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Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia
 9780415565660, 9780203850015

Table of contents :
Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia
Contents
Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 The politics of nationalism and nationbuilding
2 1947
3 1971
4 Gendered nationbuilding
5 Frozen in time?
6 Partnership with transnational networks for gender-sensitive justice mechanism
Conclusion
Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Glossary
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia

This book gives a detailed political analysis of nationbuilding processes and how these are closely linked to statebuilding and to issues of war crime, gender and sexuality, and marginalization of minority groups. With a focus on the Indian subcontinent, the author demonstrates how the state itself is involved in the construction of a gendered identity, and how control of women and their sexuality is central to the nationbuilding project. She applies a critical feminist approach to two major conflicts in the Indian subcontinent – the Partition of India in 1947 and the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 – and offers suggestions for addressing historical injustices and war crimes in the context of modern Bangladesh. Addressing how the social and political elites were able to construct and legitimize a history of the state that ignored these issues, the author suggests a critical re-examination of the national narrative of the creation of Bangladesh which takes into account the rise of Islamic rights and their alleged involvement in war crimes. Looking at the impact that notions of nation-state and nationalism have on women from a critical feminist perspective, the book will be an important addition to the literature on gender studies, international relations and South Asian politics. Bina D’Costa is a research fellow at the Center for International Governance and Justice, Regulatory Institutions Network and the Convener of the Security Analysis program at the Australian National University. She is the co-editor of Gender and Global Politics in the Asia-Pacific (Palgrave, 2009).

“Bina D’Costa breaks new ground in analyzing, through a gender perspective, the formation of the nation state and nationalist struggles. Drawing upon the experiences of women victims of rape in the liberation struggle for Bangladesh and in the partition of 1947 that led to the divided states of India and Pakistan, this volume asks complex questions of the exclusions from the nationalist discourse and the reasons for the silence of the victims.” Hameeda Hossain, Eminent Human Rights Activist of South Asia and the Founder Member of Ain-O-Shalish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh. “Bina D’Costa takes us on a moving journey from South Asian gender discourses of state-building to prospects for gender sensitive justice supported by transnational feminist networks. A landmark work of Asian feminism, peacebuilding and justice.” John Braithwaite, Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and the Founder of the Regulatory Institutions Network, The Australian National University “Bina D’Costa forcefully deconstructs traditional notions of war crimes, women and nationbuilding in a way that challenges us to think outside the box and to seek more just and sustainable societies. A must read for all who desire to understand the gendered nature of war and to reduce to occurrence of atrocities” Kelly Askin, Senior Legal Officer, International Justice, Open Society Justice Initiative

Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series

1 Pakistan Social and cultural transformations in a Muslim nation Mohammad A. Qadeer

8 Regionalism in South Asia Negotiating cooperation, institutional structures Kishore C. Dash

2 Labor, Democratization and Development in India and Pakistan Christopher Candland

9 Federalism, Nationalism and Development India and the Punjab economy Pritam Singh

3 China-India Relations Contemporary dynamics Amardeep Athwal 4 Madrasas in South Asia Teaching terror? Jamal Malik 5 Labor, Globalization and the State Workers, women and migrants confront neoliberalism Edited by Debdas Banerjee and Michael Goldfield 6 Indian Literature and Popular Cinema Recasting classics Edited by Heidi R.M. Pauwels 7 Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh A complex web Ali Riaz

10 Human Development and Social Power Perspectives from South Asia Ananya Mukherjee Reed 11 The South Asian Diaspora Transnational networks and changing identities Edited by Rajesh Rai and Peter Reeves 12 Pakistan-Japan Relations Continuity and change in economic relations and security interests Ahmad Rashid Malik 13 Himalayan Frontiers of India Historical, geo-political and strategic perspectives K. Warikoo

14 India’s Open-Economy Policy Globalism, rivalry, continuity Jalal Alamgir 15 The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka Terrorism, ethnicity, political economy Asoka Bandarage 16 India’s Energy Security Edited by Ligia Noronha and Anant Sudarshan 17 Globalization and the Middle Classes in India The social and cultural impact of neoliberal reforms Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase and Timothy J. Scrase

22 Maoism in India Reincarnation of ultra-left wing extremism in the 21st century Bidyut Chakrabarty and Rajat Kujur 23 Economic and Human Development in Contemporary India Cronyism and fragility Debdas Banerjee 24 Culture and the Environment in the Himalaya Arjun Guneratne 25 The Rise of Ethnic Politics in Nepal Democracy in the margins Susan I. Hangen

18 Water Policy Processes in India Discourses of power and resistance Vandana Asthana

26 The Multiplex in India A cultural economy of urban leisure Adrian Athique and Douglas Hill

19 Minority Governments in India The puzzle of elusive majorities Csaba Nikolenyi

27 Tsunami Recovery in Sri Lanka Ethnic and regional dimensions Dennis B. McGilvray and Michele R. Gamburd

20 The Maoist Insurgency in Nepal Revolution in the twenty-first century Edited by Mahendra Lawoti and Anup K. Pahari 21 Global Capital and Peripheral Labour The history and political economy of plantation workers in India K. Ravi Raman

28 Development, Democracy and the State Critiquing the Kerala model of development K Ravi Raman 29 Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia Bina D’Costa

A mass grave excavated after the war near Sylhet. Photograph by Purnendu Burmon.

Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia

Bina D’Costa

First published 2011 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2011 Bina D’Costa Typeset in Times New Roman by Pindar NZ, Auckland, New Zealand Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Antony Rowe, Chippenham, Wiltshire All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data D’Costa, Bina. Nationbuilding, gender and war crimes in South Asia / Bina D’Costa. p. cm. — (Routledge contemporary South Asia series ; v.29) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Nation-building—South Asia. 2. Nationalism—South Asia. 3. War crimes—South Asia. 4. Sex role—Political aspects—South Asia. 5. India— History—Partition, 1947. 6. Bangladesh—History—Revolution, 1971 7. India-Pakistan Conflict, 1971. I. Title. JQ98.A58D46 2010 954.04—dc22 2009050194 ISBN 978-0-415-56566-0 (hbk) ISBN 978-0-203-85001-5 (ebk)

For Sabita and Bitu – who gave me life, love and learning And For Margaret and Roger – who carried these on.

Contents

List of illustrations Acknowledgments Introduction

xii xiii 1

1 The politics of nationalism and nationbuilding

22

2 1947: From partition to creation

46

3 1971: Politics of silence, or refusal to remember?

75

4 Gendered nationbuilding

110

5 Frozen in time? War crimes, justice and political forgiveness

144

6 Partnership with transnational networks for gender-sensitive justice mechanism

161

Conclusion

184

Appendix 1: Interview with Respondent M Appendix 2: Interview with Dr Geoffrey Davis Appendix 3: The International Crimes (Tribunals) ACT, 1973 Glossary Notes Bibliography Index

191 195 201 210 211 218 241

Illustrations

Figures Frontispiece A mass grave excavated after the war near Sylhet 2.1 Pre-Partition Indian subcontinent 2.2 Post-Partition India and Pakistan 3.1 The subcontinent of India in 2010 3.2 Colonel M. A. G Osmany with Bengali Mukhti Bahini and Indian Mitra Bahini personnel 4.1 Field work sites in Bangladesh and India 4.2 Part of a wall in a Pakistani army camp near Shalutikar Airport, Sylhet 4.3 Newspaper reports on war babies and Birangona in 1972

iv 49 50 82 95 115 133 134

Tables 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4

Languages spoken in undivided Pakistan, 1961 (%) The political movements of East Pakistan East Pakistanis/Bengalis killed during the 1971 conflict (various news sources) The refugee situation

87 91 96 98

Acknowledgments

I have accumulated innumerable debts during the decade this book was in the making. I want to thank, first of all Jan Jindy Pettman, Brooke Ackerly, Hilary Charlesworth and Heather Rae for their intellectual commitment and invaluable personal support without which this project could not have been completed. The Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, sparked a lifetime interest in scholarship in international politics and human rights. I developed the initial idea for this particular research at the Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame. In particular, I wish to thank Robert Johansen and Carolyn Nordstrom for their invaluable support and advice. The Regulatory Institutions Network at the Australian National University (ANU) awarded me a research fellowship that gave me the time to focus on the book. Colleagues at the ANU have shared their own perspectives and expertise, much laughter, and many coffee breaks. I thank them all. A special debt of gratitude to Kent Anderson and John Braithwaite for their professional and moral support. In undertaking this study, I interviewed and consulted numerous people, many of whom requested anonymity. I would like to express my most sincere appreciation to my respondents spread across the world whose input grounded my research and made this book so much richer. I would like to thank Ain-O-Shalish Kendra (ASK), the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, Old Dhaka and Khulna for granting me access to their own research and archives. I thank the Global Justice Center in New York, the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad for providing me with various critical forums to test my ideas during the final stage of this work. Thanks to Mofidul Haque, the Liberation War Museum, Munira Morshed, freelance photographer and Zunaid Kazi, Virtual Bangladesh for sharing invaluable research material with me. My gratitude to the editor Dorothea Schaefter, and the editorial team in Routledge, especially Megan Graieg, Suzanne Richardson and Camille Lowe. I want to thank the anonymous reviewers for their feedback. Thanks also to Andrew Watts and Carey Biron for their excellent editorial support. If I had not met Brooke Ackerly more than a decade ago, I would not have known the pleasure of intellectual expedition through fieldwork. Mere words can never express my deepest appreciation to Brooke for teaching me how to become

xiv

Acknowledgments

a researcher and for everything else she has done for me. I thank her for playing such an important role in my life and for her lifelong friendship. My deep gratitude to Richard William Timm, CSC (Fr Timm) for his generosity and love. I want to express my appreciation to Ann Tickner, Rehman Sobhan and Hameeda Hossain for their personal support and for offering me with invaluable comments that have helped clarify and improve my analysis. Very special thanks go to my friends, Shaheen Akhter, Kelly Askin, Sara Hossain, Faustina Pereira and Kamala Visweswaran for intellectual support, feedback on the manuscript and all the stories behind stories. My activist friends through Drishtipat, and their contribution to the human rights discourse of South Asia, in particular Asif Saleh, have been a source of energy to sustain my own scholar-activist cycle. Drishtipat’s Women of 1971 campaign that was carried out in 2003 to provide financial assistance to seven women who survived the war was directly related to the field research for this project. I thank all the Drishtipat members who have contributed to that particular campaign and the sustained justice advocacy that continues. I acknowledge the love and support of my dearest friends. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Paul D’Arcy, for his unwavering confidence in me and for bearing my teaching load at some crucial period during the writing of this book. I have shared an intellectual bond and deep friendship with Katrina Lee Koo that is irreplaceable in my life. With rare patience and generosity my friends who are now spread out all over the world have tolerated my angst and supported me throughout. I hesitate to list the names because I do not wish to leave anyone out. So, let me apologise first to all the wonderful people I have missed. Special thanks to Sharmina Ahsan, Jane Anderson, Lisa Batten, Daniel Biro, Lima Choudhury, Prachi Dixon-Jain, Steven Dixon-Jain, Thuy Do, Kevin Fleming, Munira Islam, Torsten Juelich, Shahnaz Karim, Sadia Hamid Kazi, Tao Kong, Hazel Lang, Robyn Lui, Katherine Morton, Petra Phillips, Shahnaz Rahman, Bryan Rochelle, Lynn Savery, Shahrukh Safi and Bernadette Whitelum. I imagine you sitting in warm and cosy cafés, in different parts of the globe, while I cross borders and resume our conversations. Paul Hehir, thank you, and you will always be missed. To my Bengali network of friends in New York – Shima and Arif Yusuf, Dina Siddiqui and David Ludden; in Amsterdam – Malini Sur; in Canberra – Sadequr Rahman and Sakiba Rahman, Tahsina Islam and Jyoti Rahman, Nadia and Murad Hossain, Ujjoyinee Rahman and Anwarul Aziz, Bushra Chowdhury and Obaidul Haque, for sharing food, stories and much joy. Kishwar Rahman, Fyyaz Shahnoor and Luna Purification for sustaining me with their supply of spicy curries during the final few intense months. I thank you all. This book was always a family production. My Baba, Bitu D’Costa helped his disorganised daughter with planning, coordinating field research and logistical support in the earlier years of this project. My Ma Sabita D’Costa has always been a source of inspiration with her quiet strength and integrity. Thanks to Zina and Shampa D’Costa for their love, and special thanks to Nipa and Anthony Amit for their encouragement and for quietly sustaining me.

Acknowledgments

xv

In Australia, Margaret and Roger Kilham have always been there for me with their patient encouragement and unfailing support. Andrew and Reiko Kilham, and Emily Kilham cheered me up even during the depressing moments when I thought this book would never see the light of the day. Because of the Kilhams, I can call Australia home. Thank you. Finally, I want to thank David Kilham who not only provided delightful distractions from research but also shared the steep steps of this intellectual journey with me while reading and editing my drafts and designing the maps. I thank him for his unconditional love that provides the lifeline for my work. This book is written in the honour of all those who made grave sacrifices, the dead and the living, during the Partition of India and the Liberation War of Bangladesh.

Introduction

While violent conflicts produced desirable outcomes for some new states during the 1970s, these states have since been unable to eradicate the possibility of future conflicts. To this day, many identity groups within these states remain dissatisfied. In addition, the armed groups that often lead independence movements have proven themselves quite capable of suppressing various other groups (including identity groups) within newly independent states, thereby contributing to new clashes. The conflicts of the twentieth century are often stories of brutal violence, mass murder, rape and a loathing between communities. Meanwhile, the dominant histories of state-centric conflicts are frequently stories recounted by the state and its elites. Civilians who experience enemy aggression are blended into the background, thus becoming little more than a part of the traumatized landscape. In many cases, their narratives have been appropriated by the state, which in turn gains an element of legitimacy by telling these stories on behalf of the victims. However, this process is made far more problematic when memories of war are suppressed for the purposes of the state’s imagined purity. This book tells such a story. Today, we often see images that either portray women as ‘mothers of the nation’ or seek to evoke a nurturing-type relationship between the nation and its people through ideas and symbols of ‘motherland’ and ‘mother tongue’. Indeed, the pervasive veneration of the nation as female, and especially as mother, reinforces the idea of a natural delineation in terms of what is exclusively private, untainted by public spaces or ‘outsiders’. This process is further complicated when emphasis is placed on women’s primary role as mothers in shaping the nation – in effect, legitimizing state control and regulation over women’s bodies and sexuality, and perpetuating a masculine state’s domination over women. This book is a gendered analysis of the policies and practices that have frequently been adopted by states in the immediate post-conflict context in order to produce certain political and cultural identities. The aim in this book is primarily to better understand the impact that nationbuilding processes undertaken by the state have had on women, in particular in the South Asian milieu. I address these questions through an analysis of nationalist discourses, in the history of Partition and in the current situation of Bangladesh. The central story of this book involves a full-blown war in South Asia, which led to the birth of Bangladesh. In order to fully grasp how the complex nationalist discourses of Bangladesh have been constructed,

2

Introduction

the Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan must also be analysed from a feminist perspective. The control of women and their sexuality is often central to nationalist projects. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Indian subcontinent. Linked as it is with statebuilding processes, this control has contributed to both the silence and silencing of women’s narratives. Against such a background, this book is a contribution towards redressing exactly these silences. Through a micro-historical analysis of the Partition of India and the 1971 Independence War of Bangladesh, the following pages will offer an alternative political history, which includes a gendered narrative of the creation of states in South Asia. By failing to document, analyse and address the experiences of those who suffered direct violence during these conflicts, the states involved have failed to resolve violence in their post-conflict societies. Instead, these states maintain an uneasy, volatile condition, which I term ‘brittle peace’. Communal riots in Gujarat, attacks on minority communities in Bangladesh after the 2001 election, protracted conflicts in Kashmir and deep-rooted conflicts in Sri Lanka are all examples of the consequences of such a brittle peace. And, as each case demonstrates, the state’s governance as a secular unit can be challenged at any time by citizens (as well as other communities who may not be identified as citizens), particularly by those who are dissatisfied within the boundaries of the nation-state. There are several initial questions to consider. How, for instance, does the exclusion and silencing within the national narrative produce a homogeneous, collective and obscure history? How does this history also legitimize discrimination by those integrated within this symbolic framework of understanding? Why is it important to understand debates about nationbuilding through the lens of gender? What can we achieve by exploring the relationship between gender and violence in nation-state-building projects? Who will benefit by, and how will we carry out, this critical re-examination of the official history? Such questions raise analytical issues about past injustices, and necessitate an exploration of how the nationalist state silences many of its citizens’ experiences of conflict (and those of non-citizens who live on borderlands) in order to produce a hegemonic narrative of war. At the height of a national movement that continues following the birth of a nation, this hegemonic narrative also gains a sacrosanct moral authority in terms of new myths, symbols and stories, each of which contribute to validating the birth of the new nation. The moral authority of this dominant narrative/history overrides micro-narratives that may offer alternative or contradictory views. Existing theories of nationalism and state-formation have attempted to explain the power of nationalism and its influence over the citizens of states. It is no surprise that nationalism and identity politics have received such attention in scholarly debates on war and conflict resolution, transnational alliances, democratization, nationbuilding, statebuilding and globalization. What is perplexing, however, is the frequent failure to investigate systematically the complex hierarchical relationships that exist between the expressive practices of political actors and the implicit silence of marginalized groups within such states. Exploring the links between micro- and macro-narratives that

Introduction

3

contribute to the creation of an ‘imagined’ community are vital to gaining an understanding of the construction of a nation-state’s identity. Yet this is still missing from much of the literature, as is discussed in the first chapter. By failing to understand the macro-narratives of statebuilding projects through the micro-narratives of ordinary people, the elites (the political, cultural, military, traditional or other groups responsible for constructing the official discourse) obstruct any chance of conversation, reconciliation and sustained peace between different communities – groups that, nonetheless, have to co-exist. Bengali publications (see for example, Kabir, 2000, 2008; Mamun, 2008, 2009; Hasan, 2001, 2002), have attempted to highlight some of these exclusions and silences. Such publications have been crucial in unearthing evidence and providing testimonies of war crimes committed in 1971 by the Pakistan Army and its collaborators. However, much of the advocacy and social-awareness agenda of such undertakings are produced for a domestic audience. Not only have these been unable to successfully approach their Indian and Pakistani counterparts, but the intensely nationalistic tones of many of these publications have contributed to extreme polarization: on the one hand are domestic actors (or interest groups) that are pressing for justice, while on the other are actors who emphasize ‘moving on’ or discussing ‘new’ crises of a post-independent state. The pursuit of justice and redressing of war crimes have received significant political attention in the last two elections (2001 and 2008), and have also been central to the election promises of the current Awami League Government in Bangladesh. Yet gender-based violence, including sexual violence, is still widely considered a taboo subject in the country, and the narrative is constructed and legitimized based on constructed, ethereal victims. In this form of justice, the lived experiences of real men and women are insignificant. Hence, another kind of silence emerges that is, perhaps, the most dangerous of all: the shadows of victimhood legitimize action but require that actual victims remain behind the scenes. The exclusivist approach adopted by political elites towards less powerful communities prevents any review of or negotiation about the past; as such, no healing occurs for the members of those communities. Moreover, as suggested earlier, the official version of history is always constructed by the political elite – whether cultural, military or religious – thus marginalizing its subaltern subjects. This book highlights the paradox of national movements and nationalism, particularly in constructing identities by straddling claims of the common attributes of the nation and the specificities of it. Moral concerns and ontological dilemmas are profoundly unresolved when the masculine mechanisms of the nation-state inadequately provide for the security of the women in its society. The central story of this book is the nationbuilding narrative of Bangladesh, explored through the gender lens, in particular during and immediately after the war of 1971. To make sense of the complexities of 1971, it is crucial to understand the context of the Partition of India in 1947. This occurrence, after all, generated the original cartographic trauma in the Indian subcontinent, and produced the complexities of identities that ultimately were to play such a strong role in the violence of 1971. These discussions are set in the broader context of certain questions: today, how do attempts to

4

Introduction

construct a national identity continue to involve the state? Moreover, what sort of evidence can theoretical and empirical analyses regarding the making and remaking of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh provide in furthering our understanding of the state’s continued involvement in the gendered construction of identity? Finally, how can such an analysis be relevant to transnational justice-seeking processes and to redressing war crimes?

Women in armed conflict Julie A. Mertus argues that, during times of conflict, it is civilians, especially women, children, the elderly and the disabled, who are often the victims of violence. This can range from armed international or civil war to state-sponsored or state-condoned human-rights violations against political, racial, ethnic, national or religious minorities (2000: 6). The Beijing Women’s Conference in 1995 stipulated that such abuse involves: torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment, summary or arbitrary executions, disappearances, arbitrary detentions, all forms of racism and racial discrimination, foreign occupation and alien domination, xenophobia, poverty, hunger and other denials of economic, social and cultural rights, religious intolerance, terrorism, discrimination against women and lack of the rule of law. It further stated that: Massive violations of human rights, especially in the form of genocide, ethnic cleansing as a strategy of war and its consequences, and rape, including systematic rape of women in war situations, creating a mass exodus of refugees and displaced persons, are abhorrent practices that are strongly condemned and must be stopped immediately, while perpetrators of such crimes must be punished. Some of these situations of armed conflict have their origin in the conquest or colonization of a country by another State and the perpetuation of that colonization through state and military repression. (http://www.un.org/ womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/armed.htm, para. 131) While women are also targeted because of religious, ethnic, racial, national and/ or other political affiliations, there is a strong gender component behind deliberate acts of violence as well. Indeed, gender is often used strategically for assaulting group identities, as well as women as women and men as men. Some military cultures portray the sexual abuse of women as ‘standard operating procedure’, and the rape of the enemy’s women is often strategically used to terrorize the enemy population (Morris, 1996). Starting in particular following the Balkan wars of the 1990s, feminist scholars have widely explored the problems women face in conflict zones (Stiglmayer, 1994; Lorentzen and Turpin, 1998). Earlier, literature on women and armed conflict traced and examined the role of

Introduction

5

women in identity politics and nationalism, focusing in particular on two aspects of their experiences. First, it offered empirical evidence that women generally tend to suffer the worst kinds of human-rights abuse in nationbuilding processes (Brownmiller, 1975; Copelon, 1995; Allen, 1996); and, second, that they are, largely, either silent in or silenced by state historiography (Das and Nandy, 1985; Agarwal, 1995; Butalia, 1995b; Menon and Bhasin, 1996). Over recent decades, the issue of women as victims of sexual violence and rape during times of conflict has been explored in detail. Here, I will briefly focus on two approaches. The first involves the feminist task of highlighting gender-specific violence during conflicts. Throughout history, soldiers have raped women as part of a calculated war strategy (Askin, 1997; Brownmiller, 1975). Mass rapes of women have been documented in East Pakistan/Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti, Peru, Somalia, Uganda, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Congo and Sudan. Susan Brownmiller conducted one of the earliest analyses of rape during wartime by chronicling instances of wartime rape dating from hundreds of years ago until the 1970s. She recorded rapes committed during World War I and World War II, the mass rapes of Bengali women by members of the Pakistan Army in 1971, and rapes committed during the Vietnam War (Brownmiller, 1975). Ruth Seifert argues that rapes are culture- and history-specific, and that they should be analysed according to their contexts. She suggests that rather than considering rape as an aggressive manifestation of sexuality, it must be understood as a sexual manifestation of aggression (Seifert, 1993: 55). She identified the following meanings of rape during and after wars: • • •

• •

As part of the ritualized and regulated ‘games’ of wars, rape reflects the exercise of sexual and gender-specific violence; The abuse of women during military conflicts is an element of communication between men of two opposing communities, and the graphic expression of triumph over men who failed to protect ‘their’ women; Wartime rape is justified by acceptance of the notion that within a military masculine culture, following ‘rites of passage’ soldiers acquire a certain kind of eroticized masculine identity that sanctions ‘natural’ aggression towards women; As tactical objectives in ‘dirty wars’, women are systematically targeted with the intent to destroy the adversary’s cultural identities; and Feelings of hostility and hatred towards women are deeply ingrained in cultures, which are acted out as orgies of rape during extreme conditions.

