WELCOME TO BEGUM SHAHNAWAZ
The family to which Begum Jahan Ara Shahnawz belonged , Known as the main family , from a title probably conferred in the late fifteen century , belonged to one of the largest tribes of the Punjab , the Arians . Tradition has it that the tribe migrated from Arabia to Egypt and from there came o the Indian sub-continent sometime in the eleventh century. Ishaqpur, a small village about four and half miles from Lahore , used to be family seat until Emperor Shah jahan acquired the land as the site for the new Shalamar garden. In exchange for it he gave the family two revenue-free villages. The two villages as well as the custody of the gardens, were retained by the family till the 1950s, as both the sikh and British governments officially recognized the Emperor’s gifts.
A new village was built on the grand trunk Road , about one mile from Shalamar Gardens , are become known as Baghbanpura. IT was there , in her grandparents’s house, that Begum shahnawz was born on 7th April,1896.
Shafi founded the Punjab muslin league and was a Consistent advocate of the Muslim right to separate electorates. He use his powerful position as a member of the Imperial Council and later as education and law member of the viceroy’s executive council to argue for both community and nationalist causes. Begum Shahnawaz emerged from a family background of purdah and of giving birth to her beloved daughter Tazi at the tender age of sixteen to be a major advocate of woman’s causes both from the platform of the all India women’s association and the Muslim league.
Like many other elite Indian women, she moved into the mainstream of the freedom movement as British rule drew to a close and displayed an influence and autonomy which appears remarkable not only for her generation, but for contemporary south Asia women.
The modern reader may also be surprised by the close social contacts which were maintained between the Baghbanpura Arain family and their political rivals. Muslim league politics were as fractious as they are today, but without personal animosity. Equally striking is the warmth with which begum Jahan Ara Shahnawaz describes her relationship with Uncle Moti Lal Nehru.
A further reminder of a bygone era is the public services ethos of the Arain family. Its entry into public life was not with a view to make money, but rather to expend it in the advancement of community and national causes. None of this is to present the late colonial period as a golden era. The narrative clearly brings out the importance of family connection and influence in political advancement. The author on occasion displays a patronizing elitist attitude towards the less fortunate whose cause she is advocating. Similarly there is little warmth in the reference to her husband whose own political contribution was notable, but receives in these memories only passing mention. Father and daughter thus deserve to be made available to a modern audience through this reprint because of the important insights it provides into the social and political mores of the late colonial era. Its dramatis personae include not just the influential Arain family of Lahore, but the larding Indian and British figures at the endgame of empire.
The observations on such leading figures as Jinnah and Gandhi sustain the interest in a sweeping narrative which begins in the eighteenth century and concludes with Ayub khan’s promulgation of material law. The behind the scenes description of the round table and simla conference are the especial interest to the historian. A topic frequently ignored in general accounts, but which comes across clearly in this memoir, is the significance of the congress Muslim league propaganda war in the United States of America. The government of India equally founded itself outflanked by assiduous congress lobbyists during the Second World War and made considerable efforts to put its view across. Begum jahan ara shahnawaz was well placed to argue the muslim league case in America. This contribution has been seldom acknowledge and is impossible to quantify, but may well have been one of her most significant achievements in the Pakistan cause.
Finally, father and daughter fits well into this series because of the insights it provides into the differential impact and ambiguities which surrounded the tearing asunder of the subcontinent in august 1947.
Forewarned by the nawab of mamdot of an impending sikh attack on batal , where many arain tribesmen were settled, the author sends her car to fetch uncle Rashid. Jahan Ara shahnawaz’s family connection with the Nehrus are then deployed to prevent the assault with both uncle Rashid ringing Nehru and her mother who was still in new Delhi seeing Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru, who respected her much, and he promised to help in the matter. While ordinary people were being swept along by the tide of communal violence, elite connection still counted for something and were it was possible could be used to stem its flow. Tazi and I could not sleep the whole night, the author recalls, but thank God, Batala was saved. (Read More)