and take an oath to work for this Khudai Khidmatgar movement.
Were you and your colleagues ever tempted to join a political party?
Today, all political parties in the country have only one agenda – how to win an election. They have no political workers with the necessary zeal and commitment and passion. Perhaps, that’s why today you have Rahul Gandhi touring the entire country, looking for workers for his party. We have left our homes and careers to connect with the masses at the grassroots level, not to join a political party.
Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan tried to bridge communal gaps. How do you plan to lessen those divides?
We follow the path shown by Gandhi and Khan sahib. Volunteers went to the Kumbh Mela with a peace delegation, distributed literature and interacted with others there. We’ve travelled to Gujarat where we conducted a sadhav bhiksha abhiyan along with the Kabir panthees, going from house to house and distributing booklets on harmony and peace. We also took a peace delegation to Ajmer Sharif, held a youth meet in Bhilwara – where a hundred young Hindus interacted with a hundred Muslims. Countering communal poison has to be an ongoing process. Just being there when a riot or a pogrom breaks out is not adequate, for poisonous communal propaganda has to be countered by a sustained, focused effort which we have begun.