Each of these motivations can be said to have played out during the mass rape and sexual violence of the 1971 Liberation War in Bangladesh. However, to understand the historical contexts of militarized sex during this war, an analysis must first be completed of the Partition riots and how the Indian and Pakistani states have produced their own gendered nationbuilding narratives. The second approach I want to highlight regarding the analysis of sexual violence and rape during conflict deals with international norms and law. While the

6

Introduction

recognition of gender crimes in international law (Copelon, 2000; Charlesworth and Chinkin, 2000; Lehr-Lehnardt, 2002) is relatively recent, gender justice has become a strong advocacy position for scholars and practitioners who focus on women’s experiences in war. At the height of the war in the Balkan region and in Rwanda, feminist scholars strongly advocated gender justice, and classified rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity. Kelly Askin provided a feminist analysis of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials, which highlighted the failure of the international community to prosecute gender-specific crimes following World War II (Askin, 1997: xiii). She also provided an analysis of ways in which sexual violence can be prosecuted as genocide under each sub-article of the Genocide Convention. Askin’s groundbreaking work facilitated proposals on how the the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) could prosecute gender-related war crimes. Subsequently, the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal, convened in Tokyo in December 2000, was the first such undertaking to focus on gender-based war crimes (Chinkin, 2001; Palmer, 2009). While the primary consideration was rape and sexual slavery by the Japanese military forces during World War II, as well as an assessment of the criminal liabilities of the Japanese state and the emperor as the then head of state, this tribunal also provided a wider platform by which to present the testimonies of rape survivors of other conflicts following World War II. (The tribunal is discussed in Chapter 6.) Finally, it should be noted that a significant breakthrough in international gender justice was the case of Jean-Paul Akayesu, the former mayor of the Taba commune in Rwanda, who in October 1998 was sentenced by the ICTR on nine counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, including his role in inciting rape and sexual violence to three life terms and 80 years’ imprisonment. Recent projects on gender, sexual violence and conflicts have also made two explicit contributions to the literature. First, a new emphasis on the experiences of men and boys in conflicts suggests that ideas and practices of masculinity and femininity must also be examined in the context of militarized or sexual violence. These analytical inputs point to the exclusion of men and boys from conflict-induced vulnerabilities and violence.1 Charli Carpenter, for example, suggests that the gendered process of framing women and children as ‘innocent’ civilians provides the moral justification for protection by the international humanitarian community, which currently not only excludes able-bodied men but also reproduces the gendered rhetoric of ‘vulnerable women and children’ (Carpenter, 2006). Miranda Alison, on the other hand, suggests that while women and girls remain the majority of victims today, the framing of agency and victimization must go beyond the paradigm of male perpetrator and female victim (Alison, 2007).2 In the end, human-rights advocates, as well as humanitarian agencies and activists on the ground, need to be responsive to various conceptualizations of masculinities, identity politics and power imbalances. The second contribution has been that analyses of women – also as perpetrators of violence, both militarized and sexual – have been able to challenge the image of women as malleable and feminine. In recent years, women militants and suicide

Introduction

7

bombers in Gaza, Chechnya and Sri Lanka have not been uncommon, while in Rwanda there were examples of women inciting rape. Likewise, ‘masculine’ and militarized women perpetrating sexually humiliating acts in Afghanistan, Iraq and the US prison in Guantánamo (Wood, 2006; Lee-Koo, 2008) created global outrage when images were publicized of detainees being tortured at the Abu Ghraib prison. (In this regard, women in various leadership roles, such as Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice, must also be understood through the framework of the masculine political culture of state systems.) On the other hand, the media depiction of servicewomen, such as the capture and release of Melissa Rathbun-Nealy and Major Rhonda Scott Cornum (D’Amico, 1998) during the first Gulf War, or the manipulation of global public opinion by the US government in the case of Private Jessica Lynch in 2003 in Iraq, demonstrate that women’s role in the armed forces is still symbolized through a ‘hyper-masculine’ (Nandy, 1988) militarized culture. Finally, various gender-sensitive legal and technical mechanisms within the United Nations have endeavoured to respond to the gendered impacts of armed conflicts. Such mechanisms include Security Council Resolution 1325 of 2000 and Security Council Resolution 1820 of 2008 and women’s participation in international peacekeeping missions. Following decades of activism and advocacy by women’s lobbies and NGOs, in October 2000 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. It affirms women’s roles in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and also calls for special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, especially rape and other forms of sexual abuse.3 Although this resolution asserts women’s direct participation in security matters,4 Amy Barrow argues that it is not ‘radical enough to be used as a transformative gender mainstreaming tool’ (Barrow, 2009: 51). However, this resolution is groundbreaking in initiating a process that ensures women’s equal representation in security institutions and decision-making bodies. Security Council Resolution 1820, on the other hand is the first resolution to recognize that sexual violence is an independent security issue, and is linked with sustainable peace and reconciliation. It also reasserts that preventing and ending sexual violence is an obligation not an aspiration. The first example of women’s involvement in peace missions was the UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG), which operated in Namibia from 1989 until 1990 (Beilstein, 1998: 141). While there has not yet been any clear recruitment and participation strategy, the presence of blue-helmeted women in conflict zones is certainly a significant gender-mainstreaming measure. A force of 125 female police officers from India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is now deployed in Liberia as UN peacekeepers to assist in the nation’s recovery from years of civil war. However, Liora Sion argues that while peacekeeping is a new military model, it still reproduces the traditional hyper-masculine gender roles in missions (Sion, 2008: 567). Both UNSC Resolution 1325 and the presence of women in peacekeeping forces are responsive and responsible instruments towards bringing about crucial structural changes in gender relationships. Yet this section’s brief overview has been

8

Introduction

offered as a glimpse by which to suggest that women’s experiences and roles in conflicts are complex and require context-specific attention. While the analyses of ‘new’ kinds of ‘dirty’ wars do encompass the victimization of men, and these new mechanisms are more attentive to the complexities of the ground, pain and trauma must be understood through specific cultural and historical contexts, as Seifert suggested almost two decades ago. Turning to the postcolonial states of South Asia, it is evident that the communal, ethnic and caste divisions of its societies reflect the hyper-masculine and militarized structures and ideologies that form the basis of the region’s nationbuilding projects. Not all wars are stories of indiscriminate rape and forced impregnation; and not in every war has systematic rape become the central component of violent conflict – notable exceptions include the Israel–Palestine conflict or that in El Salvador. Still, what is it that makes rape and forced impregnation strategies of certain wars, if not of others? If we turn the pages of history, how did the national and anti-colonial movement in the Indian subcontinent eventually result, in 1947, in communal riots and graphic sexualized violence? Likewise, in 1971, how did militarized violence manifest itself in sexual violence?

Nationbuilding and nationalism Elsewhere, Jo Ford and I have examined how scholars and politicians in the United States tend to use nationbuilding to refer to what many other observers would refer to as ‘statebuilding’ or ‘peacebuilding’ tasks.5 The US’s use of the term has had a distinct connection to the use of force to build state capacity, especially state-security capacity, so that that foreign ‘nationbuilding’ troops can exit. Nationbuilding in this sense connotes armed intervention (including in the pre-emptive pursuit of security interests) to administer and then consolidate regime change and a ‘new order’. For instance, the RAND Corporation, the US-based think tank, defines nationbuilding as ‘the use of armed force in the aftermath of a conflict to promote a durable peace and representative governance structure’.6 However, we argue that these uses actually refer to what we understand to be statebuilding, which is a particularly masculine, interventionist process of building up the institutions and infrastructure of states after conflict. In general, contemporary discourses outside the US avoid ‘nationbuilding’ as a project for the international community, on the assumption that nationbuilding is something for ‘locals’ to do, perhaps in tandem with statebuilding. For example, Simon Chesterman suggests it is a ‘broad, vague, and often pejorative’ term (Chesterman, 2004: 4) that refers to various domestic policies to inspire, unite or stimulate the people towards what Anderson termed as an ‘imagined community’ (2001: 5–7). Nationbuilding is an internal organic process by which a society contests, considers, reaches consensus on and consolidates a national identity towards which the society is oriented (D’Costa and Ford, 2009). While it can be stimulated or affected by foreign action, it is inherently an internal process.7 In this sense, only the political communities of a nation can build a nation, and it is they who have exclusive ownership over the nationbuilding process. While the process of national

Introduction

9

adaptation is ongoing and shaped by various events, the idea of nationbuilding is intrinsically tied with significant historical ‘circuit-breaking’ moments, whereby a new national group is discernible and, suddenly, discerns itself. Through development and human-rights intervention and policies by the international community, it is possible to contribute to the stability of a particular state in a way that could encourage various communities of that state to construct a shared identity. However, this is not a homogeneous construction; nor is it based on one singular identity and common interest, but rather on a plurality of identities that co-exist despite intermittent conflicts. This shared identity assumes that various communities have a responsibility towards each other, which binds them within one overarching political community of a state. (An overarching political community also exists beyond the state, of course. Indeed, in the globalized era, the nation-state may not even be a desirable outcome for many communities for whom transnational loyalties and interests exist.) Political conflicts, which may be violent, also ‘harden’ identities (Moghadam, 2005: 63), and as such nationbuilding could emancipate some and trap or exclude others, such as gender identities or the identities of various indigenous groups. Nationbuilding therefore needs to be understood as a more complex and long-term sociological and political process than its ‘statebuilding’ usage would suggest. The endogenous, organic, cultural, historically situated and emotive aspects of nationbuilding express the power relations within a society, many of them resistant to external intervention. Therefore, it is imperative to consider nationalism and national movements that further explore the value of shared myths, symbols, anthems and histories in various ways, with an eye to forming the basis of a common identity formation for political communities. Nationalism-focused feminist literature from the Global North provides both valuable insight and an analytical point of departure for scholars of the South, for whom experiences of colonialism, discrimination, suppression of rights and various kinds of structural violence (such as poverty and patriarchy) have shaped the understanding of gender. (Both Northern and Southern feminist scholarship on nationalism is discussed in Chapter 1.) On the other hand, such analyses have not paid sufficient attention to women’s experiences of nationbuilding processes in postcolonial South Asia. In particular, the experience of women during the Bangladesh Liberation War remains virtually unexplored in any feminist academic discussion of nationalism and nationbuilding, even though it was one of the first nation-states to emerge in the 1970s through a national movement that escalated into cruel violence. Except for minor references (mainly focusing on numbers) to indicate that women have been victims of sexual violence for years (Copelon, 1995), there have been no studies into the actual experiences of the rape survivors of the Liberation War. While Northern feminist scholarship within international relations and political science points out the inadequacies and silences of the dominant theoretical explanations of nationalism, so far it has been unable to provide a comprehensive framework of gendered understanding of nationbuilding and nationalist discourses in South Asia. In recent years, Southern feminists have published a vast amount of literature on national movements, women’s agency, their activism, peace and transnational

10

Introduction

social movements, which has collectively challenged local patriarchal norms and traditions (D’Costa and Lee-Koo, 2009b). However, the recent explosion of literature on nationbuilding and how this is connected to the discourses of nationalism has remained unexamined. In addition, while parallel narratives on women’s movements and norm-building dominate the literature of social movements, these have not identified any linkage between local histories and the global justice agenda through transnational feminist networks. I argue that nationbuilding is connected to gender in two specific ways: first, through the discourses of nationalism that influence nationbuilding; and second, through women’s activism and advocacy for justice after conflict. Kumari Jayawardena (1986) and Partha Chatterjee (1993) offered critical insights into the closures inherent in nationalist projects, and argued that these impose certain inevitable limits to women’s empowerment – not because of the priority of the nationalist issues, but because of the specific role assigned to women within nationalist projects.8 Both empirical and theoretical studies attempted to reconstruct the experiences of the victim, the perpetrator or the silent spectator in the nationbuilding of South Asia. The oral-history projects conducted by Indian feminists and Ain-O-Shalish Kendra in Bangladesh are examples of innovative methodologies for documenting women’s voices and for promoting an alternative reading of history, thereby making women’s agency visible.9 In addition, useful context to understanding mass rape during the Liberation War has been provided by several elements: the positions of those who lived through the Partition of India (in terms of individuals, communities, nations and humanity in general) as both nationalized and historically produced subjects (Pandey, 2001: 176); the gender analyses of political violence during Partition riots (Menon and Bhasin, 1998; Butalia, 1995b, 1998); and the gendered binary of the heroism of male citizens and the sacrifices of female citizens in times of crisis (de Alwis, 1998). In this, scholarship on nationalism in South Asia (notably Veena Das’s work on Partition) offers the historical and cultural context of how the body became the conquered subject on which national and community boundaries were marked.

Terminology and definitions Marginalization is a much-contested concept – one often associated with economic and political weakness or powerlessness, and a social status often linked to particular identities or social groups. For example, in many traditional and patriarchal societies, women and children remain socially, politically and economically marginal because of their gender or age. Refugees, illegal migrants and religious minorities in developed states are marginalized because of their nationality, ethnicity, religious affiliation and lack of knowledge of the dominant languages. Identities associated with caste, class, geographic origin or location in poor, rural areas can also result in marginalization. All these are manifest in South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh. Marginalization is also linked to two other practices, exclusion and discrimination. Marginalization is the most dominant form of exclusionary practice by states

Introduction

11

or social groups over which marginalized groups have little or no control. Because of this exclusion, several forms of discrimination occur, such as limited access to government services or high-profile political roles; unequal access to higher education such as medical school, engineering schools or others; biased access to resources such as agricultural products, social welfare and so on. In his explanation on social marginality,10 Peter Leonard describes such groups as outside ‘the major arena of capitalist productive and reproductive activity’ (Leonard, 1984: 181). In addition to Leonard’s understanding of marginalization, I suggest three separate yet related forms of marginalization. First, gender, ethnicity, class or race are now accepted as important areas to look at, but doing so is often still left to scholars who work primarily in those fields. Second, under-researched locations receive scant attention from major scholars in the field, or are left to area specialists. Bangladesh remains largely marginalized because it is relatively insignificant strategically to global politics. Instead, the issue of nuclear rivalry between India and Pakistan dominates South Asian international politics, while conversations on Kashmir, Maoist guerrillas in Nepal or the Sri Lankan conflict appear in international headlines when tensions spike. Third, people who are under-researched might have concerns, knowledge and experiences that could be theoretically important. Both South Asia and India are geopolitical expressions. South Asia is a more recent construction, which encompasses eight diverse yet interrelated sovereign states of very different sizes: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives. Yet the idea of ‘India’ continues to go well beyond the borders and boundaries of the sovereign state of India. Through the primordial (Geertz, 1963) bonding of blood, language, tradition and norms, the South Asian states are tied together by thousands of years of history and culture. In particular, while August 1947 and March 1971 have become the unique historical departure moments (seeing the genesis of Pakistan and Bangladesh), their origin in terms of political, social and cultural settings and norms conflate with India’s past. Until 1947, after all, both Pakistan and Bangladesh were part of India. While most scholarship on Partition focused on the actual incision of the Indian subcontinent, the familiarity of these states with each other as identity communities goes beyond national borders. To date, this has not been sufficiently addressed. I must note a point of caution here. While acknowledging that it is crucial to study India in order to examine the politics of other nation-states in South Asia, including those of Bangladesh and Pakistan, I would argue that the ‘study of India’ has tended to colonize the ‘South Asian’ intellectual territory. India’s ‘soft power’, gained through the magic of Bollywood, evocative literature and poignant music, has also won the hearts and minds of peoples across the world. India’s steady rise as a ‘force to reckon with’ brings it closer to its quest for the ‘great power status’, as Jawaharlal Nehru envisioned. India now has moved beyond the nuclear rivalry with Pakistan, and has begun to forge important ties with China. Its security and foreign policies not only have strategic implications for Asia, but also for the world at large. Due to the strategic importance of India, the increased need to study it is being strongly pushed in academia, particularly in political science and international relations – and rightly so.

12

Introduction

While India constitutes a physical majority of South Asia and embodies the region’s collective history, the conflation of the study of India with South Asia is problematic in many Northern institutions. Scholars from the region are more aware of the connections of history, culture and society that go beyond the borders and boundaries of India as a state. However, scholars outside the region tend to portray it through a state-centric approach, which discount the connections across the border with other South Asian states. The bulk of research done in academia in the name of South Asia is actually solely on India. In many Northern universities with South Asia faculties, the term ‘South Asia Centre’ (or something similar) is a misnomer, because most researchers primarily focus on India. This occurs, first, due to a majority of scholars outside South Asia who study India but categorize themselves as South Asia experts; and, second, due to the fact that a large number of South Asian scholars whose work has been recognized internationally and/ or are employed in Northern universities are predominantly from India. In turn, this inclination towards India adversely influences funding allocation, adequate supervision, the availability of research material in various libraries, intellectual engagement and dialogues in conferences or workshops for other South Asia scholars. Therefore, a study of India is as hegemonic in intellectual discourse as it is in regional politics, where it plays the role of the region’s ‘big brother’, thereby marginalizing the other nations and their narratives. Interestingly, South Asian feminists and human-rights advocates who are working on South Asian politics, history and culture have gone beyond this naming tension in terms of ‘South Asia vs. India’ (see for example Gupta and Sharma, 2008). Feminist projects have strong networks that tie together the South Asian communities beyond the borders of specific nation-states. The experiences of women in various political and nationalist projects in Pakistan (e.g. women and Islam), Sri Lanka (e.g. women as militants), Nepal (e.g. women and political struggle) and Bhutan (e.g. refugee women) provide the basis of South Asian feminist scholarship and activism. In the spirit of this activism and advocacy, I label this book a South Asian feminist project. As for other naming conventions, throughout the book ‘Indian subcontinent’ is used to describe India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. I use the terms ‘East Bengal’, ‘East Pakistan’ and ‘Bangladesh’ in reference to specific historical periods. ‘Bengal’ is a province separated from India during the 1947 Partition,11 while ‘East Bengal’ refers to the Muslim-majority area that also had a significant Hindu population. With the creation of Pakistan in 1947, of course, East Bengal began to be called ‘East Pakistan’. The terms ‘East Bengal’ and ‘East Pakistan’ were used interchangeably until 1971, when East Bengal/East Pakistan became a sovereign state, namely, Bangladesh. I use the word ‘genocide’ as, the systematic extermination of a human community because of its ethnicity, nationality or religion. Article 2 of the 1948 Genocide Treaty offers such a broad definition that virtually any political violence directed against a ‘national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ might qualify as genocide. Scholars have also used ‘politicide’, which is defined as the attempt to destroy a political idea, usually by destroying many, if not all, individuals who hold that idea (Harff and

Introduction

13

Gurr, 1988). For example, the Khmer Rouge murdered many Cambodians to wipe out any sort of positive attitude towards a Northern economy. The Iraqi Baath Party attempted to wipe out the Kurds to destroy the idea of Kurdish independence. The term ‘ethnic cleansing’, propelled into political discourse by the Balkan conflicts, is used here to refer to deliberate actions (e.g. forcible deportation, mass killing and/or deliberate starvation) to terrorize the members of a particular population into leaving their homes. In 1971, Hindus were forced to leave East Pakistan for India; while during the 1947 Partition of India, both Muslims and Hindus were the victims and agents of ethnic cleansing and murder. I often use the term ‘Liberation War’ to discuss the war of 1971 between West and East Pakistan, out of which Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation-state. Throughout this book, the term ‘macro-narrative(s)’ is used to refer to the high politics of the Partition of India and the Liberation War’s official narrative, such as state discourses and senior-level political concerns. By ‘micro-narrative(s)’, I refer to the lived experience of people, such as men, women, children and religious minorities, who were forced to re-landscape their lives due to these political events. Throughout these chapters, ‘exclusion’ refers to the absence of these micro-narratives in the construction of the dominant stories about nationbuilding projects in the subcontinent. ‘Silence’, meanwhile, indicates the narrow attention that the political elites of South Asia have paid to micro-narratives in order to construct a homogeneous national consciousness and identity. ‘Birangona’ was the term introduced by the first prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (‘Mujib’), to ‘acknowledge’ the ‘sacrifice’ of women for the freedom of Bangladesh in 1971. Originally its use was intended to honour all women – political activists, freedom fighters, rape survivors and so on – who participated in the national struggle. The term ‘Birangona’ was intended to give these women an honorary status, and to provide them with equal access to privileges in the public sector, such as the education and employment rights granted to male freedom fighters (Pereira, 2002). The literal translation of the word is ‘war heroine’; this is something of a paradox, however, because rather than honouring the women or effectively granting them a special status, the term branded them as ‘fallen’ women and became a marker of banishment. Indeed, the word ‘Birangona’ became a distinct expression of an invisible boundary that identified these women as victims of rape, and often subjected them to disrespect. As Faustina Pereira points out, by its very nature the term ‘Birangona’ was a restrictive privilege. So strong was the stigma of rape in Bangladesh that most women did not take advantage of the title, ‘because to do so would be tantamount to focusing on the scar of rape on the victim, thus forcing her to risk a social death’ (ibid.: 62). This strange branding also isolated women’s experiences from the mainstream narratives of the ‘heroic’ tales of the war (D’Costa, 2006). Because Bangladesh is a poverty-stricken country that is heavily dependent on foreign aid, and a country wherein the NGO sector makes up a substantial part of gross domestic product, the country in general has been widely researched by development practitioners and scholars. However, the war of 1971 remains one of the most under-researched conflicts in the world, and the traumatic experiences

14

Introduction

of the civilians after the war remain virtually unknown, despite growing interest in nationalism and ethnic violence. Inattention to the civilian experience of Bangladeshis is not an oversight, however, but rather is the result of the exercise of power. The power of dominant groups to define and address the concerns and interests of marginalized groups make it impossible for those groups to put their own needs on the public agenda. In post-conflict Bangladesh, for example, survivors of genocidal mass rape were considered sacrificial victims for the nation. As such, their sexuality, motherhood and identity was defined through state-sponsored welfare programmes by social workers, medical personnel, government officials, religious groups and others – but not by the women themselves. Despite the honest intentions of these groups to help the women reintegrate into society, rape survivors remained marginalized because their needs, as understood through the eyes of dominant groups, were not their own. In this way, the rehabilitation strategies for Bangladeshi women – the large-scale abortion and adoption programmes or the government’s campaign to ‘marry them off’ – did not change their subordinate position. This situation was only further complicated by the fact that a large number of the women came from poverty-stricken rural areas. Ultimately, pathologizing the helplessness, frustration and anger of rape survivors not only diverted attention from the deprivation of equal access to resources or the gendered subordination they faced every day,12 it also stopped them from demanding justice, or from allowing the perpetrators to be punished for war crimes they committed.

Women and/or gender From specific political debates in the 1970s about the role of women in society, eventually gender emerged as a central concept within the women’s movement. It originally replaced the term ‘sex’, which social scientists used to describe biological differences between men and women; but feminists argued that sex differences were neither natural nor biologically derived. For instance, Joan Scott suggests that gender is a primary way of signifying power relationships (Scott, 1986), while Elisabeth Prügl and Mary Meyer argue that gender identities ‘were the result of pervasive social construction processes ranging from early childhood socialisation to gender images in the media and practices in the workplace’ (Prügl and Meyer, 1999: 6). As such, this book sees gender, like power, inhabiting social relations, including symbols, norms, organizations, institutions and subjective identities. While biology could not be the basis of feminism, it did frame what all women appeared to have in common. On the other hand, the cultural specificity of gender differences became equally problematic, since this implied an absence of commonalities. Concerns about defining commonalities and addressing differences challenged the terminology debate (Pearson and Jackson, 1998). In the process of creating a collective identity, the first wave of feminism reproduced global power relations (Prügl and Meyer, 1999); in turn, these were fiercely criticized during the second wave of feminism, which was closely linked with the United Nations Decade for Women (1976–85). Women of colour, those from developing countries

Introduction

15

and other previously marginalized groups argued that assuming sameness in the experiences of oppression led to the further exploitation of women. An adequate recognition of difference arising from identification based on race, ethnicity, culture, class, sexual orientation or national location (hooks, 1981; Mohanty, 1988, 2003) was insisted upon. Serious consideration was given to these critiques, and alternative analyses of gender as a social construct emerged that took into account women’s local experiences, gender constructions, feminism in its diversity, etc. (Afshar, 1986). However, feminists also observed that an international sisterhood or ‘we’ became unspeakable, and the internationalist woman became silent even before she could be heard (Zalewski, 1998b). Consciously reflecting upon these tensions, I use ‘gender’ as an analytical category to illustrate the ways in which masculinity and femininity are codified in both local and global norms and practices. Such a use offers opportunities to highlight women, gender politics, power politics and women’s negotiating strategies, as well as the concerns of men and children. I do not use either ‘gender’ or ‘women’ as absolute categories. Based on gender, women are discriminated against. While various development programmes – including Women in Development (WID), Women and Development (WAD), and Gender and Development (GAD) – have tried to define these two concepts, clearly in non-English speaking countries it is very difficult to find a term for ‘gender’ in local languages. (For an excellent overview, see Marchand, 2009.) However, a separation between the discourses of sex and gender, biological roles are ‘constructed as destiny in the moral and political discourses’ (Prügl and Meyer, 1999: 7). It is problematic to treat all women as being in the same category, and to generalize their interests. The notion of having a ‘common’ women’s interest, regardless of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality and religion, has become highly contested. Michèle Barrett and Anne Philips summarize three major elements that contributed to the breakdown of this universal theorizing on women’s interests (Barrett and Phillips, 1992). First, black women pointed out that racist and ethnocentric assumptions of white women generalized the experience of white feminism to black women (e.g. hooks, 1981, 1992). Second, the debates between difference and equality, and sex versus gender presented new challenges, and moved on to discussions about how to deal with embodiment. Scholars argued that difference itself was not a crisis, but rather that the way in which it was represented and analysed became the crisis (Waylen, 1996; Bock and James, 1992). Third, post-structuralist and postmodern critiques, coupled with the feminist challenge to mainstream theorizing, shifted the emphasis to language, representation and history (Barrett and Phillips, 1992; Waylen, 1996). Southern feminist scholars have enriched this debate through further discussion of this universal framework of analysing women’s interests. First, the assumption that ‘sisterhood is global’ has been challenged (Spivak, 1985). Previously, various cross-cultural analyses of patriarchy assumed that there was more uniting women across class, religion and race than differentiating them. Second, difference was often acknowledged only by treating all Third World women as one group, the non-Northern ‘Other’ (Mohanty, 1988). Postcolonial theory criticizes the process

16

Introduction

of producing knowledge about the Other, and it is important to realize that the questions raised in this literature are crucial to ask even if they cannot necessarily be answered. While the major criticism, of course, is that the colonial discourse ignores the production of knowledge by the Other (Williams and Chrisman, 1993), postcolonial theorists specifically articulate knowledge both by and of the Other. Yet, as Edward Said asked (1978), how and who can know and respect the Other? Tensions between Western feminism and the Other around this question are articulated in works by multiple postcolonial feminists (Spivak, 1988a; Mohanty, 1988; hooks, 1981, 1992; Trinh T. Minh-ha, 1989; Suleri, 1992). A conceptual challenge to my project derives from these tensions. There is an analytical trap here because we need to analyse not only Western feminist scholarship but also the authenticity and position of Southern feminists. With a few exceptions, most Southern feminists have emerged from privileged backgrounds in their own locales, a privilege that may vary according to class, religion, ethnicity or education. Often, they are able to speak and interact in the language of the West (predominantly English); in addition, they have frequently trained at Western institutions, where they are also located. On the other hand, I have seen respondents in fieldwork sites who are more comfortable speaking with women researchers from locations other than their own, as the power inequality is at times quite visible between Southern researchers and respondents (here I am referring to women respondents, many of whom are interviewed for development, population or women’s rights policies). The ‘complicated interplay between sameness and difference’ (Stephens, 1989: 100) actually reveals that, by virtue of being researchers, all feminist researchers have to address the Orientalist problematic. In order to explore the overwhelming silence of the women whom feminist researchers intend to represent, the latter need to build a triangle of interaction that connects marginalized women with both Northern and Southern feminists. We can no longer afford to argue about who has the right to represent, or whose representation is more ‘authentic’. Rather, we need to discard our self-protective stance on who is best able to represent the marginalized, and become more forthright with our research commitments. We should be able to say what we have to say while being aware of the politics of location.

