Part III: Two Wings Without A Body

Dec 2012

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Part I | Part II

Tariq Ali also refers to this endemic racism: “The soldiery had been told that the Bengalis were an inferior race, short, dark, weak (unlike the martial races of the Punjab) and still infected with Hinduism. Junior and senior officers alike had spoken of seeking, in the course of their campaign, to improve the genes of the Bengali people. Fascist talk of this character gave the green light for the mass rapes suffered by Bengali women regardless of class or creed.'” (11) Anthony Mascarenhas has similarly documented the equation of East Pakistan as “half Muslims” (12) and “Kaffirs,” and the Bengali Hindus as “undependable, undesirable aliens.” (13) A Punjabi officer in Comilla confided to Mascarenhas, “‘My God, what couldn’t we do with such wonderful land. . . . But I suppose we would have become like them.’” (14)

More significant than anecdotes are the infrastructures, recommended in the Report of the East Bengal Language Committee and reflected in major newspapers such as Dawn, that rendered Bengalis as lesser citizens—a history Toor explores in detail in her book. From the Pakistan government’s policy of making Urdu the sole national language (Jinnah labeled any opponent of this policy an “enemy of Pakistan”) (15) to the grudging acceptance of Bengali, following the 1952 language riots, but with the proviso that it would be “reformed” (16) to discourage use of words of Sanskritic origin. (17)

The 1952 riots in support of Bengali resulted in media coverage in West Pakistan which was couched in the language of religion, creating an outsider in the form of “non-Muslim foreigners” (18) that were “dressed in a different way” (19) and “Hindus distributing anti-Urdu literature.” (20) The Pakistani ruling party, the Muslim League, labeled the post- 1952 developments as nothing less than a “Hindu conspiracy.” 21 As Pakistan lurched into the post- 1952 era, structures of exclusion hardened, “exacerbated by the highly derogatory attitude of non-Bengali members of state institutions towards Bengalis.” (22)

Footnotes

11. Tariq Ali, Can Pakistan Survive? The Death of a State (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1983), 91.

12. Anthony Mascarenhas, The Rape of Bangla Desh (New Delhi: Vikas Publications), 1971, 18.

13. Mascarenhas, The Rape of Bangla Desh, 8.

14. Mascarenhas, The Rape of Bangla Desh, 11.

15. Keith B. Callard, Pakistan, a Political Study (London:Allen and Unwin, 1957), 182.

16. Saadia Toor, State of Islam, 29.

17. Report of the East Bengal Language Committee 1949 (Dacca: East Pakistan Govt. Press, 1958), 7, 9, 12, 21.

18. Dawn, February 23, 1952.

19. Debate over the Restriction and Detention (Second Amendment) Bill, Constituent Assembly Debates, November 17, 1952. Cited in Toor, State of Islam, note 27, 207.

20. Pakistan Times, February 29, 1952.

21. Toor, State of Islam, 44.

22. Toor, State of Islam, 41.

* This is the third essay of a multi-part series “Waiting for a Real Reckoning on 1971″ by Naeem Mohaiemen. Part I | Part II . A version of this essay appeared in the edited collection Lines of Control: Partition as Productive Space (2012). 

Naeem Mohaiemen is a visual artist (shobak.org) and a PhD student in anthropology at Columbia University. He is the editor of Chittagong Hill Tracts: In the Blind Spot of Bangladesh Nationalism (2010) published by Drishtipat/Maunsher Jonno Foundation in Dhaka. 

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6 Responses to Part III: Two Wings Without A Body

  1. LV????? on Dec 2012 at 7:54 AM

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