Guest Speaker Session by Historian of Modern South Asia Dr. Yaqoob Khan Bangash
OCTOBER 8, 2015, Thursday- the CED Seminar room was booming with laughter as Mr. Yaqoob Bangash spun historical facts into his unique storytelling style and captured the audience’s attention from the very start. The students, as well as the faculty members, watched with fascination as the hour progressed and Mr. Bangash covered some major points from his recent book ‘A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan’.
Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash is a historian of modern South Asia. His current research interests lie in the emergence of Pakistan as a post-colonial state, with broader interests in decolonization, modern state formation, the formation of identities, and the emergence of ethnic and identity-based conflicts. His DPhil thesis was on the accession and integration of the princely states in Pakistan, which has been published recently by Oxford University Press as A Princely Affair: Accession and Integration of Princely States in Pakistan, 1947-55. He is currently working on a monograph on the imagination of Pakistan as a country after its creation, using the debates of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan (1947—56) as the basic primary material. Dr Bangash is head of Humanities and Director at the forthcoming Centre for Governance and Policy at the Information Technology University, Lahore, Pakistan.
His talk was based on the broader question of what Pakistan looked like on the world map right after 1947 and what it has come to encompass today, and how this transition and transformation took place.
The discussion was filled with Mr. Bangash recalling numerous anecdotes that pumped life into the usually dry subject of history. He commenced his speech with the question of whether the date of independence of Pakistan is 14th or 15th August. Mr. Bangash recalled his conversation with a neighbor who was adamant that Pakistan attained freedom on the 14th while Mr. Bangash presented several proofs against the claim. Among many, he stated that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his first speech after 1947, himself stated that Pakistan had come into being on the 15th of August!
Mr. Bangash managed to enlighten the audience’s understanding of the complex system of state formation after it was handed over in 1947. He began with identifying the region of Kathiawar which had around 370 small and big states. It would’ve created a huge problem if all these states would’ve gained independence after British left India. As a consequence there would’ve been 564 countries in the wake of the British retreat from India. Hence, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, who was one of the leaders of the Indian National Congress, convinced Lord Mountbatten that this was impractical and complicated and that he should try to convince the princely states to join India. To the princely states, Lord Mountbatten put forth the proposal that they hand over defense, foreign affairs and communication to India which were being handled by the British previously. This proposal was accepted and many princely states joined India.
Next came Junagadh, which Mr. Bangash commented upon saying that it is illegal here to print a map of Pakistan without Junagadh. The Nawab of Junagadh, Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III wanted to join Pakistan and he wrote a letter to Muhammad Ali Jinnah regarding the issue. The reason behind this interest was that Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto had convinced the Nawab that the Indians would interfere with two of his major interests if he joined them. The first one was his love for hunting the rare Gir lions on the coast of Gujarat, which the Indians would object to since the lions were endangered. The other reason was his love for dogs, the Nawab had more than 300 dogs which he loved dearly, Shah Nawaz Bhutto was somehow able to convince him that his dogs would be in danger of being killed by the Indians. However, Muhammad Ali Jinnah did not give the matter serious consideration and only temporarily agreed to the accession because he was thinking ahead of Kashmir. Since Junagadh had a Muslim Nawab but 80% of the population of Junagadh was Muslim, Indians were objecting to the accession of Junagadh to Pakistan. Jinnah thought wisely that when the situation would arise in Kashmir, where the Nawab was Hindu and most of the population was Muslim, they would be able to use the same argument against Kashmir’s accession to India.
Mr. Bangash continued with similar fascinating stories that helped the students view the events after 1947 in a better light. The discussion was followed then by a question and answer session and Mr. Bangash addressed the queries of the students and the faculty members promptly.