1947 to 1971 and beyond Existing theories of nationalism and state-formation have attempted to explain the power of nationalism and its influence over the citizens of the state. It is no surprise that nationalism and identity politics have received such attention in scholarly debates on war and conflict resolution, transnational alliances, democratization, nation- and statebuilding, and globalization. What is perplexing is the frequent failure to investigate systematically the complex links between the expressive practices of political actors and the implicit silence of marginalized groups within such states. Exploring the links between micro- and macro-narratives is vital to an understanding of the construction of a nation-state’s identity. Yet this link is still missing from much of the literature.

Introduction

17

This book is based on the premise that at the heart of nationbuilding and nationalism lingers the issue of community identity. In any community, multiple layers of identity co-exist, including social groupings, religious affiliations, gender, caste and class loyalties. I explore religious and ethnic identities and their political and gendered manifestations in the subcontinent. From the outset, it is important to understand that in order to divide the Indian subcontinent into two states, the British and indigenous political leaders used religious national identity reflecting on Hindu and Muslim community affiliations. Three and a half decades later, ethnic identity – to be precise, Bengali ethnicity – was the exclusive driving force behind the creation of Bangladesh, which also stressed secularism. Chapter 1 reflects on the mainstream literature on nationalism, which offers varying explanations of the origins of nationalism and national identity, as well as the influence of ‘primordial’ sentiments, modernization and demands for self-determination. I argue that, although this literature provides important insights for understanding the complex politics of nationalism, it does not offer adequate explanations of the relationship between nationalism, gender and the responses or strategies of nation-states. Nor does it explain why the nation-states of the subcontinent have been able to achieve only brittle peace over the years, rather than any sustained peace and stability. Furthermore, the traditional literature on nationalism provided an inadequate analysis of case studies from the Global South, due to its overemphasis on European cases. On the other hand, feminist intervention in the literature of nationalism enriches our understanding of exclusionary practices in the national storytelling in South Asian countries. From the feminist analysis of nationalism and gender, we gain an alternative perspective of state behaviour in the international system in relation to justice, equity and development. In turn, this improves diverse organizational structures and political strategies that are not only aimed at the empowerment of women, but also at the advancement of global citizens. Although making women visible is crucial as a primary approach, existing feminist scholarship provides an incomplete analysis of women’s exploitation within the nation-state system. In the second section of Chapter 1, I argue that, while feminist scholarship of nationalism clearly demonstrates a failure to include women in the discourse, it does not explain why gender remained undesirable as a significant identity marker in postcolonial South Asia, despite its obvious importance in national image-making. The literature does not sufficiently explain women’s agency in terms of the construction of their position within the nationalist narrative in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Tracing postcolonial analyses of South Asia, I suggest that the ‘woman question’ asserts that women are forced to assume two simultaneous identities in nationalist projects: they are both agents and victims. However, the restoration of subaltern social groups, especially women, in the making of history requires an acknowledgment that even their active agency could not always prevent them from becoming tragic, though not passive, victims of the power games played out by colonial and postcolonial states. Correspondingly, while it is possible to arrive at a broad understanding of nationalism’s gendered approach, without looking at the local and regional politics a

18

Introduction

feminist scholarship of nationalism will be unable to address the ‘woman question’ in diverse locations. Chapter 2 focuses specifically on the Partition of India in 1947. Throughout this book, I examine the literature and oral-history research carried out by South Asian scholars on Partition, and this detailed analysis serves as a model by which to present my own field-research analysis of the Birangona. The Partition case study proved to be a vital part of my work on 1971, as it helped to lay vital groundwork by demonstrating the previous silence of narratives of women abducted during the earlier riots and later ‘recovered’ by the Indian state. While Indian academics have explored the importance of Partition in the political shifts of the state, Pakistani academics provided much narrower attention. However, the Oral History Projects in New Delhi (Menon and Bhasin, 1998; Butalia, 1998) have initiated significant research on the ‘recovered’ women on the Indian side, and has opened up new possibilities for further research. Partition simultaneously freed the subcontinent from British colonial rule and divided it by creating two separate states. At the defining moment of Partition, religious identity was used as an integral element of nationalism. When India was split apart in 1947, some 60 million of its 95 million Muslims (one in every four Indians) became Pakistanis. Most of the other 35 million Muslims opted to remain in India, which is still home to the largest number of Muslims of any non-Muslim-majority state. The departure of the British, which was accompanied by riots and violence, has been analysed by political scientists and historians from the perspectives of both religious nationalism and communalism. In the 1990s, feminist scholars who revisited the Partition stories and re-examined key issues raised by the official narrative of 1947 challenged these accounts. With a detailed focus on the ‘recovery operation’ – a joint Indian-Pakistani undertaking that lasted from 1948 to 1957 to ‘rescue’ women who had been abducted during Partition – this chapter raises concerns regarding history and memory. The feminist analyses of the Partition narrative (Butalia, 1995b; Menon and Bhasin, 1996; Feldman, 1999) demonstrate how the official narrative was written by silencing women’s narratives, and how the nation-state was constructed on precisely these exclusions of the experiences of women and other subaltern groups. The patriarchal state omitted the lived experiences of women (and others), and in the written narrative of the nation-state used a teleological method to undertake the steps necessary to construct a codifying national identity. Why did the state find it imperative to construct a seemingly unified, legitimated national identity? Moreover, to what extent did the official narrative succeed in creating a comprehensive identity – one that, crucially, concealed the state’s failure to provide equal justice for all its citizens? Most importantly, how did the women respond? Chapter 3 provides a feminist analysis of the birth of Bangladesh. It also observes a tension within the official narrative, which not only continues to haunt Bangladeshi politics but to suppress the voices of minorities and dissidents. During 1971, West Pakistan used religion to justify its control over East Pakistan. However, those in East Pakistan emphasized a secular Bengali identity, and unified in a nationalist movement to separate from West Pakistan. In the aftermath of

Introduction

19

the war, how did the new state of Bangladesh reconcile the differences between religious and ethnic identity? During the nine-month war from March to December 1971, 3 million Bengalis were killed. Although the numbers vary, roughly 300,000 women were raped by members of the Pakistan Army in a strategic attempt to target Bengali ethnic identity. The Liberation War discourse assumed that the nationalist project, with a predominant national history, would automatically lead to equality and social justice. Yet there is little evidence to support this idea, and Bangladesh has in fact succeeded in acquiring only a brittle peace. This chapter also details the high politics of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh that were in play following the surrender of the Pakistan Army, on 16 December 1971. A general amnesty granted in 1974 made it hard for Bangladesh to bring to justice war criminals and collaborators, or to seek redress for the violence committed by the Pakistan Army during the conflict. In addition, Bangladesh’s history has since been written and revised during each change of political regime in Dhaka, while the influence of military and religious elites has further complicated the process. Eventually, the reinstatement of some of the infamous pro-Pakistani political leaders, some of whom were directly responsible for the genocide committed in 1971, led to the construction of separate and parallel histories: one that exists in the official discourse, and others that exist in micro-narratives, in memory and in lived experience. In this, women’s narratives that directly point to war crimes committed during 1971 have been excluded from the official construction of history-making. It should also be noted, however, that this exclusion is the result of a complex combination of tradition, deliberate silent choice, strategic silenced narratives and the negotiated survival of individual women. Chapter 4 draws on my field research, conducted in three separate periods between 1999 and 2006. Observing the current political situation in Bangladesh, which has been repeatedly identified as a ‘fragile state’ by the donor community, two types of silence and exclusion in the national narrative are investigated. First, in the aftermath of the conflict, how did state policies initiate the silencing of women rape survivors? I provide empirical evidence of how the discourse surrounding the Birangona in the immediate aftermath of the conflict made women double victims of the war. Class, religion, culture and familial obligations were all responsible for obscuring and denying the agency of wartime rape survivors. But in the midst of this, what choices have the women made in this silenced history? Was their silence part of a negotiated survival strategy, used by women to manoeuvre within highly patriarchal families, communities and states? Finally, were the memories and lived experiences of these women actual or symbolic silences, perhaps created through shrewd and calculated political schemes? Second, how can a gendered framing of war babies, those born out of wartime rape, help us to explain the situation of children who are unwanted by the state and their communities? When all familiar boundaries of purity and honour break down, how does the state decide where such infants belong? These two violent periods in the history of the Indian subcontinent, coupled with the state policies that were enacted in the aftermath of violence, help us to evaluate how the state, the humanitarian practitioners and social workers, and the affected communities

20

Introduction

responded to war babies. In both the Partition and Liberation stories, women who had suffered sexual violence were reintegrated (to varying extents) into society, or were otherwise somehow ‘repurified’; but children conceived through sexual violence posed a far greater challenge. Where the blood of two ethnicities, religions or opposing groups mixed, society created stronger barriers to reintegration. The war babies thus became symbolic of the violation of social, cultural and political boundaries. Chapter 5 broadens the discussion developed in Chapters 2 and 3 regarding the complicated politics of the subcontinent, the rise of religious parties in Bangladesh, and the reinstatement of war criminals and collaborators in key government positions. Following a discussion on Pakistan’s legacy of birth through a separation from India, and how this is connected to the current Islamic resurgence in Bangladesh, I argue that a successful justice mechanism to try war criminals of 1971 is a dilemma facing Bangladesh’s nationbuilding process. This dilemma is produced because of the tension between Islamic ideals entrenched in discourse pertaining to the birth of Pakistan, and a secular national movement that is connected to the genesis of Bangladesh. This chapter also discusses options available to a post-conflict state such as Bangladesh in seeking to deal with its war criminals, and speculates on how this process might affect war survivors. While the war ended nearly four decades ago, the repositioning of war criminals within the power structure of Bangladesh has emerged as the key strategic focus of factions that opposed the creation of Bangladesh in the first place. These factions also have strong links to various Pakistani agencies, whose positions will be compromised if any war-crimes trial were to go ahead. I also discuss the complex processes of the war-crimes movement in Bangladesh, which in turn is linked to the feminist justice movement. Chapter 6 considers the possibilities of organizing a gender-sensitive justice mechanism, which could potentially respond to some questions of justice and war crimes in Bangladesh. I also provide a feminist analysis of the People’s War Crimes Tribunal of 1992 and argue that it was lacked gender sensitivity. In this chapter, I advocate for a fresh approach that has as its starting point the micro-narratives of the affected women’s existences, negotiations and struggles. This links a regional focus on war crimes and justice movements with the wider transnational feminist movements on justice, and addresses several critical questions. For instance, in what ways does the analysis of the gendered nationalist narrative of Bangladesh contribute to the international literature on nationbuilding? How can the study of the feminist justice movement of Bangladesh illuminate our understanding of transnational feminist politics of justice? How have transnational human-rights campaigns on war crimes, justice and women’s rights influenced the justice movement in Bangladesh? This chapter also re-emphasizes the importance of the lived realities of subalterns (and women) as a starting point; and of putting such ‘recovery’ (for instance, following 1947) or ‘rehabilitation’ (1971) projects in the context of transnational feminist politics, which has placed war rape on the international political agenda. As such, this chapter completes the scholar-activist cycle. Finally, the Conclusion summarizes the discussions brought up in the preceding

Introduction

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chapters, and takes their concerns into the present context of Bangladesh, which still appears to be in an intractable political situation. The country’s variegated history, even in terms of changes of government from 1975 to 2008, aptly demonstrates what Morris Jones termed ‘pendulum politics’ (Jones, 1982). In particular, the post-election violence in October 2001 saw minority communities once again targeted throughout Bangladesh, while stories of rape and abduction of Hindu women were again reported by the national and international media. The terrorizing policies of the then ruling party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), once again reinforced the self-censoring practices that hinder the growth of a liberal democratic society. The government refused even to acknowledge that minority communities had been subjected to systematic violence following the election. Meanwhile, the participation of religious minorities is still marginalized by the establishment of an officially pro-Islamic ideology. On the other hand, in 2008, the Awami League came to power with a key promise of holding a war-crimes tribunal. Within months, however, there was a mutiny by the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles against the armed forces, in which 80 senior army personnel were killed. It was alleged (while not verified) that this mutiny was also linked to the recent war-crimes movement in Bangladesh. In closing, I draw upon these recent developments in Bangladesh, which have regional implications. I also revisit my argument that the origins of these tensions lie in the country’s birth as a secular state that challenged the creation of Pakistan according to religious principles and logic. From these discussions and explorations, my hope is that it will become quite clear that it is imperative to revisit the historiography of nationbuilding by including subaltern voices. Writing is a non-violent political struggle that enables us, the ‘activist-scholars’, to fight for social justice. As activist-scholars, we need to re-imagine local, national and international spaces in the context of a feminist critique of nationbuilding processes. Yet in claiming that this alternative narrative should be heard, we also need to ask what exactly we are alluding to in the first place. By linking history to the politics of justice, this study joins the projects of other feminist scholars and activists, those who have contributed towards a new research methodology, across boundaries of race and religion. By raising epistemological concerns and validating the experiences and voices of subaltern women, we are inevitably challenged to rethink questions about injustice and inequity.

1

The politics of nationalism and nationbuilding

In contemporary nationalist politics, the concepts of the nation-state and homogeneous national identity have sidelined the idea of multi-layered identities. The identity of women is, of course, central to nationalism and the creation of states, and one of my central interests lies in how gender is implicated in, and shapes the nature and outcomes of, the politics of the state. Mainstream nationalism literature offers a number of competing explanations for the origins of nationalism and national identity, and the influence of primordial sentiments, modernization and demands for self-determination. The literature deals with the nature and implications of nationalism in a variety of ways, but mainly by describing and critiquing the elitist versions of nationalist stories without attempting to contextualize the lived experiences of the men and women who actually wove the national narrative. By analysing nationalism through the gender lens we can gain an alternate perspective of state behaviour in the international system in relation to justice and equity. In turn, this will enrich diverse organizational structures and political strategies that not only empower women, but also promote the advancement of all citizens regardless of their gender. This chapter explores the different approaches taken in studying nationbuilding through the gender lens. In unpacking the nationalist discourse in this way, I discuss the scholarship of nationalism through the theorization of state, nation and gender. For this purpose, the chapter examines how the nation-state and its political communities are defined in the literature. The second section of the chapter provides a brief overview of nationalism and its approaches, as well as arguing that the political elites of a society construct nationalistic ideologies that inevitably co-opt gender. The final part of the chapter provides an account of mainstream nationalism’s gender-blind approach, and continues to investigate this through the colonial project in South Asia. This section investigates the silences about East Bengal/East Pakistan/Bangladesh in the Partition historiography, which is inevitably linked to the gendered conceptualization of nationbuilding. The Treaty of Westphalia, signed in 1648, marked not only the end of the European religious wars but also the exact moment the modern state system came into being. European state structures were imposed by wars and worldwide colonization, with European settler states emerging in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

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With the rise of nationalism following World War II, decolonization globalized the modern state. Roger Tooze has argued, wherever we live today, we live within a political structure that is itself based on the state and the assumed identity that nation equals state or perhaps more appropriately given sources of power, state equals nation. It is this specific political identity (i.e. state=nation) that has dominated the development of thinking about international relations. (Tooze, 1996: xvii) A feminist analysis of ‘state’ considers ‘nation’ separately, but also assumes that within the relationship between gender and the nationalist projects the state plays a pivotal role. Feminist scholars have explored the intersection of gender in nationalism in five important ways. First, while identity in international relations implicitly refers to ‘nation-state identity’ (Adamson and Dermetriou, 2001), feminists have argued that the nation is usually imagined as female whereas the state often claims a male identity (Pettman, 1998: 157). In its symbolic female identity, the nation is often perceived as being threatened by invaders. Further, the feminine construction of the nation also deploys the symbolic identity of womanhood, a view that proves useful to explaining the ideology of rape and forced impregnation during conflict. Systematic rape during violent conflict demonstrates an enemy community’s failure to protect its women, thereby ‘feminizing’ the enemy’s land, which is also depicted as the ‘motherland’. Moreover, forced impregnation of an enemy’s women during wartime is designed to disrupt the so-called purity of the enemy’s national identity. Less discussed, however, is how the nation-state seeks to reclaim its purity through the bodies of its women once the conflict is over. The ‘recovery’ programme in India and the ‘rehabilitation’ programme in Bangladesh both indicate how imperative the state considers the control of women’s identity. Effectively, women serve as the boundaries of any national and political community. Second, feminist scholars have analysed the gendered pattern of state-making, the control of women’s sexuality and citizenship. While recognizing the Greek state as the conceptual model for Western democratic states, feminists acknowledge that the emergence of the polis also brought into play the notion of citizenship based on property and/or military activity, which relegated women to the private sphere of domestic life (Grant, 1991; Peterson, 1992). Women’s sexuality was rigorously controlled and laws codified to distinguish between ‘respectable’ women, who were bearers of legitimate male heirs, and non-respectable women, who were the suppliers of men’s pleasure. V. Spike Peterson argues, ‘wherever located, women’s sexuality was placed at the service of and under control by men, who exercised that control individually and collectively through the patriarchal state’ (Peterson, 1992: 36). One of the major sources of gender bias is the ‘emphasis on males as citizens and political actors’ (Grant, 1991: 9), as analysed in several classic concepts of political theory. The classical Western philosophical and political tradition essentialized the public/private dichotomy based on sexual identities. For example, in the Symposium, Plato rejects the entanglements of the body and desire, and links them with ‘unruly female passions and denigrates the merely mortal creations (children)

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The politics of nationalism and nationbuilding

of women’s labour’ (Peterson, 1992: 37). In addition, men’s capability to give birth to ideas ‘exceeds that of women by begetting immortal creations’ (ibid.). The third way in which feminist scholars have explored the intersection of gender in nationalism relates to the earlier reference to the public–private dichotomy that distinguished separate domains. The Guardians in Plato’s Republic are both male and female, but they are given different responsibilities. Female Guardians have domestic duties, and are therefore not equally capable of making political decisions. Grant summarizes ‘this public/private split made it possible for the state to adopt a kind of morality that is different from the moral requirements of relations among individuals’ (Grant, 1991: 13). Aristotle was the foremost philosopher to draw an allegedly natural distinction between men and women. For him, free men achieved the highest good – political action in the public realm of politics. By achieving production and reproduction, the private sphere – where, of necessity, women, children and slaves are situated – becomes a precondition of the public (Peterson, 1992). Peterson notes two of the many consequences of this hierarchical division of labour and identities: first, by negating the centrality of reproduction, men relegated this work to women and denied its profoundly political nature. Secondly, men systematized the roles of women as childbearers and caretakers and as dependants themselves, ‘thereby, presumably, shaping systematically their ways of being and knowing themselves, with important implications for reproducing gendered systems’ (Peterson, 1992: 37). On the other hand, the foundation theories of both Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau articulate the transition from the imagined state of nature into an orderly society exclusively in terms of their own understanding of natural male behaviour (Grant, 1991). For Hobbes, this was the aggressive nature of men; while for Rousseau, it was the capacity for reason in men. Women, meanwhile, are nowhere a part of this process, and are therefore excluded from society and remain close to nature (Yuval-Davis, 1997: 2). In her groundbreaking analysis of the ‘social contract’, Carol Pateman followed up on these lines of thought, studying classical theories that divided the sphere of civil society into public and private domains. As pointed out by Peterson, Pateman noted that women and the family live solely in the private domain, and are therefore politically unimportant. Pateman further claims that ‘the public realm cannot be fully understood in the absence of the private sphere, and, similarly, the meaning of the original is misinterpreted without both, mutually dependent halves of the story. Civil freedom depends on patriarchal right’ (Pateman, 1988: 4). In Pateman’s work, patriarchy is also specific to the pre-modern historical period; in the modern liberal state, she claims, patriarchy has been transformed into fraternity. While patriarchy offered the father (or the king over his subjects) the right to rule over both men and women, fraternity grants men the right to rule over women in the private domestic sphere. Men as a group also agree ‘on a contract of a social order of equality among themselves within the public, political sphere’ (Yuval-Davis, 1997: 7). As the Partition violence and the Liberation War of Bangladesh demonstrate, this fraternity plays a significant role in the violence against women that takes place during riots and conflicts, and manifests in the public space when the

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men of one community communicate with the enemy community through acts of violence, often against women. Fourth, feminist scholars have critiqued the academic realm of international relations (IR) for its exclusion of women from the discourse nation-states, which takes place within the public political domain and is therefore generally masculine. Rebecca Grant and Kathleen Newland state, ‘women as a category, gender as a topic and the impact of feminism as an ideology are three powerful sources of ideas that can contribute to a new feminist epistemology of international relations’ (Grand and Newland, 1991: 4). Rather than an alternative perspective, the gender lens provides IR with a holistic approach out of which conflict and cooperation take place. Nira Yuval-Davis contributes to this discussion by observing that gender should be understood not as a ‘real’ social difference between men and women but rather as a mode of discourse. This is related to groups of subjects whose social roles are defined by their sexual/biological differences as opposed to their economic positions or their membership in ethnic and racial collectivities (Yuval-Davis, 1997: 9). For their part, feminist scholars of IR asked why scholars in the field need to pay attention to both nationalism and gender simultaneously. The response to this is related to the first point of identity politics. The predominant identity story became that of sovereignty, assuming a coincidence of authority, territory, population and identity, and ascribing primary loyalty through citizenship to the state. The territorializing logic and disciplinary power of the state have also bounded IR as a discipline (Pettman, 1998: 149). IR’s preoccupation with the relationship between states has narrowed its earlier understand that nationalism ‘provides the impetus and ideology for loyalty to state, or nation, above humanity, and above family/ kin’ (ibid., 2000: 3). However, the recent violent conflicts around the globe and the international community’s interest in constructing successful nationbuilding stories has meant that why and how nationalism is formed in specific ways is being interrogated by a new generation of scholars. Nationalism’s construction reveals that it is marked through the boundaries of difference, and is produced through gender. Finally, nationalism is a continual process that constructs itself to blend into different histories and memories. Because of the nationalist demand for a unitary national identity, nationalism is capable of suppressing differences and overriding minority voices. Women in particular face oppression in a homogeneous nationalistic formation of history because their stories and experiences are considered a ‘weakness’ in the structure of nationalism, which relies on power and heroic tales in order to sustain itself. Women’s bodies thus serve as battlefields on which nationalistic wars are fought and won or lost. The historical and contemporary modes of local and national levels of structures and practices that oppress women must be analysed further. The relationship between the idea of nationbuilding and the approaches to nationalism is cyclical, and they can both serve as each other’s introductory point. While nationalistic movements influence the construction of a sovereign political territory, states in turn respond by attempting to reconstruct and consolidate national identities by nationbuilding strategies. Therefore, the division between both of these themes is somewhat arbitrary. To explain this, in the next

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The politics of nationalism and nationbuilding

section I will discuss what exactly is meant by ‘nation-state’, and how the political communities of the nation-state are perceived.

Nation and state In his discussion on contemporary South Asia, Ishtiaq Ahmed defines a nation in the following way: A relatively large group of people – vertically linked and stratified by class and social rank – which identifies itself in terms of some cultural particularity and associates itself with a particular geographical area (usually one where it resides) over which it assumes it has original rights. Such a group is either exercising self-rule or aspires to it. (Ahmed, Is., 1996: 35) This definition refers to feeling and emotion, rather than determining the legitimacy of the claim itself. However, the feeling of a common nationhood is actually something that is constructed, with the dominant elite and political leaders over time cultivating a common political destiny of people who share a long (or perhaps even tenuous) historical association. While the nation is a political and cultural entity identifiable by its character and collective rights, the state is a political and judicial entity identifiable by its sovereign right over a territory (ibid.: 36). The term ‘nation-state’ thus captures the relationship when these two coincide. The leading scholars of nationalism (such as Eric Hobsbawm, Miroslav Hroch and Ernest Gellner) believe that, while national movements may create states, it is the states themselves that create nations. Indeed, the sovereign state that has been in motion, and has been evolving and adapting since its inception (Jarvis and Paolini, 1995: 5), remains clearly visible in the modern political landscape. It is the sovereign territorial state that lays claim to defining the boundaries of the political. A state can exist without a coherent nation just as a nation can exist with a state of its own. However, for their survival, states strive to establish a stable socio-political foundation, often using the most powerful ethnic or religious pool of citizenry. Benedict Anderson notes that the nation is an ‘imagined community’ (Anderson, 1983), for which the defining features have been variously shared language, religion, ethnicity, culture, race, territory and history. The state integrates and is defined by this ‘imagined’ nation, and it makes its existence a reality when it is able to provide its citizens with a dominant identity and a territorial unit that is politically more powerful than any other politically relevant identity group. The state has served as a primary category in the modern understanding of political identity through its ideas of citizenship, sovereignty and national interest. Some mainstream scholars argue that nations consist of groups of people who belong together by birth (genetically and lineally, and through language and culture). Nationbuilding and the imagining of the nation often reach across these divisions. States, on the other hand, as the administrative units, consist of those who are fully subject to their own sovereign legal authority. Philosophers, sociologists and political scientists have grappled with the question of state and nation from

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various perspectives. For example, in relation to power and the nation-state’s capability, Michel Foucault was concerned that, in political analysis, power remained state-centric (Foucault, 1979: 88–9), overlooking the power operating at different levels. Anthony Giddens identified the nation as a ‘bordered power-container’ (Giddens, 1994: 34), entailing processes of urban transformation and the internal pacification of states. However, current nation-states are constantly challenged by insurgency, civic unrest and violence, and both Max Weber and Giddens have focused on the self-identification of the nation. The origins and character of nation-states have also been debated by scholars. For Gellner, modern urban industrial development is a precondition of nation-state formation (Gellner, 1983), and for Steve Smith it is the need for a sense of shared ethnicity and past history (Smith, 1991). Anthony Jarvis and Albert Paolini, meanwhile, focus on modernity and suggest that nation-states are formed to organize and define political spaces in certain ways (Jarvis and Paolini, 1995). Ultimately, it becomes evident that the power of the nation-state and its identity are filtered through the political communities that are the strength of the nation-state. In addition, conflicting and competing national identities are manifested through community loyalties. Therefore, it is necessary to elaborate on the concept of the political community with regard to the historical development of nation-states. In the literature on nationalism and nation-states, four predominant and interrelated identity communities are important in the formation of a national identity, and receive much attention. These are the ethnic, religious, territorial and racial. Of course, a synthesis or compound community could include two or more of these identity communities, of which the United States, Mexico, China and Germany are just a few examples. Historically, however, a core political community, usually ethnic or sectarian in nature, often created the primary identity of its people. This is the basis of the purity of a community that Walker Conor discusses in terms of Japan, Norway, Iceland and post-World War II Poland (Conor, 1994: 77). However, as Martha L. Cottam and Richard W. Cottam write, even these states have indigenous/ minority communities (for example in Okinawa, Japan) that challenge the notion of a core ethnic community. However, neither Conor nor Cottam and Cottam point out the danger implicit in the idea of the ‘purity’ of nation-states, which is that it may homogenize the concept of the nation and may ‘pathologically’ exterminate minority groups (Rae, 2002). This type of situation exists in Bangladesh, where Hindu and Christian minority-community groups and indigenous ethnic groups have been targeted by various regimes. Members of minority groups unable to assimilate into the Bengali community (for whatever reason, whether religious or ethnic) are gradually being pressured into leaving Bangladesh. The ethnic community is based on a belief held by the members of a specific community that they share a distinct and common culture. Different cultures, religions and languages may exist in a national community, but a belief in a shared history moulds the ethnic identity of a particular community. The experience of nation-state formation in Europe demonstrates that the ethnic-community identity can play a central role in the development of nation-states. In East Asia, the nation-states of China, Japan and Korea similarly project themselves mainly as

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The politics of nationalism and nationbuilding

ethnic-community states, despite internal strife and regimes that largely ignore the pleas of their minority groups. The new ideologies of political nationalism required that all members of a nation-state be united and homogeneous through a common nationbuilding process. Scholars suggest that the homogenizing tendencies of nationbuilding leave constrained space for ‘sub-national’ ethnic identities (Gellner, 1983; Lawson, 1995; Jarvis and Paolini, 1995). This has produced new challenges to ethnic-community identities for multi-ethnic states. Several indigenous groups in Bangladesh – in particular in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region – fear assimilation into the dominant identity, and most are now involved in a continual struggle to maintain their autonomous ethnic identities. John Hutchinson and Anthony Smith document six main features of ethnic communities: a common proper name, a myth of common ancestry, shared historical memories, one or more elements of a common culture, a link with a homeland and a sense of solidarity (Hutchinson and Smith, 1996: 6–7). Feminist scholars have expanded on these six features by analysing the centrality of women as a gendered category in the preservation of ethno-history (Yuval-Davis and Anthias, 1989), which I will discuss in the latter part of this chapter. The identity constructed to form a religious community is capable of superseding other identity dissimilarities. In ancient Israel, common religion allowed group survival; whereas in modern history, India was partitioned according to religion (Cottam and Cottam, 2001). Eric Hobsbawm notes that the relationship between religious and national identity continues to be ‘extremely opaque’ (Hobsbawm, 1990: 71). The Islamic nation (the Ummah) in Iran, as well as Northern Ireland and Lebanon are other examples of national communities with strong religious identity components (Cottam and Cottam, 2001). Émile Durkheim articulated that there was no real distinction between religion and nationality, and observed that religion maintained the solidarity of the national community. He argued that ‘the idea of society is the soul of religion’ (Durkheim, 1947: 419) and saw ‘in the Divinity only society transfigured and symbolically expressed’ (ibid., 1974: 52). Religion was understood by him to stem not only from social life, but also to be a system of ideas that allowed individuals to identify themselves as a group within the society to which they belonged and their relationship to it (Grosby, 2001: 97–8). However, it is important to make an analytical distinction between religion and nationality. For example, although Bangladesh, India and Pakistan all clearly demonstrate a strong affiliation of nationalism with religion, other forms of identity have also powerfully contributed to shaping political and social life in these countries. Bengali ethnic-community identity, for instance, forms an integral part of the Bangladeshi national identity, but still has an uneasy partnership with the religious-community identity in Bangladesh. In India, likewise, a secular Nehruvian identity challenged the concept of a unitary religious identity. Since the attacks of 11 September 2001, religious identities, especially those of Islamic communities, have been viewed with suspicion, while the strength of a dominant/patriotic imagined national identity in the West has become predominant. By extension, this indicates that in times of national crisis, minority or dissident voices may become silenced, with their owners being considered ‘suspect’ or inauthentic citizens.

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‘Racial community’ often refers to a unique characteristic in many nation-states (Smith, 1979). Germany under Adolf Hitler’s leadership, emphasizing Aryan supremacy coupled with the genocidal policies of the Nazi regime, demonstrated the destructive power of racial identity. Other examples are ‘white power’ supremacy in Apartheid South Africa and in Ian Smith’s Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Similarly, the killing of South Africa’s far-right leader Eugene Terreblanche in April, 2010 and the racial politics of Robert Mugabe’s land reform policies in current Zimbabwe are equally destructive. As bell hooks writes, the idea of whiteness gained a political definition with a specific historical meaning in the West that, for a black woman, often expressed terror (hooks, 1992: 342). Feminists in the US have looked at race and class (hooks, 1981) and non-Western feminist discourses (Spivak, 1988b; Mohanty and Torres, 1991) in relation to race. From a postcolonial perspective, Edward Said (1978) and Frantz Fanon (1967) highlighted the importance of colonialism by stressing the experience of the colonizer and the colonized, and the construction of the ‘Other’ in the understanding of race and racial community. In the British context, the construction of images of colonial peoples played an important role in shaping ideas about racial community. The complex processes of racial and gender identification experienced by the colonized during colonial and postcolonial times demonstrated that the oppressed themselves could produce their own discourses about race and identity in the context of their own experiences of domination and exclusion (Solomos and Back, 2000). In this construction of images of the ‘Other’, women received a symbolic significance through their reproductive capability. Finally, scholars have argued that national identity and nation cannot be separated from the idea of territory (Miller, 1995; Williams, 2001). For Hans Kohn, a territorial community is one of the most visible factors in the formation of national identity (Kohn, 1944: 15); and for Williams, this provides powerful impetus to revise external and internal borders for ethnic communities (Williams, 2001). Multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-racial communities rely on a common territorial identity for their cohesiveness. For scholars of international relations, these revisions create a dilemma, as the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty are of central importance. Central and Eastern European states such as the former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia are examples of territorial revisions, where the self-determination of communities has been allowed by the international community to reconfigure identities (Cottam and Cottam, 2001). While multiple layers of these four (and other) identities co-exist, and gender operates through each of these, most citizens of a nation-state can identity with a dominant political identity. They have a sense of belonging to their nation, and for most this identification supersedes all others. Although in everyday social practice family, social networks and communities may come first, in times of national crisis the national identity often has the power to take precedence over everything else. Marginalized and minority communities that are struggling against various oppressions of race, class and gender are thus further subjugated in the nation-state. As will become clear through an examination of the position of women in the post-conflict societies of the Indian subcontinent, for women in

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The politics of nationalism and nationbuilding

particular identity is doubly obscured by a cohabiting identity (or identities) and the national identity.

A political or ethnic phenomenon Feminist analyses of nationalism show that the theorization of nationalism that relies on un-gendered historical narratives reinforces elite portrayals of nationalism and national identities. While the above discussion demonstrates the importance of individual responses to community identities that might lead to collective action by the community, earlier scholars of nationalism did not focus on micro-narratives or people’s experiences. One of the major reasons for this was the importance given to nationalism in the creation of national states and in sustaining the nation-state by controlling memory and history through an official nationalist narrative. Feminist scholars eventually began to trace this construction of history from a gendered perspective. However, it is important to briefly look at both the gendered and un-gendered approaches to the nationalist narrative, given that both provide important insights into a nation-state’s politics and policies. To start off, what exactly is nationalism? As befits such a complex idea, there are numerous definitions, with scholars attempting to explain the concept by using a variety of specific examples. For this book, particularly useful will be a definition suggesting that the state and the nation should be congruent (Snyder and Ballentine, 1996: 9), which forms the basis of a sovereign legitimate rule of culturally or historically distinctive people in a polity expressing and protecting those distinctive characteristics (Gellner, 1983: Ch. 1). Structural conditions, sociological factors and political and philosophical transformations are often emphasized as conditions conducive to nationalism. As a political ideology or claim, nationalism is often based on primordial notions of the nation, and can produce specific and very important patterns in the political behaviour of a community.1 In this sense, Gellner observes that identities are chosen and constructed, thereby making his central claim that it is nationalism that explains nations, not the other way round (Gellner, 1983: 58–62). On the other hand, Smith (1998) observes that modern nations can be created only when they draw upon a previously shared set of ethnic symbols. Citing the failure of the USSR and some African states, Smith opines that there is a limit to the social-engineering power of states to invent traditions. Scholars have conceptualized nationalism as a product of modernity (Jarvis and Paolini 1995); as an ideology, discourse and movement (Hutchinson and Smith, 1994); and as a theory of political legitimacy (Gellner, 1983). Most analysts now also agree that nationalism pertains to a specific framework for the coordination of social relations and social reproduction (Anderson 1983; Gellner, 1983; Balibar 1996). Clifford Geertz also explains that there are two competing yet complementary components – ethnic and civic – in the nationalism of postcolonial states. Ethnic nationalism requires prior existence, and membership is unconditional and exclusive (for example, ancient India); the ethnic dimension is articulated as a commitment to primordial loyalties, which endows individuals with a distinctive identity. Civic nationalism, on the other hand, is where there exists a desire for

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shared citizenship in a modern state (Brown, 1999). Australia, France, the US and the UK are some examples of civic nationalism, where citizenship of a nation is achieved through a process of assimilation. Starting in the 1970s, the study of nationalism underwent a revitalization, boosted particularly by the publication of Anderson’s classic work Imagined Communities (1983). Anderson’s study helps us to analyse how the public discourses surrounding women’s tasks delineate the ways in which women are perceived in the imagined nation. This includes the way that nationalist leaders and nationalism imagined and conceptualized the role of women and the concept of women’s gendered citizenship. In this way, women’s subject position is renegotiated within a narrow imagining of nation and gendered identity. The study of nationalism has further been revitalized by critical studies, particularly by Foucault, Said and the Subaltern Studies group, and by the emergence of neo-Marxism, postmodernism, feminism and postcolonial studies, which suggest that the sentiment of nationalism is often a result of deliberate political manipulation. If nations are imagined and created rather than fixed and natural, conflicting visions of national identity are inevitable and mostly irresolvable. A good example of this is the constructed national identity of South Asian states, where irreconcilable conflicts about nationhood have often created divisions and led to violence against minority communities. Although scholars generally discuss nationalism as either an ethnic or political phenomenon, their discussions inadvertently reveal that the real and interesting disagreements between these scholars deal with the sources/approaches – such as primordial, as an ideology, or as socio-economic or identity-based. These approaches theorize abstract concepts of nationalism and the politics of state-making. However, none of the approaches considers the micro-narratives implicit in all discussions. For example, scholars point to the state’s manipulation of mass media and mass education to infuse the nation with loyalty towards those in the group and hatred towards those outside. However, in such discussions the experiences and stories of ordinary people are often overlooked or overridden. In this situation, national political identity was constructed utilizing xenophobic nationalism based on ‘ancient hatreds’. Through a shared set of common experiences and a common parochial discourse political elites manipulate nationalist myths. An effective way to understand the importance of controlling and reconstructing national stories is through gender, which shows ways in which primordial sentiments are deployed or identities are inscribed on bodies. Violent conflicts in recent decades demonstrate how the symbolic use of the female body has been used to construct a national identity. Geertz and Shils understand nationalism as primordial. Originally used by Edward Shils (1957) in the fields of sociology and religion, Geertz appropriated Shils’s argument from an anthropological perspective, and pointed out that primordial attachments to nations may stem from perceived cultural ‘givens’ such as blood, language, custom, race or territory (Geertz, 1973, 258–62). He further suggests that the drive for an efficient modern state interacts with a drive for personal identity, which is based on primordial ties. In Imagined Communities, Anderson suggests a parallel relationship with the socio-biological position and nationalistic aspirations. Several other scholars (Van den Berghe,

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1994; Shaw and Wong, 1989) argue that people are programmed to defend their primary identity communities, which prehistorically worked in a way similar to the clan. However, the primordial approach underestimates the politicization of nationalism, and assumes it to be natural. The second approach focused on nationalism as ideology. In The Historical Evolution of Modern Nationalism, published in 1931, Carlton J. H. Hayes illustrated nationalism as a body of doctrines and as a political philosophy (Hayes, 1931). Kellas analysed it as a particular form of political behaviour (Kellas, 1991), and Smith treated it similar to other political doctrines such as imperialism, racism and populism (Cottam and Cottam, 2001). The third approach investigates nationalism from a developmental-historical perspective (Hayes, 1931; Kedourie, 1960; Seton-Watson, 1977; Gellner, 1983; Anderson, 1983; Hobsbawm, 1990). Scholars emphasized the emergence of various factors such as the introduction of the printing press, a common language, industrialization, the emergence of important philosophical writings and debates, and so on. Tracing through the political, economic and intellectual development in Europe between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries, these scholars have documented the importance of political doctrine, religious debates and changes, and the usage of a common language as significant historical developments contributing to the growth of nationalism (Cottam and Cottam, 2001). The final approach perceives nationalism through the lens of identity (Hutchinson and Smith, 1996). Smith points out that national identity can be developed over time, to emerge among people who previously had only parochial identities. He agrees with Gellner and Anderson that broader political developments and structural changes are important in explaining when nationalism is possible or likely. Although Smith acknowledges that some states may be multi-ethnic, he pays little attention to this in his writings. In recent literature, scholars have looked at globalization’s processes of eroding nationalism (Dandeker, 1998: 32–41) and the impact of political forces promoting nationalism in pre-existing state structures (Hroch, 1996: 66). What is interesting is that all these approaches follow the political elite’s portrayal of nationalism, whereas in fact each is a tool for manipulating public opinion (and also scholar perceptions). Even Cottam and Cottam, in their very thorough discussions, fail to address a major concern – that is, how the political behaviour of nation-states influences different segments of societies, especially women. While taking a behaviourist approach, the authors consider the nation-state to be the patriarch (see Connell, 2000), the sole entity that ‘legitimately’ dominates and rules its citizens. Examining nationalism through the lens of gender reveals the political power of each tool. Thus, while different political elites may use different approaches and tools, the construction of nationalism is evidently a political process, not an ethnic or religious inevitability. The interests of the intelligentsia and the political elite remain the unquestioned focus of nationalism scholarship, and much of the mainstream literature on national ‘production’ and ‘reproduction’ overlooks women. Women are not generally the political elite, and by overlooking women’s experiences scholars have largely

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missed women’s roles as actors in nationalist movements, and how women’s bodies serve as the ground for nationalist battles. By recounting the heroic tales of popular leaders and their emphasis on the importance of an ethnic or religious heritage for cultural survival, a process of intellectual nationalization becomes apparent. By using this approach, a strong historicist justification for the nationbuilding objectives of the national bourgeoisie is provided. This nationbuilding interest and the consolidation of the nationalist hegemony marginalizes the opponents of elites and nationalist politicians. Women have no space in this debate, either as part of the intelligentsia or as a group with economic or social power. Power relations involved in producing knowledge about national identity operate to marginalize the interests of many groups, including women, ignoring subalterns or women as significant groups that can contribute to the vital discussion on nationalism. These groups, and women, are thus rendered voiceless. Various scholars have looked at the role of the political elite in nationbuilding processes, and in the formation and reproduction of nationalist ideologies. Antonio Gramsci recognized that the state was the chief regulator of political and economic life in the nation (Gramsci, 1971). He looked at how particular nationbuilding strategies were used to link the agricultural south of Italy with its industrialized north during the late ninteenth century, and demonstrated how the southern intelligentsia attained local and regional dominance by allying with the northern political elite in exchange for a share of public finance, which was then used for their own personal gain. In his discussion on Basque nationalism, Stanley G. Payne suggests that it was a creation of the intelligentsia that was subsequently imposed upon the masses (Payne, 1974: 131). Similarly, Anthony Smith suggests that nationalism’s primary function is ‘the resolution of the crisis of the intelligentsia’ (Smith, 1981: 15). Laughlin regards nationalism as a middle-class ideology imposed upon apolitical masses by an indigenous intelligentsia ‘whose manifest destiny is to convince the latter of the superiority of nation-centred goals over and above the narrow parochialism and sectionalist interests of the rural poor and working class’ (Laughlin, 2001: 13). However, none of these scholars clarifies the political and economic goals of powerful interest groups in nationbuilding processes, or in cultural or linguistic movements. The seeds of many nationalist movements have intensified through language movements (for instance, in East Pakistan in 1952) and traditional/cultural resistance, rather than through state-centred political and economic issues. However, ninteenth-century Irish nationalism and twentietth-century Bengali nationalism clearly demonstrate that the transformation into full-blown nationalist movements often depends upon links with more powerful and mainstream vested interest groups within those societies, groups that have far more materialist and state-centred political agendas. Focusing only on the intelligentsia does not offer us a comprehensive approach towards either nationalism or nationbuilding processes. The interests of different groups would be better represented and addressed if the members themselves were allowed to articulate, theorize and politicize their own interests. Ideally, women who are most likely to be affected by structural and procedural decisions of the state

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should be consulted about appropriate measures concerning their well-being. The assumption that protecting the state’s interests will automatically protect all of its citizens fails to take into account that the marginalized sections suffer within the sovereign state boundary, and may be oppressed by the state itself. It will be evident from the case studies in later chapters that the national narratives of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were built on the systematic exclusion of women’s voices. While in the national stories, the triumphant survival of the nation is built on their sacrifice on behalf of the nation, on another level the silence about what happened to the women actually points to the failure of the nation-state to protect all its citizens.

Gendered nationalism Through the symbolic use of women’s identities and bodies in national movements and through the control of their sexuality after the conflict, women become doubly signified by the nation and the patriarchal state. The manipulation of gender relations is a major resource for claims to authority by the political elite who represent the state, in addition to defining the boundaries of the group to which loyalty is demanded. Analysis of gender relations explains, first, the ways in which states or nationalist movements utilize or deploy gender in the making of the nation, which often occurs through obedience and loyalty of its citizens; and second, the ways these processes impact on subaltern groups, including minorities and women. Feminist scholars acknowledge that ‘all nationalisms are gendered, all are invented, and all are dangerous … in the sense of representing relations to political power and to the technologies of violence’ (McClintock, 1993: 61). While mainstream and many critical studies of nationalism largely ignore gender, both women and gender relations are intrinsic to the construction and reproduction of nationalism. Here, I pursue two significant points: the politicization of gender by nationalist projects; and the construction of gender, which is inextricably linked to the construction of the ‘Other’. Both of these issues demand a close scrutiny of the identity politics connected with nationalism. Even with the focus on the primordial nature of nation (Geertz, 1963, 1973; Shils, 1957; van den Berghe, 1979; Grosby, 2001), which investigates the connection to kinship, the primordialist school assumed gender relations to be irrelevant. On the other hand, the ethno-symbolic analysis of nationalism (Smith, 1986; Hutchinson, 2000; Conor, 1994) has described nation as the family, a structure of kinship and social networks. Ironically, even in these analyses, gender has been naturalized and overlooked as an analytical and symbolic category for attaching meaning to the concepts of nationalism and nationbuilding. This omission may well have been deliberate on the part of scholars who thought that experiences at the micro-level were not important to explain theories.2 The state becomes the basis for constructing a collective identity, which may be rigorously enforced through schooling, policing or mass media (Connell, 2000). In most cases, this process is resisted by excluded and stigmatized minority groups, yet states are capable of effectively limiting identity choices by enforcing conformity

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to norms or ideals, which in turn results in the decline of individual freedoms. A major part of this resistance occurs quietly, without the state’s acknowledgment, which creates a political silence that relies on not knowing and not seeing, and in turn remains at the core of state’s power and abuses. Again, a minority group may also use conformity as a bargaining power that is directly linked to its existence (Papanek, 1994). The powerless within the group, who are often women, are most likely to suffer from the pressure of conformity. Scholars of nationalism have also paid limited attention to patriotism, which has an importantly symbolic significance in the politics of nationalism. During times of national anxiety, the political elite appeals to a broader national identity and demand loyalty (Seth, 1995). In the context of this book, Pakistan failed to attract this functional requirement of national identity from a segment of its populace, and Bengali nationalism was able to consolidate and strengthen beyond Pakistan’s nationbuilding process. The state-sponsored enterprise of religious patriotism was the casualty when Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign nation-state. The very complex nature of Bengali nationalism combined with patriotism arose from Bangladesh’s need to compromise with its Islamic ties yet distance itself from the Pakistani way of practising Islam. The new state of Bangladesh required a new encompassing national identity that would provide enough space for the peaceful co-existence of Islam and the Bengali ethnic identity. At the same time, communal harmony, which is an important component of the Bengali identity, had to be maintained. In this new patriotic space, which required nationbuilding to make peace with the two conflicting identities (the religious and the ethnic), it was crucial to silence women’s experiences of the Liberation War. There was no space for the experiences of the Birangona (women raped during the war) in the mainstream literature of nationalism in Bangladesh, because it demonstrated an image of the harmonious co-existence of religious and ethnic communities. To what extent is gender a factor in the constitution and continued existence of the nation-state? How are nations imagined and characterized in relation to the national roles allocated to women? Kumari Jayawardena’s analysis of women’s participation in the national liberation struggles in India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Korea, the Middle East and Southeast Asia (Jayawardena, 1986), and the gendered imagery that urges masculine heroes to defend their motherland (Elshtain, 1987; Tickner, 1994; Pettman, 1996b), refer to two related dichotomies. The first is between the nationalistic politics of identity communities, and the other relates to the concept of the nation itself simultaneously looking at the future and referring to the past. The national role of women as symbolic of a collective mother figure effectively cuts across both of these dichotomies. How much attention do women’s interests receive after conflicts have ended? Women who have taken part in nationalist movements and in the construction of their nation-states’ identities in post-conflict periods often have often done so in accordance with parameters or on an agenda largely framed by their countries’ elite, which mostly comprised men. The position of women has therefore always revolved around performing support tasks in their communities. In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the state-initiated recovery and rehabilitation programmes aimed

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at enabling women to generate income were all heavily built on the sexual division of labour, with women performing traditional feminine roles within their communities, such as sowing, cooking, paddy husking or even secretarial jobs. Within the feminist framework is found another important question: When women’s interests contradicted the nation-state’s agenda of consolidating a united national identity, how did the state act? Pain, sadness and humiliation have a symbolic place in the formation of a heroic past, which are all used to mobilize the nation, with individual pain being appropriated for the community’s political purpose. In the case of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the humiliation of victims of riots or war crimes are important as the construct of a central nationbuilding story of sacrifice for the nation. Struggles over history – not only about how and what to remember, but also how and what to forget – have been manifested in official narratives of the nation-state. Yet while the numbers are included, women’s actual stories have been excluded from textbooks in these three countries, and careful state propaganda about nationalistic wars and history has been used to reconstruct memory. Women often renegotiate the boundaries of national femininity, including negotiating their own survival strategies, by sometimes remaining silent by choice and not challenging the nationalist history. However, other women are silenced in, and excluded from, this discourse simply because their stories are dangerous for the nationbuilding policy practised by their nation-state. It is important to remember that it is often less what some women declare than what they actually do (that is, their practice) that clarifies what ‘survival’ means to them. In the remaining part of this chapter, I will focus on the ‘woman question’ in South Asia.

The South Asian ‘woman question’ Women’s identity has repeatedly been an important symbol of nationalist movements and the construction of nation-states. Rape has been used systematically in South Asian conflicts to influence an enemy nation’s/community’s identity, a process that is particularly evident through the construction of women’s identity within nationalist myths. This is particularly so with regards to the positioning of women within four archetypal roles: as mother, as traitor, as sex object and as target of rape. Over the past three decades, intellectual debates, especially in South Asian historiography, have addressed the limitations of nationalist and state narratives of struggle. In so doing, they have created an awareness of the significance of ‘histories from below’, from those living at the periphery of power and control. Yet my argument is that not only are these histories critical to the ‘people from below’, but that they are equally important to the whole society. The creation of artificial boundaries based on political compromises and biases escalated tensions in the Indian subcontinent in 1947. However, the Partition trauma was only the beginning of a series of acts of violence against women. The scale of brutality used to inscribe messages for the ‘enemy’ on female bodies during Partition riots, the subsequent ‘recovery’ programme of the Indian state, the Pakistan Army’s atrocities in Bangladesh in 1971, the politics of the Bangladesh government’s rehabilitation programme in the post-conflict period – each of

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these indicate the clear importance of examining the gendered construction of the nation-state. Collectively, these and other examples highlight the nationalist conflicts waged on women. The ‘woman question’ is introduced here as an analytical category by which to investigate the relationship between state, nationalism and nationbuilding, and South Asian feminist politics. The centrality of the female body in communalized discourses and practices are evident in Partition and Liberation War narratives of South Asia. Yet with the exception of Feldman and Samaddar, contemporary debates and writing originating in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan occlude the Bengal experiences, thus making it the ‘Other’ in the Partition narratives. In the structure of exclusion of nationbuilding histories of the subcontinent, the omission of Bengal functions differently, and there is some heterogeneity in this position. The power of a communal religious identity was evident in the creation of India and Pakistan. Although the creation of Bangladesh is often cited as a triumph of secularism and Bengali nationalism, the rise of the Islamic right in Bangladeshi politics after 1971 and the tension between secular and communal politics makes it important to analyse communalism, which has also compromised the position of women in the aftermath of conflicts. Unless the ‘woman question’ is employed in the narrative structure, the symbolic and material use of gender in national identity politics cannot be explained. In the Indian subcontinent different communities have used their religious identities in the construction of their nations’ identities, but it is problematic to address the ‘woman question’ on the basis of their community alone. Ethnicity, class and culture have also influenced the gendered narrative, but communalism relates only to specific events. In the subcontinent, the most important imaginings of the nation continue to be religious, not secular, although secular nationalism does exist as an ideological force (Van der Veer, 1994). The creation of India and Pakistan, despite the declaration of secularism, was based on an ideological mobilization that equated nation with community identity (Agarwal, 1995: 40). In communalism, a common religion is imagined as the basis of group identity; in nationalism, a common ethnic culture is imagined as such (Pandey, 1990 and also cited in van der Veer 1994: 22). Political will expressed through a democratic process, a ‘common’ history and a ‘common’ territory is characteristic of both the communal and nationalist concepts (van der Veer, 1994: 22). In his study of communalism, Gyanendra Pandey (1990) articulates this as an Orientalist term, coined to describe the ‘otherness’ of politics in the East but now used by secular nationalists to indicate the illegitimacy of religious nationalism (cited in van der Veer 1994: 22). While in India religious identification has historically been employed as the basis of social, political and economic mobilization, the activity of organizing antagonism between Hindu and Muslim collective identities was first observed during the cow-slaughter movement of the 1890s (Ludden, 1996: 13). Indeed, the institutionalization of communalism was promoted by the British imperial power in India. Pandey argues that the equation of India with Hindus under the colonial regime, the reporting of anti-colonial riots as communal riots, colonial documentation and the writing of separate legal codes for Muslims and Hindus, and the

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colonial creation of separate electorates for Hindu and Muslim populations are all evidence that communalism was a guiding principle of the colonial enterprise in India (Pandey, 1990). What were the consequences of this increased communalization for women, and how were women implicated in it? When many communal stereotypes passed into public memory, and communalism itself gained unprecedented respectability, Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin ask, what sort of stereotypes became the staple of public memory? The communal nature of sexualized violence during both Partition riots and in the Liberation War of Bangladesh have been inscribed on women’s bodies through rape, violence and, finally, childbirth. On the other hand, there were sustained attempts by the Hindu right and Islamic fundamentalists to mobilize women into communal campaigns, and women-related issues into legislative and policymaking process, could also be justifiably framed in communal terms (Chhachhi, 1991, 1994; Hasan, 1994; Kabeer, 1991). The Shah Bano case in India (in which a Muslim woman was divorced by her husband in 1978 and denied alimony) portrayed gender issues as entangled in the central government’s attempts to negotiate and buy off fundamentalist or communalist pressures (Engineer, 1987; Hasan, 1994; Sangari, 1996.). From this perspective, whether in wars or identity-based conflicts/riots, communalism appropriates the collective memory and constructs historical narratives to justify its political performance. This self-image of the community at war becomes crucial in the complex process of the construction of the communal mindset, with its horrific accounts of violence against the enemy communities and with the performance of rape as a spectacle (for details see, MacKinnon, 2006: 209–33). While analysing the Partition riots, feminist scholars pursued the question of how communalism, operating within patriarchal structures of power, implies the advocacy of violence, often sexual in nature, towards women (Jayawardena and de Alwis, 1996). Intrinsic in the patriarchal tradition, female modesty/honour/purity are common denominators that cut across all communities in South Asia. As her modesty signifies the masculinity of her community (Visweswaran, 1994), the perpetrators frequently resort to the violation of the women of the ‘Other’ in a particular nationalistic discourse (Fazila-Yacoobali, 1999). In such an imagined world, gendered notions of culture and identity are intrinsically appropriated, with ideas of ‘motherland’ and its sons, ‘mother tongue’ and ‘fertile’ soil all carrying deeply gendered imageries. Framed by the metaphors of kinship, gendered imageries permeate everyday lives through locally institutionalized norms and cultural practices. These also produce an exclusivist approach towards others that could manifest in violent forms during communal riots or identity wars. The instability of the nationbuilding projects in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the incompleteness of their narratives, should be understood in this sense (Menon, 1999). An important contribution of postcolonial theory is its understanding of difference not just in terms of national origins but also in terms of class, gender, race, sexual and ethnic orientations and, finally, in the reading of cultural practices in their political contexts. The nationalist movements led by Western-educated local elites often restricted the more ‘radical’ demands of women in their efforts to

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present a united national front. Therefore, this middle-class, bhodrolok (‘gentle folk’) elite leaders failed to fundamentally transform the oppressive political structures they inherited from their colonial rulers (Chatterjee, 1995). In South Asia, the elite class is able to exercise its power and influence due to its prestige and class composition. They include the decision-makers and other key figures leading the dominant social, economic, political, military and bureaucratic orders. In addition, the religious (mainly comprising religious priests and imams) or cultural elite (civil-society actors) occupy peripheral power positions or simply command influence because of the respectful status accorded to them in either traditional or other terms. Decision-making power and the construction of the nation-state’s identity are concentrated around these elite clusters, which exercise these powers over the society either jointly or by conflicting with each other. One important way to control the society is by controlling the constructed history and collective memory of the nation-state. Deriving from both real and fictive sources, this process produces a pristine past for the nation-state, as the elite group constructs memories of heroic tales about past glory and suffering to create the nation’s identity. In 1947, this involved religion; in 1971, it involved ethnicity. However, in both cases women were specifically targeted as victims who were violated by the enemy. The dominance of the elite group in historical narratives has been extensively criticized by the Subaltern Studies group. Although their rhetoric has also raised questions about the authenticity of their voices, Third World feminists and subaltern critics seek to challenge the unified historical narratives presented by the nationalist elites. Nationalist struggles often call upon women to assume the role of keepers of tradition, thus absorbing them in the rhetoric of purity and sanctity, and assigning to them the most passive, secondary and privatized spaces in the official narratives of nationalism (Jayawardena, 1986; Mohanty, and Torres, 1991). As a result, feminists in South Asia undertook a close analysis of colonial and indigenous patriarchal power structures, and are today doing crucial archival work to recover lost and/or neglected texts of experience, memoirs and resistance. The ‘woman question’ in South Asia is different from the feminist struggles of the West (Chatterjee, 1990, 1995; Liddle and Joshi, 1986 Nandy, 1987; Sangari and Vaid, 1990; Spivak, 1990). During the anti-colonial movement, women stepped out into the public world only for the nationalist cause, thereafter returning home to their roles as mothers, wives and sisters. While Partha Chatterjee (1990) argues that the contextual rhetoric of the building and emergence of the Indian nation subsumed the location and identity politics of the ‘woman’, R. Radhakrishnan asks why the advent of the politics of nationalism signals the subordination, if not the demise, of women’s politics (Radhakrishnan, 1996: 186). Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid rightly suggest that feminist historiography is an important way to respond to Chatterjee and Radhakrishnan’s concerns. The manifestation and marginalization of gender as an analytical category may have been conceived initially by feminism and addressed the ‘woman’ question; however, gender as a necessary and comprehensive category must go beyond feminist concerns.3 India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are not merely conceived as nation-states, as Radhakrishnan writes while referring only to India, but rather as religiously defined

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nations. For many, India is also fundamentally a ‘Hindu’ nation (and not a secular one), while both Bangladesh and Pakistan are ‘Muslim’ nations.4 In this politically redefined identity of nation-states, the ‘woman question’ has also been reconstructed. For example, the politics surrounding the Birangona women cannot be fully understood by examination into the context only of cultural/Bengali nationalism; such politics must also be located in the space created by the rise of communal politics in present-day Bangladesh, which has its roots in the Partition of India. Otherwise, the centrality of the narrative of gender becomes doubly displaced – once by nationalism in its purpose to integrate and secularize Bangladesh as a modern nation, and again by religion in order to reconstruct Bangladesh as a traditional Muslim nation. Both present themselves as universalizing totalities, and are therefore in constant conflict with each other. It is this double displacement/utilization of the ‘woman question’ and its postcolonial representations of Partition and the Liberation War experience of women that are explored in the following chapters. Both colonialism and nationalism have played their ideological parts in the construction of gender roles. Anti-colonial struggles in many colonized countries have not only rejected the legitimacy of Western rule, but have also often constructed a nationalist political identity by contrasting indigenous culture and values with those of the West. This valourization of the norms and social practices of indigenous culture in colonized territories was often a response to colonial attempts to manage or reshape indigenous norms and social practices, which the colonial powers found unacceptable or inexpedient.5 The progressive West considered veiling, polygamy, child-marriage and sati (widow-burning) to be significant concerns, and move to frame them as barbaric. Women’s oppression by their own communities was also used as a rationale to rule, while indigenous elites reacted by pointing out how culture, community honour and norms are shaped by these ‘sacred’ practices.6 To whom and for whom did they speak? Indian nationalist men saw their political role as crucially connected to ‘improving the status of Indian women’ (Antoinette, 1994: 20). In their analysis of the appropriation and exclusion of gender in the South Asian identity politics, Jayawardena and Alwis (1996) traced the construction of identity from the anti-colonial movement. Anti-colonial struggles – in the Indian context, with its unique blend of religious revivalism – targeted women to carry out nationalist projects. This involved drawing women into the anti-imperialist struggles – for instance, addressing public meetings, running schools for girls, fighting for the right to vote, and so forth. However, it simultaneously imposed a new agenda as women as the carriers of tradition. The biological role of women – motherhood – was likewise highlighted in this revivalist project (Menon and Bhasin, 1998). In this patriarchal hegemony, a woman’s sexuality is controlled and disciplined by confining her within the home and interpellating her into familial subject positions as a mother, sister, wife and/or daughter (Jayawardena and de Alwis, 1996). Such interpellations are facilitated by the family, the education system, the media and the religious institutions,7 and are endorsed by the state. Nonetheless, this sort of patriarchal hegemony was also contested and resisted with a ‘new’ kind of feminist leader, such as Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hussein, the pioneer of Muslim women’s awakening in Bengal.

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While discussing nationalism, Jindy Pettman notes that ‘women’s experiences have not been incorporated into international relations understandings of the world, and women face particular difficulties in becoming subjects in nationalist and interstate politics’ (Pettman, 1996b: 104). She further states that ‘nationalist war rapes are about collectivity power and domination strategies’ (ibid., 1996a: 191). In the South Asian context, Parsons analyses how power and dominance are drawn in suggestive ways to idealize the subcontinent, and how in colonial times the West was presented as metaphorically masculine and the Orient as feminine (Parsons, 1997). The nationalist movement of Partition was likewise portrayed in feminine terms by Hindu extremists. Urvashi Butalia writes how the Organizer, a Hindu-fundamentalist magazine in India, published a front-page picture of the map of India, in 1946 on which was traced the outline of the female body, arms stretched into a depiction of Pakistan (Butalia, 1995b). The representation of the nation or community as a selfless and compassionate mother figure (Roy, 1995) allowed it to be abstracted from the public sphere of politics and self-interest, and constructed as an iconic subject of affection and devotion (Ramaswamy, 1993: 713). In this construction, both a community’s women and men have a powerful role to play: they both must protect the nation and its women. Imagining the nation as a mother also provides a powerful underpinning for the state to see itself as a patriarch, responsible for its citizens. It is this concern that made it necessary to ‘recover’ (in the case of abducted women of Partition riots) and ‘rehabilitate’ (in the case of rape survivors in Bangladesh) the mothers of the state’s future citizens. Instead of pointing to any single event that led to alternative ways in which people constructed understandings of community by analysing the past, feminist scholars have stressed that the characterizations of the present reconstitute interest in the past and build an alternative hegemonic discourse of the present. Violence on the border of Punjab led feminists to analyse Partition’s traumatic narratives within the India–Pakistan context; but meanwhile, the traumatic memories of Bengal and its gendered aspect remain largely unexplored. However, the unresolved past of Partition, the trauma and memory that incited hatred of Hindus and Muslims against each other, played a significant role in 1971. The Pakistan Army, which was largely Punjabi (Aiyar, 1998), carried with it the memory and trauma of 1947. The socialization of the majority of Punjabi males involved ‘a quasi-military initiation ceremony’ (ibid.: 25) that produced a distinctive character of violence that was both extraordinary and unparalleled anywhere in India (Talbot, 1993; Aiyar, 1998). In 1971, the specific targeting of the Hindu community and the publicly declared intention of the Pakistani military to make ‘true Muslims’ out of the Bengalis (Sobhan, 1994: 71) made the connection with Partition apparent.

Rethinking Partition and Liberation Because of the emphasis and centrality of the situation in Bangladesh after the Liberation War, this project does not explore the connection between the Pakistan Army’s ethnic characteristic, the trauma of 1947 and the spill-over of memory in

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the violence of 1971. However, without an adequate and simultaneous gendered analysis of post-Partition India and post-Liberation Bangladesh, it is impossible to theorize on gendered nationalism and the construction of nationbuilding in South Asia. Partition was the initial trauma that created dangerous divisions along the lines of religious and ethnic communities in the subcontinent. While discussions of Partition that emerged in India generated debates that are important specifically for India, the South Asian intellectual elite continues to engage in debate across national borders. ‘Highlighting the porosity of national borders has ramifications for interpreting, for instance, the responses to the writings of Taslima Nasreen, as well as for understanding popular discourses describing the Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi “Other” from either within or outside their national borders’ (Feldman, 1999: 171, note 11). Furthermore, crossborder intellectual dialogues, especially through women’s-activist networks, influenced and shaped the advocacy agenda. Why is it so important to analyse the silence of the East Bengal/East Pakistan/ Bangladesh experience? Ranabir Samaddar (1997: 220) poses the question of just where the history of Bangladesh should begin – in 1905, with the first partition of Bengal? In 1947, with the creation of East Pakistan? In 1952, with the Language Movement? Or in 1971, with the Liberation War? (Also cited in Menon, 1999: 158.) Indeed, the history of nationbuilding of Bangladesh should include all of these. The experience of Bengal in the anti-colonial movement has largely been ignored in Bangladeshi scholarly explorations. On the other hand, Indian academic endeavours highlighted Bengal’s experience primarily as an Indian one and paid very limited attention to Partition’s impact on Bangladesh. As such, Partition and its consequences have only been appropriated instead by Indian academic endeavours. Yet without a proper analysis of the anti-colonial struggle in the context of the Indian subcontinent, it becomes impossible to analyse the gendered politics of Bangladesh today. Therefore, it is only by acknowledging the anti-colonial movement for independence and the Partition struggles as a conscious choice of the Muslim Bengalis in creating East Pakistan that we can address the ‘woman question’ effectively. Why did the nationbuilding narratives of 1947 and 1971 develop as they did? In Pakistan, the writing of a distinctive history of the creation of a Muslim homeland, its legacy and, more importantly, the efficacy of Partition as a long-term solution, dominates academic analysis to this day. Yet Shelley Feldman (1999) argues that this renewed interest in Partition is more of a political project, rather than one originating in the academia. Further, she argues that, in the case of India, the interest in Partition signals for both the political left and right prospects to generate an alternative nationalist narrative with important consequences for relations in the subcontinent generally. However, we must acknowledge that this renewed interest actually demonstrates the emotional and psychological significance of Partition in family and national mythology, and in public and private memory (Feldman, 1999; Menon, 1999 and the special edition of Interventions vol. 1, 1999). By contrast, in Bangladesh, Partition exists ‘more as an absence than anything else, because the 1971 war of liberation has successfully displaced it in both the

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official as well public discourse’ (Menon, 1999: 159). Silence among Bangladeshi scholars about Partition may reflect the view that 1947 was ‘not worthy’ of analysis, given the more important struggles of 1971 between East and West Pakistan. Of course, it is important to have a study of all three countries that connect the Partition experiences. Sarah Ansari’s observations on the Mohajir experience in Sindh is useful in this context,8 in which she argues that many Muslims arriving in Pakistan from India thought that they were migrating to a place that rightfully belonged to them as Muslims (Ansari, 1998). This argument is also applicable in the East Bengali/Pakistani experience. Through the experiences of Partition, at least some Muslim Bengalis lived in a context of ‘double colonialism’, a particular location in the ethnic-religious hierarchies and the bloody struggle for independence 25 years later (Feldman: 168). Many of the Bengali cultural icons were Hindu, a potent example of which was Rabindranath Tagore. Partition was a way for Muslims to emerge from Hindu domination, and to experience cultural autonomy as both Muslims and Bengalis (Ahmed, 1988; Anisuzzaman, 1993). Because the narratives of Partition and post-Partition politics demonstrate that communalism and nationalism are hegemonic discourses (Butalia and Sarkar, 1995), their retelling is urgent. The creation of Bangladesh is investigated by most Bangladeshi scholars as an inevitable and rational consequence of the recent past. Feldman argues that by referring to Partition only in passing, by focusing on the Liberation struggle that shaped relations with Pakistan and the tension surrounding representation and legislative parity, and by demanding the use of Bengali as the national language for East Pakistan, scholars made even more direct claim to the predictability of Bangladesh (1999: 173). The empowering message of a Muslim brotherhood and a shared cultural/ religious identity was offered to East and West Pakistan in exchange for a colonial relation of unequal representation, suppressed voices and exclusion from the administrative and institutional hierarchies of government, the military and academia. Pakistan’s failure to deliver such opportunities was the basis for the Liberation struggle, and it continues to draw people into religious political parties and movements today. For Bangladesh, an important feature of the national liberation struggle was the rape and mutilation of its women and their kin, as well as the systematic killings of its intellectual elite during the conflict. The destruction and pain of 1971 indeed paralleled the Punjab violence in 1947. Furthermore, the Liberation War experience, the belief that the Language Movement formed the basis of the creation of Bangladesh, excluded any interest of a critical analysis of the period from Partition until Liberation. Most social and political histories of the subcontinent that have some reference to Bangladesh offer inadequate analyses of the impact of the anti-colonial struggle and the Partition movements of the 1940s in framing Bangladesh’s national identity (as cited in Feldman, 1999: 173; also see Harun-ur-Rashid 1987; Osmany 1992; Kabir 1994 – an exception is Jaya Chatterjee’s work on Hindu bhodrolok culture, 1995). The opening of the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka in 1996 indicated that Partition and the anti-colonial struggles are understood as a very brief moment

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leading up to the creation of an independent state of Bangladesh (Feldman, 1999). Notably, there is only one reference to Partition in the entire museum. Bangladeshi films such as Mukteer Gaan (‘Songs of Freedom’) and Mukteer Kotha (‘Words of Freedom’) commemorate popular initiatives of the war, but do not draw upon the history of Partition.9 On the other hand, writings about the war (for example, those of Mamun, Kabir, Hasan, Iqbal) commence their narratives from the creation of Pakistan and the neo-colonial oppression. The political elite in Bangladesh had been equally if not more dismissive of Partition’s influence on Bangladesh’s nationbuilding story. While Islamic parties such as Jama’at-e-Islami have still not managed to negotiate the tension between the religious (Islamic) and ethnic (to some extent secular) identities, the Awami League,10 Jatiyo Party and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party also pushed the narratives and politics of Partition further into the periphery. The choices that first led to the acceptance of Muhammad Jinnah’s two-nation decision (advocating for separate Hindu and Muslim nations) and the initial commitment to the Muslim League appear today to be a source of embarrassment for Bangladeshi elites, given the nature of the exploitative relations that existed between the two wings of the Pakistani state between 1947 and 1971. Feminist scholars in South Asia have explored the question of what happens when a political discourse consciously seeks to contextualize rape exclusively in a contest between two communities or nations, thus transforming it into a morally defendable act, even a much-needed political strategy. The practical consequence of this symbolism is the exclusive control of women’s sexuality by the patriarchal authority, the state (Butalia, 1995a). Because women’s bodies are perceived as weak, soft and emotional, and in need of regulation, protection and control (Chatterjee, 1986, 1990, 1993), ‘new’ forms of social disciplining and regulation are required. While simultaneously constructing women and gender politics, these also construct important new symbols of the nation – namely, the spiritual qualities of self-sacrifice, benevolence, devotion and religiosity (ibid., 1993: 129). Women are expected to sacrifice for their nation, and often are constructed as the symbols of honour and purity, and therefore targets of an enemy community’s wrath. Yet even as victims, women are not able to get away from the blame of impurity and violation. While the perpetrators target them as the Other’s possession, a woman’s own community still tends to hold her responsible. This certainly became clear during the post-Partition and post-Liberation periods, when rape survivors and abducted women were able to access the state’s resources only as victims, thus becoming ‘deserving’ of the state’s support. Their agency as individuals, meanwhile, has been largely ignored for the purpose of the grander nationbuilding project. The interrogation of the claims made during Partition and Liberation regarding nationalism and its success can be challenged by looking in depth at the historical narratives of these nation-states. Complicity between the nation, the official archive and history-writing has meant that all historical narratives have tended to be state-centred biographies of the nation (Pandey, 1992: 29). Furthermore, these have served to naturalize unified identity under the nationbuilding project, thereby

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failing to successfully incorporate different concerns. The ‘woman question’ is the most significant of the marginalization in the national narrative. Feminist analyses of Partition (Butalia, 1995a, 1995b, 1998; Feldman, 1999; Menon 1998; Menon and Bhasin 1996, 1998) reveal that in the silencing and suppression of micro-narratives in history, women’s interests were also systematically silenced. By focusing on this, we can understand, first, why the project of nationbuilding is usually linked to analyses of independence and less so to gendered analyses of Partition. And second, how in Bangladesh the gendered experiences create tensions within the justice-seeking movement, especially when the perpetrators are from the same religious community. What does an alternative imaginary of the relationship between nationalism, nationbuilding and a feminist enquiry offer to our understanding of 1947 and 1971? Moreover, how can these feminist analyses help us to understand both the absence and the benefits of including women’s inputs in debates on state politics? In the next chapters, I will address these queries.

2

1947 From partition to creation

The dawn of freedom from colonial rule in the subcontinent has always been marked by the agony of Partition. The bloodshed and brutality, the sweat of terror and the tears of helplessness made the Partition of India simultaneously the most signifying and most traumatic moment in South Asia’s history. This chapter provides both the macro- and micro-narratives of nationalism and nationbuilding, by referring both to official stories as well as to the traumas that remained academically unrecorded and unanalysed until the mid-1990s. Prior to that re-examination, the trauma of Partition was discussed in sporadic newspaper articles, in biographies of social workers and in official documents. In this process, the human rights abuses suffered by women and children received the most attention in India, where official documents also highlighted how it became extremely important for the Indian state to generate a sense of trust in its ability to be the sole protector of its citizens. In this context, the women’s silence that South Asian feminist scholars have written about was a symbolic one, the underlying cause of which was the virtually non-existent analysis of women’s and children’s narratives, especially when it came to Partition-era riots, abductions and births. In this way, the silence that is investigated in this chapter is about how the gender narratives were silenced by the state and the political elites responsible for creating an overarching Indian national/secular identity. The original crisis of Partition has not been resolved by the creation of nation-states. Similar to 1789 for the French, Partition remains the moment of the Indian (and Pakistani) nation-state’s birth through violent rupture with itself. Partition was also about two specific incisions. The first was a territorial incision that emerged from a political conflict over the ownership of a state – a conflict about who ought to acquire the moral and legitimate authority over the population and colonized territory left behind by the British Raj. Second, the creation of Pakistan was a cleavage not simply of the subcontinent but also of the Indian Muslim community. As I will discuss in later chapters, the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 made it complex to trace a consistent narrative for Muslims of national identity based on religion alone. Both India and Bangladesh had to deal with the ambiguous and often problematic co-existence of secular politics and religious loyalty. Pakistan has always been able to maintain its Islamic identity as the core of its statehood and national identity, though in recent years this has pushed the country to the brink of becoming a ‘fragile’ or even ‘failed’ state.

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While the creation of a Muslim state in 1947 is generally celebrated in Pakistani historiography, the actual Partition is often told as a story of betrayal – a betrayal of the Muslim community, through the severance of a ‘limb’ of the sacred land that was once India (Ahmed, R., 1981). Social scientists have often struggled to link the macro- and micro-narratives of Partition. (As discussed earlier, ‘macro-narratives’ is used here to refer to the ‘high politics’ of Partition, the negotiations between the British, the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League that led to the creation of Pakistan. ‘Micro-narratives’, by contrast, refers to the ‘history from below’, or the subaltern stories that have been explored by subaltern and feminist scholars.) The poignancy of Partition is best understood in various literary works that derived from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. For the great writer Saadat Hasan Manto, for instance, the displacement of Partition caused a doubt at the heart of his creativity. ‘Will Pakistan’s literature be different?’ he asked. ‘If so, then in what way? Who will be the owner of all that was once written in undivided Hindustan? Will this be divided too? Are not the basic realities and problems that Pakistanis and Hindustanis face, one and the same?’ (translated by Gopal, 2001: 255). Indeed, Manto’s disorientation regarding the ownership of an undivided India’s culture and history has yet to be resolved by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Foreign policies aside, these three nation-states are bounded by many associations. In this book, Partition scholarship contributes in two specific ways. First, the literature on Partition itself, while almost continually silent or silenced with regards to the political manifestations of both the religious unity and hatred that was revealed in the violent creation of Bangladesh, also demonstrates an important correlation between the violence of 1947 and what happened during 1971. Partition and independence from colonial rule have received attention in various studies of the end of empire during the 1940s (Ahmad, 1982; Chatterjee, 1986; Gilmartin, 1988; Ahmed, Im., 1993; Metcalf, 2002; Wolpert, 2006). Scholars began to analyse Partition’s influence on the historiography of a colonized nation by adopting the postcolonial, subaltern or postmodern frameworks beyond specific disciplines (Subaltern Studies work generally; Pandey, 1990, 1992; Seth, 1992; Hasan, 2000). The role of religious identity and its influence in making and remaking a nation have received significant attention, especially with regard to the question of Muslim identity and the inevitability of Partition (Page, 1982; Hashmi, 1994; Murshid, 1995). However, while nearly all such studies refer to violence and migration, the actual massacres and abductions long remained neglected (though notable exceptions are Khosla, 1949 and Moon, 1961). Feminist interventions in Partition scholarship assert that the catastrophic events accompanying Partition have been met with official and scholarly silence (Butalia and Sarkar, 1995; Sangari, 1996). This is true even of studies of Punjab, which for this period concentrated largely on the shifts in the choices and destinies of the political parties. Of course, this protracted silence has been questioned by critics (Bagchi, 1990; Das, V. 1990a, 1995; Major, 1998; Hasan, 2000). This has given rise to the observation that, given the widespread ramifications of Partition and its effects on the lives of millions of people, and given the nature of the state and its impact on inter-state relations between India and Pakistan, this silence is all the more

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remarkable (Aiyar, 1998; Ansari, 1998). In more recent years, an even more candid and gender-sensitive appraisal of suffering and trauma during and after Partition has emerged. Contributing to this, a feminist reconstruction of Partition historiography highlights the importance of the lived experiences of abducted women and children, thus potentially providing a potent alternative narrative of Partition. The second way in which Partition scholarship has contributed to this book involves the findings of the oral-history projects conducted by Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin (1996, 1998) and Urvashi Butalia (1998). Collectively, these form the basis of my argument in later chapters. While conducting various feminist oral-history projects over the last few years, their groundbreaking projects have shown how the new Indian state forged its own national identity, through its efforts to deal with women abducted during the Partition riots. These scholars have demonstrated that the ‘recovery’ of the abducted women, while attempting to construct meaning from the Partition riots, in fact indicate tension: between the lived experiences of individuals, reflected in the micro-narratives, and the attempts of the new Indian state to give national meaning to Partition, through the macro-narrative. This chapter begins with a historical account of the creation of India and Pakistan in 1947. After articulating the abduction of women during Partition riots, I analyse the ‘recovery operation’ conducted by India, with limited focus on the Pakistani government’s actions. This demonstrates that the Indian state, in its determination to create an honourable post-Partition reconstitution of the moral order, took charge of the rehabilitation of women as its primary task. In the context of the violence that occurred, this discussion employed simple, overarching categories of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. It was possible to do so not because intra-community divisions did not exist, but rather because, in moments of violence during the course of the Partition, each community perceived itself and was perceived by others as being homogeneous (Das, V., 1995). A similar process took place during the 1971 war, when all Bengalis were perceived as constituting a homogenous group. Finally, I observe briefly how and why women themselves contributed to the silence of official narratives. (For brevity, I do not examine the British colonial period that contributed to the construction of various identity politics.) Figures 2.1 and 2.2 provide a visual description of the pre-Partition and post-Partition subcontinent of India.

The national movement in India As a consequence of World War II, anti-colonial nationalism intensified in colonies across Africa and Asia. With the end of the war and the election of the British Labour Government of Clement Attlee, it was only a matter of time before the British would quit India as a result of demands made by both the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. But there was a clear rift between both these entities about the exact process and outcome of independence. The Muslim League strongly maintained that a separate state, comprising Muslim-majority areas, would serve the interests of the Muslims. In March 1947, Lord Louis Mountbatten was sent to India as the new viceroy, tasked with arranging the British withdrawal from

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Figure 2.1 Pre-Partition Indian subcontinent

India. Meanwhile, the Congress leadership accepted the Muslim League demand for the division of India and the creation of two countries on the basis of religion (Jalal, 1995; Khilani, 1997). On 3 June 1947, the British Government announced the Mountbatten Plan, a policy statement that recognized the inevitability of the Partition of India. The Plan was implemented with the birth of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, under the provisions of the British Indian Independence Act 1947. Pakistan was comprised of five

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Figure 2.2 Post-Partition India and Pakistan

provinces: Punjab, Sindh, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Balochistan and East Pakistan (later Bangladesh). Each had provincial assemblies, but from its inception Pakistan was confronted with insurmountable problems that arose from its federalist nature and the relationship of its constituent provinces with the central government. Although the exact boundary line between Pakistan and India had yet to be determined by the Boundary Commission, once the plan was made public the ‘exchange’ of populations began to take place.

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Determining that boundary, of course, was endlessly fraught. Cyril Radcliffe, the man entrusted with determining the exact frontiers of the successor states of the Raj – India and Pakistan – destroyed all his notes and papers relating to the boundary awards before he left India. It is now accepted that Radcliffe had no exposure to the complexities of India, other than the five perspiring weeks he spent there trying, with maps and pens, to fulfil his impractical duty of devising a judicious new cartography. The poignancy of his intense personal investment is poured out in personal words to his stepson: I thought you would like to get a letter from India with a crown on the envelope. After tomorrow evening nobody will ever again be allowed to use such stationery and after 150 years British rule will be over in India – Down comes the Union Jack on Friday morning and up goes –for the moment I rather forget what, but it has a spinning wheel or a spider’s web in the middle. I am going to see Mountbatten sworn as the first Governor-General of the India Union at the Viceroy’s House in the morning and then I station myself firmly on the Delhi airport until an aeroplane from England comes along. Nobody in India will love me for the award about the Punjab and Bengal and there will be roughly 80 million people with a grievance who will begin looking for me. I do not want them to find me. I have worked and travelled and sweated – oh I have sweated the whole time. (Khilani, 1997: 201) Ten expert committees were set up to deal with various aspects of the Partition. These dealt with organizations; records and government personnel; assets and liabilities; central revenues; contracts; currency; coinage and exchange; two categories of economic relations; and domicile, foreign relations and armed forces (Butalia, 1998: 57). None of these committees, it should be noted, was given the responsibility of dealing with dislocation or migration issues. Yet all the while, outside the official corridors, an atmosphere of fear and mistrust was growing between communities. Political leaders were naively giving assurances that common people should remain where they were. However, stories of riots from Noakhali (in south-eastern East Pakistan), Bihar and Rawalpindi spread like wildfire throughout the subcontinent. A general feeling that Pakistan was for Muslims and India for Hindus created increased confusion and suspicion, and people were inevitably forced to take sides. Meanwhile, widespread allegations were thrown about of the active involvement in the rioting of political leaders, the Muslim League and the Jama’at-i-Islami, the Muslim League’s National Guards, demobilized soldiers of the Indian National Army, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), with each claiming to be acting only in self-defence (Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 35–6). Perhaps inevitably, people’s concern for their own safety and that of their loved ones eventually saw the initiation of one the largest human migrations in history. By the time this movement was over, about 8 million people had crossed the newly created boundaries of Punjab and Bengal, carrying with them memories of sometimes horrific violence. This mass movement of people – on foot or by car,

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bus, train or cart – created extreme vulnerabilities, especially for women, children, the elderly and disabled. Even beyond the horrors of the violence from which they were fleeing, wherever people travelled attackers lay in wait. As families moved in opposite directions, angry members of different communities would attack each other. The police and army were given the task of protecting those fleeing, yet members of these forces were no longer impartial in protecting law and order. Suddenly, people felt safe only if they were protected by their ‘own kind’. Yet despite this massive upheaval, during subsequent decades only limited attention has been given to these ‘voices from below’, the histories of those who were forced to flee. The unspeakable violence has been dealt with by many through the choice of silence. As such, both Penderel Moon’s record of his insights and G. D. Khosla’s survey of the ‘parting of ways’ provide crucial accounts of the frenzy of communal riots. Moon recounts the violent death of Major Ashiq Hussain Qureshi, a wealthy landowner and a former minister in Punjab, at the hands of a police constable (Moon, 2003 [1961]: 109–11). After the incident, the latter is said to have exclaimed, ‘Ashiq Hussain! I thought it was a Hindu’ (ibid.: 110). Moon wrote that the violence that took place during the mass migrations demonstrated ‘how deeply anti-Hindu Punjabi Muslims had by now become’ (ibid.). For his part, Khosla reports on how violence was advocated for by certain media outlets, such as the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, which in its 13 September 1947 issue urged the Muslim League’s National Guards to help in searching the belongings of Hindus (Khosla, 2003 [1949]: 245) before they left for India. In a more recent analysis, Zamindar writes about the violent capturing of Muslim houses by Hindu and Sikh refugees coming from Pakistan, and forcing them into ‘Muslim Zones’ in Delhi that ‘produced a sense of a partisan state unable to protect them and unwilling to rehabilitate them’ (Zamindar, 2007: 33). Assisted by four Hindu and four Muslim judges, Radcliffe announced the division of Punjab and Bengal on 16 August 1947. Within a week, about 1 million Hindus and Sikhs had crossed from West to East Punjab. During the following week, another 2.5 million had gathered in refugee camps in West Punjab (Menon and Bhasin, 1998). By 6 November 1947, nearly 29,000 refugees had been flown in both directions; in addition, 673 refugee trains were run between 23 August and 6 November, transporting more than 2 million refugees inside India and across the border in Pakistan (ibid.). Of these, 1,362,000 were non-Muslims and 939,000 were Muslims. News of riots and violence during this colossal chaos created even more violence, which was both organized and systematic. Now infamously termed the ‘August anarchy’ (Aiyar, 1998), the train massacres that occurred on every refugee train in Punjab between 9 August and 30 September led to the deaths of thousands of people. By the time the Partition exodus was over, it was estimated that during the course of 1947 and into 1948, almost 5.5 million Hindus and Sikhs had crossed over from West Pakistan to the new state of India, and nearly 5.8 million Muslims travelled in the opposite direction (Low, 1998). It is impossible to determine how many people moved to and from East Pakistan, because this movement extended over a considerably longer period than in the

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west, and took place on a much more sporadic basis (Kudaisya, 1998). Muslims in Bengal were widely blamed for Partition, and were often considered enemies by the Hindu community. The Great Calcutta Killings of 16–19 August 1946, the Noakhali-Tippera riots of 10 October 1946, and the Bihar riots forced people to move (for details on the latter, see Das, S., 1991). However, figures that do exist suggest that millions of people were forced to migrate following the Bengal Partition. The Minority Rights Group report mentions that the number of Muslims who moved to East Pakistan from India was approximately 1.3 million, while some 3.3 million Hindu refugees migrated from East Bengal to India (Minority Rights Group, 1972); yet this movement continued for a relatively extensive period. Census figures show that, in 1941, united Bengal was composed of some 43.1 per cent Hindus and 56.9 per cent Muslims. These figures were drastically altered for West Bengal by 1951, with Hindus consisting of 78.9 per cent of the population and Muslims just 19.5 per cent (Chakravartty, 2005: 109).1 Today, the trauma of forced migration continues for Hindus in East Bengal/East Pakistan/Bangladesh. Many were forced to leave their homeland for India or elsewhere during the 1960s, during the Bangladesh independence war in 1971, and thereafter during various periods of communal tensions (such as after the 2002 elections). In addition to violence and intimidation, the Partition era movement of peoples was accompanied by malnutrition, cold and contagious diseases (Butalia, 1997). Aid and rehabilitation thus became the major task of the new states (Rey-Schirr, 1998). Estimates of the dead vary from 200,000 (the contemporary British figure) to 2 million (a subsequent Indian speculation). Today, however, it is widely accepted that nearly a million people died during Partition (Butalia, 1997). So what exactly happened? How it was that people were forced out of their homes, to rupture their kinship and ties for an ‘imagined’ nation? How were their lives re-landscaped by a divided territory and divided civilization? To the departing British, the religious sentiments of the subcontinent were backward and superstitious; but religion was used, both by the British and the nationalist elites, to create two modern yet communally divided nation-states. Partition is generally believed to have been a consequence of the separatist politics of Muslim minorities. Many Bengali Hindus perceived that their territory was a powerless pawn in the concluding game of the British Raj. However, as Joya Chatterjee has demonstrated, far from fighting against the Partition of Bengal, the bhodrolok (middle-class) Bengali Hindus favoured having a separate homeland (Chatterjee, 1995; Pandey, 2001: Ch. 2). Harun-ur Rashid argues that in Bengal, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (who eventually became prime minister of Pakistan) used faith as a strategic tool to unite India’s Muslims against a common enemy (1987). A significant revisionist historiography of India demonstrates that people of both Bengal and Punjab also supported a division according to religion. Ayesha Jalal’s work on Muhammad Ali Jinnah provides a controversial account of Partition by suggesting that Jinnah wanted some power-sharing at the centre, and used the idea of Pakistan as a bargaining chip (Jalal, 1985). A split between Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan was intended finally to resolve all contests over who had authority to rule the territory of former British India. Yet far from being over, the

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contest became increasingly localized, intense and complex. Partition became a recurrent motif in the subsequent history of the subcontinent, a returning phantom in the cultural memory (Khilnani, 1997, reprinted 2003: 29) that Vazira Zaminder terms as the ‘long Partition’ (2007). This also generated a perpetual challenge to the territorial authority of the successor states. The secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971, the bloody, high-intensity conflicts related to Kashmir, and the intermittent communal violence/riots in all three nation-states need to be seen as revisitations of this original fault line. The riots during Partition were significantly different from riots in Bengal and Punjab during the 1920s and 1930s. Those latter had revolved around religious issues – for instance, Eid-ul-Adha and cow qurbani (slaughter), the playing of music at the time of namaaz (Muslim prayer), the performance of arti (Hindu dancing in front of the deity), proselytization and the defilement of religious symbols and institutions. For example, during the Noakhali riots,2 one British observer mentioned a ‘determined and organized’ Muslim effort to drive out all Hindus (Talbot, 1998). However, Partition-related violence should not be treated merely as an extreme variant of communal outbreaks or religious nationalism. While the effect of cultural and socio-economic concerns in the newly divided provinces should not be underestimated, the violence at that time had an explicit political orientation, and was closely connected with questions of nationbuilding, freedom/ independence and state-formation. The Partition violence occurred in the context of struggles over the moral and legitimate ownership of a nation, the transfer of power and the construction of a discursive national identity. In Chapter 1 I mentioned how the partition of Bengal had remained unexplored in comparison with that of Punjab. Indeed, the Bengal and Punjab Partition riots had quite distinct characteristics. While both were extremely brutal and violent, the Punjab riots were also very militarized. The pivotal role of Punjab as the cornerstone of the Raj’s military establishment is well established; in fact, the proportion of Punjabi men in the Indian Army far exceeded that of men from any other province. Although further examination of this point is beyond the scope of this book, I emphasize that a militarized society turned on itself during the brutal war in 1971 against East Pakistan. The price paid by Punjabi society for the longstanding British policy of making it the Indian Army’s main recruiting ground was high indeed. There remains a crucial link between the violence that accompanied the Punjab Partition and the atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army (78 per cent of which was composed of Punjabis) during the 1971 war. The cataclysm of Partition not only divided communities, but also fractured the existing state machinery. During the time of Partition there were actually three authorities, with the outgoing British regime handing power over to the two successor states, India and Pakistan (Menon, 1999; Butalia, 1999). The breakdown of order during this period needs to be understood in this multifaceted context. The transfer of power, the allocation of resources and the uncertainties that followed the dismantling of the colonial state were followed in turn by the attempts of the two new states to build up alternative governing structures and state mechanisms. The responses of the successor states to Partition – especially in the case of abducted

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women, as we will see later in this chapter – reveal not only the resilience of the structures inherited by them from the colonial state, but also their attempts to consolidate a homogeneous sense of nationhood. This was indeed a paradox. These strategies demonstrate that while the governing structures and resources upon which they depended were inherited and modified from the British Raj, the political leaders constructed a nationalist rhetoric in order to attempt to simultaneously heal and unite a shocked and traumatized populace. This was a difficult task at a time of governance and administrative confusion. The abduction of women and the nature of the militarized/formal violence conducted by rival communities also included among their populations a large number of discharged or demobilized soldiers, border-security troops and police officers. This presented an extremely unusual and serious challenge to the authority of the two successor states at the very moment of their birth. Further complications arose given the fact that, at the very time that these former soldiers were needed by the new states to help control the situation caused by Partition, they were actually among the aggressors. As former soldiers of the outgoing colonial state, these men participated in the violence and abductions; but soon after it ended, many of them were reinstated to military life and thus formed the security apparatuses of India and Pakistan (Khosla, 1949: 627–8). This is very important to understand, because revenge and retaliation were the key sentiments expressed by Punjabi soldiers during the 1971 war, when they vowed to make ‘proper Muslims’ out of Bengalis, whom they considered largely synonymous with Hindu religious identities. The 1971 war was thus an opportunity for them to make things right again. The Partition riots and brutal violence that was carried out essentially constituted an unprofessed civil war (see Butalia 1998; and Menon and Bhasin, 1998).

Unspeakable acts of violence3 In addition to widespread political and strategic communal killing sprees, the story of the Partition riots is also one of the rape, abduction and widowhood of thousands of women on both sides of the newly formed borders. Incomplete and unreliable data make it hard to come up with the exact number of women and girls abducted during the riots. During my field research, India’s Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation was yet to be opened to independent scholars. The official estimate of the number of abducted women has been placed at 50,000 Muslim women in India, and 33,000 Hindu and Sikh women in Pakistan (Menon and Bhasin, 1996). The feminist historiography on gendered experiences offer two important insights that are applicable in this discussion. First, ritualized violence4 is inscribed on bodies by members of the ‘enemy’ community as a sign of conquest and humiliation of the ‘Other’; second, both men and women from a person’s own community perpetrated sacrificial violence in the name of honour. Menon and Bhasin’s analyses point out that the preoccupation with women’s sexuality formed part of the ‘contract of war’ between the various communities, and was of an even greater order of magnitude than that suggested by the previous two points. As they observe, ‘So powerful and general was the belief that safeguarding a woman’s honour is

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essential to upholding male and community honour that a whole new order of violence came into play, by men against their own kinswomen’ (Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 44–5). The violence against women at this time cannot be analysed separately from the sadistic antagonism that exploded between Hindus and Muslims during the Partition riots. Numerous examples of pigs and cows being slaughtered in front of mosques or temples, the forced circumcision of non-Muslim men, or Hindus being forced to consume beef (Khosla, 1949: 67–86) demonstrate that deliberate disrespect was being perpetrated towards the sanctified symbols of others. In this sense, the violence was also heavily ritualized in its purposeful attempt to desecrate the most revered spaces of all, such as mosques and temples. Both Andrew Major as well as Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin also explore the nature of violence. The graphic, extreme sexual violence that was manifested suggest that violence against women and girls constituted a collective, strategic communal crime. The range of sexual violation explicit in those accounts – ‘e.g., stripping; parading naked; mutilating, disfiguring or amputating or tattooing or branding breasts and genitalia with conquering slogans; and knifing open wombs to rape and kill foetuses’ – are shocking for their savagery (Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 43). They are shocking also because of how men at that time clearly perceived of women as an ultimate possession, to be desecrated in a way similar to the ritualized sadism of, for instance, force-feeding beef or pork, or slaughtering cows. Women were seen as critical objects in male constructions of their own honour. Each of these violent acts had specific symbolic meanings and physical consequences, describing women’s bodies as territory to be occupied, marked or claimed. Two types of violence are particularly significant in this respect. First, public rape in masjids (mosques), temples (for Hindu worship) or gurudwaras (for Sikh worship), or the use of families as witnesses, signifies the simultaneous symbolic violation of sacred spaces and sanctified familial relationships to perpetrate intimate violence (Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 40–5). Second, branding women’s bodies with slogans (Major, 1998: 64) such as ‘Pakistan Zindabad!’ (‘Long live Pakistan’) or ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ (‘Long live India’) were used not only to scar women for life, but also to ensure that the humiliation was inscribed in memories for ever. In the context of Partition, the markings engraved the division of India into two states – India and Pakistan – in such a way that women’s bodies became the sites of their respective countries imprinted upon by the Other (Butalia, 1998: 155; Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 43). Urvashi Butalia’s analyses articulate how families, especially women, also turned against their own daughters and sisters in order to save the honour of their community. Large numbers of women and girls were forced to commit suicide to avoid sexual violence being done to them, to preserve their chastity and to protect their family and community honour (Butalia, 1998: 146–84). The incident of 90 women in Thoa Khalsa, Rawalpindi, who jumped into a well on 15 March 1947, is a well-known example (Khosla, 1949: 112; Statesman, 15 April 1947, recorded in Talib and Singh, 1950 [1991]: Appendix VIII; Basu, 1996: 123; Butalia, 1998:5 156–8; Pandey, 2001: 83–8). At another village, men put 32 women from their own community to the sword when their capture by Muslim attackers was seen

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to be imminent (Major, 1998). Menon and Bhasin also mention that, during interviews, these men recounted with pride how their women ‘preferred to commit suicide’ (Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 45). Women survivors recounted stories of carrying poison packets around their necks, thinking that each day might be their last (Butalia, 1998). These deaths were an instance of how compliance is often not equivalent to consent. Notions of purity, shame and honour, deeply ingrained and internalized (Das, V., 1995) in both men and women, meant that they willingly embraced death. Men were also ‘feminized’ during Partition violence. Men of enemy communities were brutally taunted and lynched; forced to watch the women and children of their families being raped and/or abducted; or forced to exchange the family’s safe passage across the border by ‘paying off’ with a daughter (SDPP Papers). Many Hindu and Sikh men were forced to convert. Men were often forced to expose their genitalia, to show whether they were Hindus or Muslims, and many were also asked to recite prayers (Khosla, 1949; SDPP Papers). Middle-aged men described horrifying tales of pain during forced circumcision ceremonies (SDPP Paper, No. 224: 627), which were often performed in public (Talib, 1950 [1991]: Appendix XXVI). One Syed Asghar Ali, the officer in charge of a police station at Gujranwala Tehsil, in West Punjab, ‘proclaimed with the beat and drum that the “Kafirs” should accept Islam or be massacred. He was supported by a Police Inspector’ (SDPP Papers, No. 225: 630). Another report found a slightly better outcome for one R. L. Puri, who was the ‘Station Master of Momanpura [and] was forcibly converted to Islam. Later on he was evacuated in the month of February, 1948, along with his wife and two young daughters. Mr. Puri was being forced by the Muslim to give away his daughters in marriage and when he was evacuated, he felt very thankful’ (SDPP Papers, No. 233: 695). For ordinary men and women, these violent acts were difficult to put into words. Yet the accounts that are available through literary works, published memoirs and letters indicate the gendered nature of the experience of violence in very specific ways. Both as objects and witnesses, men who were forcibly castrated, women and girls who were raped, and children who were born out of violence carried the memories with them for ever. At a conference of Indian women in December 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru observed, ‘the last few months have seen terrible happenings in northern India, and women have perhaps been the chief sufferers’ (Major, 1998: 58). Systematic and communal outrage against women had begun in March of that year, in Rawalpindi. A number of Sikh villages were attacked and, in addition to large-scale looting and murder, many cases of rape and abduction were reported (SDPP Papers; Khosla, 1949). At the height of the riots, during August and September, when the majority of rapes and abductions occurred, there was almost no limit to the vehemence of the mobs. Throughout the chaos, both planned and random abductions of women and girls were carried out, particularly in situations in which large numbers of refugees – disoriented and inadequately protected – had assembled or were on the move. For example, Kirpal Singh records that two trains crossed on the Kamoke railway line, one carrying 260 refugees and the other carrying Pakistan Army

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soldiers. After the latter realized that the former was carrying Hindu refugees, it was attacked. Most of the men were killed, and 50 women and girls were forcibly taken by the soldiers (SDPP Papers: 620). Similarly, in East Bengal, the Ansars, a paramilitary force responsible for the safety of the citizens, also perpetrated attacks and abducted Hindu women (Chakravartty, 2005: 10). One of my respondents was on one of the trains leaving Pakistan, and recalled how she hid in a toilet. ‘I was so scared!’ she said. ‘I was only 14 years old. When I saw all those men jumping inside the compartment, I ran to the bathroom and had been [sic] hiding there. They pushed open the door and took me out by pulling my hair’ (D’Costa, 2000). In the confusion that followed, while she was fortunate enough to avoid being abducted, she witnessed many girls and women being taken from the trains. Khosla documents a Hindu advocate’s statement as follows: While the happenings in West Punjab have been indescribably tragic and unimaginably barbarous, the tragic happenings in East Punjab and Patiala State have not been less gruesome or less barbarous. Almost all Muslim men, women and children, whether urban or rural, have been either killed or turned out of their homes. There has been large-scale looting and destruction of property left by them … A large number of Muslim girls has been forcibly married, mostly to Sikhs. In certain villages the Muslim population has been either wholly or mainly wiped out. (Khosla, 1949: 288) Horrendous as they were, such experiences of women were regarded as little more than a product of the chaos of the times, as an abnormal occurrence in a society that had been undergoing severe temporary dislocation for decades. Yet this perception ignored the socially embedded nature of gendered violence. The abductions, rapes and dehumanizing nature of the sexual violence in 1947 was carried out in a much more calculated way, with the intention demoralizing and defeating the women’s respective – albeit patriarchal – communities. Sexual violence was used as a method of communicating hatred and revenge, and destroying or ‘polluting’ communities (Das, V., 1995). In effect, men of different communities were shrieking at each other through the medium of women’s bodies. At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that many men also took advantage of the chaos. For example, A. J. Major quotes a former chief justice referring to one Jat Sikh villager’s raping of many Muslim women in 1947, noting that the rapist ‘was not impelled by anger or a desire for revenge. For him it was a God-given occasion to do something he heartily enjoyed’ (Major, 1998: 59). Ordinary villagers were certainly involved, and frequently this was seen as part and parcel of the looting – women being regarded as men’s property. Retaliation was also a major motive. A letter from S. Fida Hassan, the home secretary of West Punjab, to the chief secretary in East Punjab stated that non-Muslim women from Gurdaspur were abducted by Muslims as retaliation, following the Sikh community’s abduction of Muslim women in East Punjab (SDPP Papers, No. 202: 581–2). Sikh leaders asserted that Sikh atrocities upon Muslim women and children were likewise revenge attacks (Khosla, 1949). In Gujarat, where the number of abducted women

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was estimated at 4,000, women were openly taken from refugee trains (Major, 1998: 59). Describing the massacres of refugees in Kamoke, Gujranwala district, an Indian official wrote, the most ignoble feature of the tragedy was the distribution of young girls amongst the members of the Police Force, the National Guards and the local goondas [ruffians]. The S.H.O. [Station House Officer] Dilder Hussain collected the victims in an open space near Kamoke Railway Station and gave a free hand to the mob. After the massacre was over, the girls were distributed like sweets … Later on, as a result of the efforts of the Liaison Agency and the East Punjab Police some girls were recovered from Kamoke, Eminabad and some other surrounding villages … A list of at least 70 untraced girls abducted from the Kamoke train was handed over the Police by the D.L.O. [District Liaison Officer] … It is feared that most of these girls had been sold or taken underground. (SDPP Papers, No. 225: 631; Major, 1998: 60) A. Basu has also documented how women and children were distributed amongst the police force, National Guards and local miscreants (Basu, 1996: 123). Women’s words, incorporated into ‘recovery’ documents, describe their frustration and utter helplessness during such situations. A reprint of records compiled in 1947 by Sardar Gurbachan Singh Talib, the principal of the Lyallpur Khalsa College in Jalandhar, highlight how women were subjected to forcible conversions and marriage. One 13-year-old girl named Shrimati Chander Kanta recalled, My father was a teacher at Mirpur. We had left our village and had gone to Mirpur to seek shelter from the disturbances which had started in March last. When the raiders came we, the people of Mirpur, ran and at Akalgarh the Muslim Military surrounded us and they sorted out young girls. Abdur Rahman captured me and took me to Sakhrana, Tahsil Kahuta. I was married to him at Sakhrana and lived with him as his wife for one month. The police visited Sakhrana and found me out and took me to Rawalpindi Camp. I was lodged in the camp at Rawalpindi for a month and ten days, when I was brought to Lahore with Pandit Nihal Chand. There are 48 girls in the Camp at Rawalpindi. The Muslims who visited the camp to meet the girls to whom they are married usually threatened them that if they go to India they would be killed by the Sikhs and Hindus and thus warned them that they should not express their willingness to be evacuated. (Talib, 1950 [1991]: Appendix XX) Many women and girls were also sold repeatedly. Girls abducted from Mirpur, for instance, were sold in Jhelum city for 10 or 20 rupees each (ibid.: Appendix XVI–XVII). Another young girl, Raj Rani, stated: On the 18th August, 1947, I came to the village Babakwal with my father and other relations, for fear of life. On the 24th/25th August night about 20,000

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1947: From partition to creation Muslims attacked Babakwal with the help of the Muslim Military. They killed about 3,000 Hindu and Sikh residents of the town and abducted 200 Hindu and Sikh ladies. I was one of them. Myself, Lilawanti, daughter of Labha Shah and Parkash, daughter of Dayal Chand along with nine others were taken by Fateh, and he kept us in his house. He kept us there for 12 days. After that he sold us off to different persons. He sold me to Ghulam Mohd of village Karaul. Ghulam Mohd. kept me for 1 and a half months. I was put to great insult and hardship. Being tired of life I sent a message to Bawa Singh of Rattanpura. Bawa Singh, who had become a Muslim, paid Rs. 140 to Ghulam Mohd. and brought me to his house. About 8–9 days ago he brought me to his house with the aid of Military (Hindu) Bawa Singh brought me to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital day before yesterday, i.e., 19–10–1947 I was brought to D.A.V. College Camp. As I was confined to bed I was spared badfeli [rape]. The other girls were badly raped in my presence. The treatment is most horrible to remember. (ibid.: Appendix XIII).

The horrifying descriptions of these events suggest that during the time of Partition, when identities were being reconstructed and new states were taking over the control of a colonized subcontinent, women were relegated to being second-class citizens, their sexuality a property to be owned by one community of men and forcibly taken by another. How did the states respond to these chaotic times?

The gender discourse of Partition To describe the carrying out of plans to return abducted women to their own states, communities and families, Indian and Pakistani authorities used the term ‘recovery operation’. While the term ‘recovery’ may appear to have a negative connotation in the present context, when women’s human rights are celebrated if not always upheld, soon after Partition the Indian and Pakistani states decided that this was the most appropriate phrase for an undertaking in which women were not given any right to decide about their own futures. The dilemma of the abducted women and children had heightened tensions between the newly demarcated India and Pakistan, and had soured their nascent relationship. The anti-colonial movement and the passion of nationalism had helped them to achieve independence, but there could now be no more than a brittle peace between the two states. The already overburdened governments of India and Pakistan received many complaints from the women’s families, urging them to act promptly on the abduction cases. Historical analyses by Menon and Bhasin, Butalia, Basu and Major document the impact that the high politics of the Indian and Pakistani states had on women and children following the Partition riots. Their analyses suggest (as supported by the documentation in the SDPP and SWJN records) that there was a common policy and a combined administrative effort between the two states to ‘recover’ and ‘return’ victims of abduction to their respective states. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his Pakistani counterpart, Liaquat Ali Khan, declared that their governments would refuse to excuse abductions, or recognize

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the legality of forced marriages and conversions effected after 1 March 1947 (Rai, 1965: 81).6 On 6 December 1947, the two governments came to agreement on a few issues. First, the conversions of individuals abducted after 1 March 1947 were not to be recognized, and such persons were to be returned to their respective territory even doing so went against their personal wishes. Second, the responsibility of recovery was to lie primarily with the local police, and only thereafter were social workers to become involved; District Liaison Officers, meanwhile, were to provide the information required and coordinate with everyone involved (SDPP Papers: xxxii). A separate command, the Military Evacuee Organization (MEO) from India was established on 2 September 1947, a week after Pakistan’s MEO had been established (SDPP Papers: xxxiv). Both the MEOs played a major role in assisting in the mass departure of refugees, and in the recovery operations – guarding camps against raids, providing protection en route, and assisting the civilian authorities. At this time, district transit camps had been set up in Lahore and Jullundur for non-Muslim and Muslim women, respectively. The coordination of various agencies and the role of social workers were both significant in the process of recovering women and children. In order to expedite the process, instead of relying on the military, Nehru’s government involved a few key agencies and appointed some prominent women as social workers (Major, 1998; Gopal, SWJN Vol. 4, 1972). The volunteer women – including from the National Council of Women, the International Red Cross and the Friends Service Unit (SWJN, Vol. 5, 1986: 113) – social workers and welfare associations were given primary roles (Major, 1998). Some of the close associates of Mahatma Gandhi – such as like Mridula Sarabhai, Rameshwari Nehru, Anis Kidwai and Sushila Nayar – also worked for the recovery operation (Rai, 1965; Das, V., 1995), for which the Women’s Section of the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation was given overall responsibility. In January 1948, Nehru asserted that the recovery of women was ‘one of the most urgent’ of the many problems that India was facing at the time (Major, 1998; SWJN, Vol. 5: 113). Massive public campaigns brought together media outlets, religious leaders/elites, social workers and humanitarian agencies to identify abducted women and bring them back to their respective communities. Yet a host of obstacles lay in the way of making this undertaking any kind of success. First, public resentment in India grew as both the political elite and victims’ families felt that the Indian government’s efforts at returning Muslim women were greater than its counterpart’s efforts in Pakistan. It was suggested that, instead of being returned to their ‘right places’, Muslim women should be used as hostages, to build pressure on Pakistan (SWJN, Vol. 12: 147–8; Major, 1998: 62–3). Such an approach was rejected, however, as both Sarabhai and Nehru publicly stated that doing so would undermine the recovery operation. Yet still, the public debate always perceived women as bargaining chips, to be used to get the upper hand. There was no adequate understanding that this was, in fact, a stark violation of the abducted women’s rights. This was also reflected both in public indifference and the lack of any official policy documents regarding the actual rehabilitation of women. Thus,

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yet another kind of silence was produced, reinforced by the trauma of an uncertain future haunted by a traumatic past. A second obstacle is encapsulated in the fact that there appears to be little evidence of the public-health measures adopted for women, either as ‘recovered’ subjects or as rehabilitated citizens. Many of them experienced severe trauma, generating deep psychological scars. In addition, the urgent medical attention required to attend to survivors of multiple rapes, mutilation and physical violence proved to be an overwhelming challenge for the state. Women and girls who were recovered were often taken to a camp at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi, but it was not clear how much medical support they actually received there. Kamlaben Patel suggested that the conditions at the camps were horrible, with no adequate sanitary facilities. Yet camps were still worse in Pakistan (Basu, 1996: 127–8). From the camps, the women’s journeys continued across the border to the Gandhi Vanita Ashram Camp in Jullundur, where a lorry awaited them (ibid.: 129). An unspecified number of women and children died either in the camps or in transit, from epidemics such as cholera and typhoid. A third obstacle facing the recovery programmes was the fact that women were not always willingly accepted back into the private spaces of their families and communities. While many families recorded the abduction of the women, there was reservation, hesitancy and even disgust when the women finally returned home. Fourth, the tensions in Kashmir and Punjab deteriorated India and Pakistan’s bilateral relationship, and this had the effect of slowing down the recovery operations (Major, 1998: 63). The Pakistani government rejected an earlier proposal that MEOs be associated with recovery work, and barred the entry of Indian officials into West Punjabi districts adjoining disputed Kashmir territories (SWJN, Vol. 5: 114–16). The women themselves were apprehensive as to how their families would accept them. During Partition, especially from the time of abduction to the time of ‘recovery’, their lives had changed dramatically. Some of the women had become used to their new lives, if not always happily but settled – a common negotiated survival strategy adopted by women who have experienced sexual violence during conflict. There was a complex set of rationales behind their decisions: bitterness and reservation about families who had forgotten them, fear and anxiety about acceptance, dread as to how loved ones would react, feelings of intense shame and guilt as survivors of sexual abuse, sometimes even feelings that had developed for the perpetrators of violence led women to decide otherwise. However, their choices were often not respected. Basu highlights the dilemmas faced by Mridula Sarabhai, Rameswari Nehru and Anis Kidwai when they had to deal with women who did not want to return. Because of the moral question behind the actual abduction, Sarabhai wanted to recover all women, even if force was required; whereas Rameswari Nehru insisted on a more humanitarian, case-by-case approach (Basu, 1996; Maor, 1998). A District Liaison Officer recalls ‘this type of affection has been reciprocated by the girls and some of them fell in love with their abductors. Their sobs even after the third day of their recovery are still a nightmare’ (The Tribune, 16 April 1948,

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cited in Major, 1998: 64). In East Punjab, for example, most of a group of 175 Muslim women recovered from Patiala refused to leave their new homes, threatening to commit suicide if they were forcibly repatriated; 46 of them eventually escaped from the transit camp where they were being held (SWJN, Vol. 5: 117–21). Kamlaben Patel, in her Mula Suta Ukhdelan (1985), reflects on the complexities of ‘recovery’, discussing how well-built Sikh men would sob and beg social workers to return women who had been converted to Sikhism (Das, V., 1995: 78–9), crying out, ‘The police came and took away our women and now you will not even let us see them’ (trans. Das, V., 1995: 79). She also recalls how two Muslim women who tried to escape, when apprehended, said that they merely wanted to see the fathers of their children ‘before being taken away forever’ (ibid.). Examples also existed of women, reluctant to go back to their families after they traded safe passage by giving away a daughter (Basu, 1996: 132–3), being ashamed or being shunned by their families. In 2003, an interview with Sarla Sharma, an 82-year-old social worker, was printed in the Chandigarh Times, in which she recalled Partition as ‘the most shameful and barbaric moments of human history in the Indian subcontinent’. From 1948 to 1951, Sharma shuttled between Lahore and Jalandhar on the recovery operation, and also helped in the Bathinda and Jaipur areas to find Muslim women to send back to Pakistan. She recalled: I along with Mrs Sita Devi held a meeting with the Pakistan authorities in Lahore in the first week of January, 1948 … There is no count [of] how many women ended their lives or were killed by their parents, husbands to save their honour … My first encounter was with a graduate woman, who was held back by a sweeper in Layalpur. She refused to come to India. When riots broke out at midnight, her husband ran away leaving her alone to fend for herself. As my husband had ditched me then, why should I go back to him now?7 Women were also hidden by men who had married them forcibly. Sometimes, neighbours would notify the men when social workers were coming with information about abducted women. Many of the women were also taken into the tribal zones, making access increasingly difficult for social workers. Sharma recalled recovering a woman from a driver at Issa Khel village in Mianwali, just outside of NWFP: As I along with a policeman, a Maulvi and two other persons reached the driver’s house, he made the woman hide. He resisted to send the woman back to India. He called his friends who turned up at his house with rifles. The local police refused to extend any help. The Maulvi, fearing bloodshed, opted to leave the place … But I did not leave the place and cajoled the driver to bring the woman at a place outside the village in the evening. As both came, I asked them to sit in my jeep. After covering 15 miles, I asked the driver to halt the jeep. The driver was offloaded there and we sped to Lahore through Sheikhupura. The driver and his friends chased us up to Lahore but we were able to dodge them.8

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In addition, misinformation from perpetrators and their families about how women would be treated if they returned to there respective states made women anxious. Camps on both sides of the borders where ‘recovered’ women were kept were visited by the men who had abducted them earlier, in order to persuade the women to return. A teenaged girl from the village of Ilbhagwan, Tehsil Mirpur, named Shrimati Viranwati told a Chief Liaison Officer in Lahore: About two and a half months ago a Muslim mob attacked my village. My father and mother were killed in this attack. Nawab Pathan one of the raiders abducted me and took me to Hoti Mardan. My younger sister Gian Kaur, aged about 6 years also accompanied me. The attack took place on the refugee camp at Mirpur where lots of people from the neighbouring villages were gathered. The raiders took away 4500 girls with them. From Hoti Mardan he took me to Maj Garhi. I remained with him for over a month. I was married to him at Maj Garhi. He was hiding me from place to place as the police was in search of me. The police afterwards caught hold of me and brought me to Rawalpindi and put me in the Camp. Nawab asked me whether I wanted to go back to India but I under fear told him that as my parents had been killed I would not go to India and thus agreed to the Nikah with him. In the camp at Rawalpindi there were 51 girls. These girls are from the Poonch State and from Kahuta Tehsil. This Camp is guarded by the police. This Camp is visited by those Muslims who are married to the girls lodged in it, but the police does not permit the girls to go with these Muslims. (Talib, 1950 [1991]: Appendix XXI) During the recovery operations, women’s agency was viewed in a contradictory manner, as both complicit and transgressive within the patriarchal structure (Sangari, 1996: 470). There is evidence that some women resisted being returned to their families, whether from fear of experiencing another dislocation, further danger of trauma, or rejection by their families. The social stigma that women almost inevitably experienced when they returned, either by choice or by force, made the situation still more complicated for the states and the communities. Women were recovered, returned and rehabilitated regardless of their own desires, as it was considered crucial for them to be brought back to their own nations.

Moral authority of nationbuilding Gyan Pandey observes, ‘a nation is constructed not only as a bureaucratic, state-oriented community, but also as a moral one’ (2001: 152). Indeed, examples of this idea abound in the experience of the subcontinent over the past several decades, suggesting that a nation is ‘imagined’ and even invoked as a nearly sacred construct whose moral legitimacy is perceived to unite communities within a state. Such examples include the debates in the Indian Constituent Assembly regarding women’s abduction and what this meant for the nation; the public anxieties expressed by social workers and humanitarian agencies about the recovery and rehabilitation of women; the children born of abduction as living reminders of

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what had taken place; and finally the private pains, confusions and denunciations by the families and social networks towards the women (Butalia, 1995a). In accordance with Anderson’s notion of the ‘imagined community’, in which individuals are connected as a collective through emotions, the friction caused by abductions would have inevitably challenged exactly what a nation could be (Menon and Bhasin, 1998). This was expressed through India’s approach to the process of recovering women, and also in considering the future of the children. At the time, the definition of an abducted person was quite broad. Under Clause 2 of India’s Abducted Persons Recovery and Restoration Act of 1949, this was defined as ‘a male child under the age of sixteen years or a female of whatever age who is, or immediately before the 1st day of March, 1947 was, a Muslim and who, on or after that day and before the 1st day of January, 1949, had become separated from his or her family and is found to be living with or under the control of any other individual or family, and in the latter case includes a child born to any such female after the said date [emphasis added]’ (Butalia, 1998: 199; Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 116). This piece of legislation was subsequently renewed up to 1957 (SDPP Papers, xxxiv), though thereafter this was discouraged by the increased reluctance of women to leave their situations, the deteriorating relationship between India and Pakistan, and the identity crises that were emerging due to the presence of children born following abductions. The working definition of ‘abducted person’ adopted by the Indian government caused one significant complication in particular, which caused further trauma for women. It was generally assumed that all women were captives and wanted nothing more than to be rescued by the state. However, some women were happy and settled in their new locations (Butalia, 1997). As we have seen, the circumstances of abduction varied widely, and not every woman who was married to a member of another community had been abducted. For example, many had taken advantage of the social turmoil to marry men of their own choice outside their own communities, something that the cultures of South Asia seriously discourage, even today. However, these women nonetheless fell under the broad definition of ‘abducted persons’, and thus many were forced to return to their own communally defined nation-states. Between December 1947 and December 1949, through the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation and its Women’s Section under Rameshwari Nehru, 6,000 women were recovered from Pakistan; another 12,000 were recovered from India (Basu, 1996: 134). Most such recoveries were made from East and West Punjab, followed by Jammu, Kashmir and Patiala (Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 70). Over an eight-year period, a total of roughly 30,000 women, Muslim and non-Muslim, were recovered by both countries. Of these, the total number of Muslim women was significantly higher – 20,728 as against 9,032 non-Muslims (Menon and Bhasin, 1996).9 While most recoveries occurred between 1947 and 1952, women were being returned as late as 1956. As noted earlier, there was suspicion within India that New Delhi was doing more to facilitate recoveries than were government officials in Pakistan, and this created stark distinctions in terms of how certain social workers felt the work

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should continue. Rameswari Nehru, for instance, considered the grievances of Hindu and Sikh families to be well founded, as more Muslim women were recovered from India than were Hindu and Sikh women from Pakistan. This created sharp divisions between her ideas and those of Mridula Sarabhai, who thought that the approach towards Pakistan should be reconciliatory rather than retaliatory. Recoveries were more or less abandoned two or three years prior to the lapse of the Abducted Persons Recovery and Restoration Act, however, primarily because Sarabhai had resigned due to intense criticism due to her political stance regarding Kashmir. Menon and Bhasin argue that the recovery operation was implemented within the context of two dominant factors: first the relationship between India and Pakistan; and second, the moral authority of these two states to act as the patriarchal parents of the abducted, then recovered, women (1998: 107). For both India and Pakistan, nationbuilding following Partition meant overturning the immoral acts that took place during the riots, especially the abduction women. However, another important concern also arises. As a result of their situation, for the recovered and (somehow) rehabilitated women, there emerges a paradox: the abducted women must be ‘recovered’, for the moral basis of nationbuilding lies in bringing them back; yet in that process, they become undesirable. The nationbuilding process is not actually indifferent to these women, but very carefully silences their lived experiences in the closet of the nation’s ‘dirty secrets’. After Partition, they are the burden of nationbuilding. As many of the social boundaries and taboos were broken through what took place to their bodies, the women are never envisaged as equal citizens. Butalia reflects on this in particular for India: although the classification of the abducted person referred to the recovery of Muslim girls in India, the clandestine referent was always the Hindu women who were to be recovered from Pakistan (1997). As is further explicated in the next section, with regard to the politics of where the children that came from these abductions belonged, it was clear that India endorsed the right of the Hindu fathers – but not the Muslim fathers in Pakistan. Similar to how the Bangladeshi state after 1971 rehabilitated or ‘dealt with’ women and children, the Abducted Persons Act violated women’s rights, notions of citizenship and access to justice. It also disregarded all previous legislation regarding marriage, divorce, guardianship, custody and inheritance (Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 70–4). Again, this was not because the nation-state was indifferent to the women’s trauma, but as traumatic subjects their identities were reshaped in a unique way to be accommodated in the reconstruction of the nation. This meant that the patriarchal state required the silence of real women in the making of the nation. While the abduction and rape of women were to become significant parts of their nation’s future myths, national narratives and historiography, actual subjects and lived experiences pointed to a paradox that became impossible for the states to address in the aftermath of Partition, when there were so many other concerns to grapple with as well. Over time, resolving the ‘woman question’ became less critical; finally, these women were largely forgotten on a national level. Everyone affected by the blaze of violence understood what abduction meant in the context of the Partition riots. The symbolic significance of taking women of the

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‘enemy’ community, the actual realities of sexual violence and/or abduction, and the long periods of uncertainty in which families and communities did not know what happened to their women – each of these invoked memories of ancient history and mythology in which a community’s honour must be defended at any cost. As related by Amrita Basu, Mridula Sarabhai was referring to this idea when she noted that, for her, ‘recovery work was not only a humanitarian problem, it is part of her ideology’ (Basu, 1996: 134). By framing the recovery mechanism through the logic of moral concerns and the nation-state’s own image-making process, prominent social workers also supported the state’s nationbuilding project. The political elite and affected families have also contributed to the framing of ideas of honour and shame with regards to women’s bodies, sexuality and eventually motherhood. Controlling these became crucial for what can be thought of as the supreme nationbuilding project, in which blood and purity decide who are rightful citizens. One Indian Member of Parliament said during a Constituent Assembly debate in December 1949: If there is any sore point or distressful fact to which we cannot be reconciled under any circumstances, it is the question of abduction and non-restoration of Hindu women. We all know our history, of what happened in the time of Shri Ram when Sita was abducted. Here, where thousands of girls are concerned, we cannot forget this. We can forget all the properties, we can forget every other thing but this cannot be forgotten … As descendants of Ram we have to bring back every Sita alive. (Khosla, 1949; SDPP Papers; Basu, 1996: 124; Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 68) On the other hand, the reactions of the families were much more convoluted. Feminist historians and anthropologists studying Partition have also discussed how families approached the abduction and then recovery of the women. The labyrinth of women’s abduction journeys – their entangled experiences of abduction and love for the perpetrators – blurred the distinction between private pain and love with public humiliation and scorn. Mahatma Gandhi expressed these sentiments after returning from Noakhali: I hear women have this objection that the Hindus are not willing to accept back the recovered women because they say that they have become impure. I feel that this is a matter of great shame. These women are as pure as the girls who are sitting by my side. And if any one of those recovered women should come to me, then I will give them as much respect and honour as I accord to these young maidens’. (Khosla, 1949: 75; Butalia, 1998; Menon and Bhasin, 1998) The appeals made by Gandhi and Nehru, coupled with the content included in the records of social workers, indicate that the number of families unwilling to accept the women was not insignificant. Months or even years had passed between the filing of complaints by the women’s families and their eventual recovery. As noted

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elsewhere, some women were now regarded as ‘soiled’ and unwanted because they had lived with, been married and had borne children to men of other communities. Through the symbolic (and arbitrary, at the height of mob frenzy) use of women, through their bodies and lived experiences, their collective purity, and that of the national community, had become contaminated (Das, V., 1995: Ch. 3).

Children and the idea of belonging Children born following the abductions of their mothers could not be fitted into the national idea, for either India or Pakistan. This idea, after all, relied on the assumption that people are bound and connected in a certain homogeneous way to their community, that they have temporal links through their past and future. One of the most serious questions that troubled the political leaders of both India and Pakistan had to do with the fate of ‘post-abduction’ children (Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 84–121, 172). These children could not be accepted in the national idea because their existence specifically came out of the split of one national idea into two, and there was no temporal connection as they were conceived in extraordinary moments of violence. From the state’s perspective, such children had no valid claim through their mothers, whose violation symbolized the desecration of the nation itself. Women, the carriers of the nation’s honour and future, could not be the carriers of the nation’s shame; therefore, the children could not fulfil the individual criteria of belonging within a collective. It was thus implicitly acknowledged that children belonged with their fathers, be they Hindu or Muslim, and should be left behind when women were being recovered. India passed an ordinance that stated that children born after Partition in Pakistan must be left behind, as a Hindu society would not accept a child conceived by a Muslim father and Hindu mother (Basu, 1996: 145). It was also argued in political forums that children who were born in India should not be returned to Pakistan; the latter authorized a similar regulation. In practice then, both India and Pakistan provided sole rights to Hindu and Muslim fathers only for the respective states. On the ground, of course, things were more complicated. During the recovery operations, it was often difficult to separate children from their mothers. While leaders were actively delineating boundaries and dividing people and territories, social workers faced the appalling problem of dividing women and children like ‘oranges and grapes’ (Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 118). One of the social workers involved, Kamlaben Patel, told Menon and Bhasin, ‘It was our experience … that most of the unmarried young mothers were not keen to part with their infants … and older women were not keen to take their children, for they had children earlier’ (ibid.). Naturally, social workers were divided in their opinions as well. For example, Basu, in her portrayal of Mridula Sarabhai, articulates how the latter’s approaches to bringing back all women, even if by force, were merely considered ‘practical’ and ‘unemotional’ by Kamlaben Patel (Basu, 1996: 145). She also records that between 1 January 1954 and 30 September 1957, 860 children were left behind by Muslim mothers who were returned to Pakistan, while 410 children were taken with them (ibid.). There is no documentation of how many of these

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children were looked after by their fathers or families, and how many were placed in orphanages. Either way, their narratives have been silenced in the historiography of the nation. This silence is due to the fact that the children were visible results of their mothers’ impurity, and thus posed particular challenges for the nation-state’s identity. The Indian and Pakistani governments had agreed that neither forced conversions nor forced marriages would be recognized by either country (SDPP Papers). It followed, then, that children born of such unions would be illegitimate; and for the purpose of the legislation, they were defined as ‘abducted persons’ if they happened to be born within the timeframe specified in the Abducted Persons Act. The states decided that children who were born during the chaotic time of Partition should stay with their fathers, and that they did not belong to their mothers’ communities. The policymakers and practitioners also shaped the children’s discourse in terms of their fathers’ identities. As a result, not only women’s sexuality but also their right to parenthood was violated by the state. Men, many of whom had actually committed the violence, were given the sole right to raise the children in both India and Pakistan (Menon and Bhasin, 1998). Menon and Bhasin conducted groundbreaking historical research in this area, and cited the Constituency Assembly debates in which Indian Members of Parliament argued over the fate of the children. Their research highlights how policymakers actually used religious identity as the primary criteria by which to decide where the children would belong (for more on nationalism and various identities, see Cottam and Cottam, 2001; Radhakrishnan, 1996). During the Constituent Assembly debates of 15 December 1949, for instance, one Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava suggested: all those children born in India are the citizens of India. Supposing a Hindu man and a Muslim woman have married. Who should be the guardian of the offspring? … Now when a Muslim girl is restored, she will go to Pakistan; she may change the religion of that child. The child will be considered illegitimate and is liable to be maltreated and killed. Between father and mother, who is entitled to guardianship? … If the father insists that he will look to the interests of the child and will see it properly brought up, I do not understand why, by executive action, that child should be given to Pakistan merely because we have written these words here in the ordinance. (Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 119) But another member, Brajeshwar Prasad of Bihar, offered a different view: ‘They are illegitimate in the eyes of law,’ he stated. ‘Our Hindu society has no place for illegitimate children … such children if they are to live in India will remain as dogs’ (ibid.). Still, there was a general assumption that the children should remain with their natural fathers (Butalia, 1998: 215–17), despite the fact that many of the fathers were guilty of having engaged in abduction and sexual violence during the Partition riots. It was suggested during the debates that the abductions were highly reprehensible conduct; but let us look at the question from the point of view of the abducted woman. The children to her are a sign of her humiliation,

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The debates in the Constituent Assembly, numerous articles in newspapers and conversations among social workers collectively reflect the intrinsic impossibility of attempting to legislate the boundaries of identity. What was the religious identity of the conceived child? To which community did the child belong? The debates in the Constituent Assembly clearly demonstrated that India was concerned that a new generation of Hindu children could be ‘lost to Islam’ through their repatriation to Pakistan with their mothers. This concern created yet another trauma for the women/mothers (Menon and Bhasin, 1996). This is similar to what social workers told me about the adoption of children following the war in Bangladesh. In that case, the state refused to allow maternity to contaminate the ‘pure’ construction of the national identity, and thus the children could neither be socially recognized nor officially endorsed (Das, V., 1995; Menon, 1998). The state’s anxiety about the abducted women – who had to be recovered, but whose children were required to be left behind – was predominantly about notions of rites of entry to be a part of a nation. In both cases, the purity of these ‘imagined’ places of belonging lies in keeping boundaries unbreakable and strict, and denying children the right to be with their mothers by prioritizing the nation-state’s construction of its imagined identity. Numerous debates point to the impossibility of integrating such children in a socially accepted environment, in which they would be accepted as part of the family and community and as equal citizens of the state. In her analyses of war babies, Carpenter (2000a, 2000b) points out that often feminist scholars place exclusive importance on the violation of maternal rights in understanding the politics of children conceived during conflict. But she goes on to suggest that the complexities must also be explained in terms of the discourse over children’s human rights. The Partition narratives (especially the oral-history projects of Menon and Bhasin, and Butalia) demonstrate that children’s discourse must also address how the states reformulate children’s legitimate identities and citizenship claims. For children of violence, citizenship becomes a contested notion primarily due to the disapproval of states to include them, but also because of how they do not fit into their respective families or communities because they are constant reminders of ‘intimate violence’, which must be kept silent and in the closet of unwanted memories. In the newly independent states of India and Pakistan – and, as we will see, in the case of Bangladesh – citizenship itself was a contested notion. Due simply to the circumstances of their birth, children born of conflict were denied the right to live with their mothers. Thus, it is impossible to consider the rights of such children apart from the rights and choices of their mothers. While, after Partition, the children were destined to remain with their fathers, in post-conflict Bangladesh it was abortion and international adoption that shaped

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the war babies’ future. In neither situation could mothers choose to stay with their children; their personal traumas were secondary to the identity of their respective nation. The state defined and controlled the legitimate space of upbringing for the illegitimate child and, separated from their mothers, their narratives disappeared into the folds of identity politics. Looking through the lens of gender, the paradox for a secular India becomes obvious as its policies and practices about women and post-abduction children demonstrate that the country has shaped its nationbuilding primarily based on religious identity. First, it highlights the competing claims of religious communities over each other as a result of the gendered ideas of what constitutes honour and its violation; and second, it suggests that the breach of moral codes and norms of honour could be overturned. Women and children became both the subject and object of an ideological frontline at which a ‘secular, democratic and socialist’ entity and an ‘Islamic, rather feudal and suspiciously anti-modern’ confront each other. To Hindu and Sikh Indians, Pakistan embodied a collectivity of Muslims who had violated the sacred borders of India and had abducted Indian women. They had converted these women by force, had cohabited with them and, more importantly, had impregnated them – thus co-opting the future generations of the nation. Inevitably, this drew uneasy links between religious identity, secularism, sexuality and the state. As discussed earlier, the deteriorating relationship between India and Pakistan affected the ‘woman question’. By the end of 1947, Pakistan had declared that it would not recover women by force, while simultaneously producing statements from women who did not want to return to India (SDPP Papers).

The danger of remembering The silencing surrounding the experiences of women during and following Partition has not been complete. In her Other Side of Silence (1998), Butalia notes that at least two social workers (Kamlaben Patel and Anis Kidwai) have written extensively about their experiences; in addition, Basu has documented Mridula Sarabhai’s experiences. Yet both Butalia and Basu assert that the social workers have found it extremely difficult to break their silences. Similarly, my interviews on the Bangladesh experience with Nilima Ibrahim, Maleka Begum (also known as Khan, and hereinafter referred as Maleka Khan), Sr. Margaret Mary and several social workers who wanted to remain anonymous suggest that they also have found it problematic to speak about the trauma. What was it about the experiences that collective memory wanted to suppress?10 The social workers were also traumatized by the lived experiences that they became part of and were forced to resolve. Many of the women, such as Mridula Sarabhai, Rameswari Nehru and Kamlaben Patel, felt themselves stuck in the middle. The moral logic of ‘recovery’ had been framed by the social workers not only as saving the national honour but also as undertaking a mission that would lead to the best possible outcome for the women. However, as the mediators for the patriarchal state, they ultimately added to the women’s misery when it came to forcible recovery. Many social workers felt that the emotive ties that developed

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between the women and their abductors were irrational and perhaps false, created in a situation of limited or no choice. On the other hand, the women who really wanted to be reunited with their families needed to be assisted. As outlined earlier, the precondition of rehabilitating the recovered women often required a silence or even denial regarding their trauma. Also, cultural notions of acceptability and social and governmental responsibility in the task of restoring the abducted women took on a priority that superseded anything else – often, even women’s silences were not their own choice. Many of them have indeed spoken out or wanted to speak out, but their words have still not been heard. However, it is still important to ask why women also chose to remain silent, and why their families aided in the imposition of these silences. Butalia observes that such silences are all the more surprising when one explores the full dimensions of the problem in what later became two separate countries, where abduction became the catchall description used for all women (and some men) who disappeared during the confusion. While some women clearly followed the social norms and taboos and remained silent, some were silenced more by the official discourse of the recovery operation. In this way, a woman could come to see the violence she experienced as an assault not only on her own body, but also on her nation, community and family; as such, publicly displaying her pain would have been tantamount to public humiliation of those three entities. Such a view gives rise to the ongoing domination of silence, a creation of ‘history without memory’: bodily violations must be disappeared as far as they can be associated with a real victim or a real perpetrator, although they can stay alive in collective official history with an unspecified cast of characters. As Veena Das argues, ‘so long as breaches of norm relating to purity or honour could be covered by veils of silence, kinship norms were bent in several directions to absorb abducted women within the normal structures of family and marriage’ (Das, V., 1995: 64). For instance, many women who were abducted and experienced sexual violence were eventually married off to much older men. For the rest of their lives, within their families and social networks, not speaking about the violence was to become a crucial survival technique. Das continues, Sometimes a woman would remember images of fleeing, but as one woman warned me, it is dangerous to remember. These memories were sometimes compared to poison that makes the inside of the woman dissolve, as a solid is dissolved in a powerful liquid. At other times a woman would say that she is like a discarded exercise book, in which the accounts of past relationships were kept – the body, a parchment of loses. (ibid.: 84) The politics of memory in the representation of history is socially embedded. As Kirmayar points out, ‘as remembering is a social act, so too is forgetting’ (Kirmayar, 1996: 191). Das writes elsewhere, ‘pain and suffering … are not simply individual experiences [but] may also be experiences which are actively created and distributed by the social order itself’ (Das, V., 1994: 139). There is a large body of literature on violence in South Asian societies. Veena

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Das and Ashis Nandy, for example, attempt to assemble a structure of ideas in order to understand the movement from violence, as generative of society and culture, to the loss of signification in periods of anomie, when violence cannot be contained within any structures of ideas (Das and Nandy, 1985). As I have mentioned earlier, South Asian literature has addressed the deafening silence that accompanied the trauma of being simultaneously the subject, object and instrument of violence. The stories of Partition, with their symbolic significance, provide us with a picture of transition, a sequence from ordinary lives to extraordinary violence. Das and Nandy further argue that this is the context within which we must understand that the only people who retain the memory of good and evil are the impersonal witnesses, because the entire society is entangled in a unanimous pact of violence (ibid.). Finally, they suggest, ‘the victims are not even killed for themselves, for they are merely the medium through which this pact is concretised’ (ibid.: 193). Recent considerations of how such accounts are to be written, of the place of personal testimony and of bearing witness, of the desirability of reconstructing biographies or trusting memory or the collective retelling of tragedy, have highlighted the importance of each of these aspects in presenting an alternative construction of what took place during Partition (Das, V., 1990a). Before this, we had little idea about the lived experiences of the ‘recovered’ women. There have been some fragmentary and depressing references to women being treated like criminals, or being ‘contaminated’ in the transit camps. During the mid-1990s, some scholars in India – including Menon and Bhasin (1996, 1998), Butalia (1995a, 1995b, 1998) and Major (1998) – started to find documents that opened a whole new series of investigations into the human-rights abuses of the abducted women. While Major’s work is based on newspaper reports and official documents, Menon and Bhasin as well as Butalia have conducted separate oral-history projects to record the experiences of the women and men who carry the memories of violence with them. These oral-history projects clearly demonstrate that women suffered a second trauma inflicted by their own state, community or family. The state was eager to control their sexuality by exercising its rights over the body, religion, family life and, most importantly, motherhood. The discourse of morality, the nationbuilding process and the euphoria over the success of the anti-colonial movement offered little space for ordinary women (or men) to express their grievances. Moreover, it was impossible to challenge the political elite, who were in control of the nation-state. As should be clear by now, the entire politics surrounding the official Partition-era recovery operations had very little to do with the women themselves. Instead, this was a situation in which the state was engaging with, and responding to, the communities to which the women ‘belonged’. This is not to suggest that the governments did not find the offences committed against women atrocious. However, despite all the good intentions of various vested interest groups, in the end women’s issue remained as marginalized as before. If not, why was the justice agenda not considered to be a primary task as well? For instance, official documents suggest that many of the perpetrators who worked for law-enforcement agencies were subsequently reinstated. Indeed, violent behaviour and abductions were hailed

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as acts of heroism. Neither India nor Pakistan was prepared to consider justice mechanisms that could address these breaches of social and cultural norms: women had been abducted as community property, and they were subsequently recovered as community property. Some scholars have criticized the new approaches and their demands for an alternative historiography, which tend to dismiss all existing histories of that period as ‘statist, elitist and unworthy of the authentic, felt experience of Partition’ (Mahajan, 2000: 19). Sucheta Mahajan for example, remarks: ‘Curiously for a historian, what were offered (as the new grand narrative?) were the stories (not histories) of the victims, especially those rejected by society – lunatics, abducted women, and so on’ (ibid.). D. Anthony Low comments, ‘And there is here the unspoken implication which nowadays is perhaps rather more difficult to unearth: that women were at least abducted; had they been men they would, more often than not, have been slain’ (Low, 1998: 7). Yet Mahajan’s clear dismissal of women’s narratives as significant sources of a nation’s history, and Low’s observation about women only facing abduction whereas men had been brutally murdered, are both good examples of how mainstream scholars have often understood micro-narratives. Likewise, Indian official and historical accounts of Partition see the event as an outcome of region’s high politics, an unfortunate result of sectarian and separatist beliefs, and as a heartbreaking cost of freedom. Pakistani scholars also point to the inevitability of Partition, with little or no regret over the split with Hindu India. They have looked at the causes and consequences of the division of the country, analysed the details of the many ‘mistakes’ and ‘miscalculations’ made, and examined the genesis of the call for a Muslim homeland. However, the micro-narratives on the margins of the nation, and the fractured realties everywhere as articulated through oral-history methodology, underline that Partition was also a gendered narrative of nationbuilding. Even today, women as ‘sites of memory’ and ‘sites of violence’ continue to serve as the primary target of much communal violence in the Indian subcontinent. The stories about the 2002 riots in Gujarat, the attack on the Hindu community immediately after the October 2001 elections in Bangladesh or the burning of Christians in Pakistan in 2009 are some vivid examples of this continuation. In these and other communal riots, before and since, women’s token status has offered up an opportunity to attack the opponent – through an elaborate inscription of women as the embodiment of the nation and the sacred space.

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1971 Politics of silence, or refusal to remember?

Bangladesh’s experience with colonial rule began in 1757. Almost two centuries later, in 1947, as a result of political decisions taken when the British finally decided to leave the Indian subcontinent, the eastern part of Bengal became East Pakistan. The traumatic upheaval of India’s Partition forced the migration of millions of ordinary Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs: this was the result of the so-called two-nation theory (Pakistan for Muslims and India for Hindus) splitting up of centuries’ worth of bonding and kinship.1 As it turned out, however, religion alone was not sufficient to tie together East and West Pakistan as a nation, since their relationship replicated a colony’s asymmetrical association with a colonizer. The bhasha andolon (Language Movement) of 1952, which defended Bengali as the national/official language of East Pakistan (as opposed to Urdu, which was imposed by the West Pakistani rulers), eventually culminated during the late 1960s in a national movement for autonomous identity. Also by that time, the prejudices of the West Pakistani regime that were reflected in the economic and political disparities between the two parts of Pakistan had provided the impetus for a full-blown national movement. But the military regime of Yahya Khan had no sympathy for ‘people’s power’,2 and on 24 March 1971 it attempted to brutally crush dissent in what was dubbed Operation Searchlight. In turn, this crackdown sparked off the Bangladesh Liberation War, an intra-state armed conflict that, by December, became an all-out war between India and Pakistan.3 During the anti-colonial and nationalist movement against the British, the ethnic identity of Bengali Muslims was largely overlooked. Yet as this movement, based on religious identity, gained momentum, the demand for an independent Muslim homeland attained an overwhelming intensity. The symbol of religion provided the most powerful basis of political identity and action, and Islam became a set focal point of passion and interest for Bengali Muslims. Following the initial euphoria of the new sovereign nationhood, the Pakistani state did not attempt to resolve problems inherent in uniting a culturally pluralistic, ethnically diverse, geographically divided society. It was assumed that the imagined national unity achieved from religious identity would somehow contain the complex ethnic, linguistic and cultural differences that existed within Pakistan. The events of 1971, of course, proved this assumption wrong, highlighting that religious nationalism was unable to provide the physical integrity of the new nation-state for long. Religious identity

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was overridden during the rise of Bengali nationalism, with its different linguistic and cultural identity, eventually leading to the creation of Bangladesh. During their 24 years of union, the two regions of Pakistan enjoyed an uneasy partnership marked by intermittent regional, economic, political and cultural conflict. Tension reached a zenith after the national election of December 1970, ultimately escalating into armed conflict by March 1971. Thereafter, for over nine months, the Pakistan Army tried to subdue a rebellious civilian population. With Indian backing, a guerrilla insurgency was eventually able to begin, and Bangladesh finally attained its independence in December 1971. Inevitably, this hostility had a number of serious consequences for the fragile economy of East Pakistan/Bangladesh, which came to an outright standstill during the war; in addition, transport and communication facilities were paralysed and the supply of food grain was seriously compromised (Jahan, 1972; Muhith, 1978). The conflict also precipitated one of the largest short-term international migrations in recent history, with some 10 million refugees fleeing into India over the nine-month period (Brownmiller, 1975: 80). The objective of any war is to win against the adversary, and the 1971 conflict was certainly no different. However, the scale of brutality over those nine months went further than merely attempting to ‘win’, ultimately resulting in mass killings and claims from the Bangladeshis that genocide had occurred – a claim that scholars today back up (Kuper, 1981; Totten, 2004; Rummel, 1998; Kiernan, 2007). M. A. Hasan, the convenor of the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee of Bangladesh, wrote in Documents on Crimes against Humanity Committed by Pakistan Army and their agents in Bangladesh during 1971 (hereafter ‘1971 Documents’), ‘the war that Pak regime instituted in 1971 was no mere civil war. It was a deliberate act of genocide and a process of ethnic cleansing’ (Hasan, 2000: 262). Yet since then, Pakistan has consistently refused to take any responsibility, moral or otherwise, for the killings that were carried out under its watch in East Pakistan. Today, estimates of loss of life during the war (excluding natural disasters) vary widely, ranging from 200,000 to 1.5 million (LaPorte, 1972: 105). At the time, the Pakistani government claimed that around 100,000 non-Bengalis were killed prior to the military intervention (New York Times, 12 August 1971). A recent study suggests that some 269,000 were killed during the war (Obermeyer et al., 2008), while the Bangladesh government has estimated that 1–3 million people perished. The Hamoodur Rahman Commission (HRC) report, the commission of inquiry appointed by the president of Pakistan in December 1971, submitted a report to the government in July 1972.4 Hamoodur Rahman, a Bengali himself, was at the time chief justice of Pakistan (1968–76) and a former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University. The Commission remarked, ‘It is clear that the figures mentioned by the Dacca authorities are altogether fantastic and fanciful’ (Section 32). It claimed that ‘approximately 26,000 persons [were] killed during the action by the Pakistan Army’ (Section 33, Ch. 2). Clearly, there continues to exist a considerable amount of debate about the number. Quantifying complex social phenomenon becomes important not only for

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the Bangladeshi state, but also for the Pakistani state. For Bangladesh the quantification process was critical to indicate the magnanimity of violence during the war and numbers functioned symbolically to provide legitimacy for the post-1971 state to emerge as a member of the international community. For Pakistan, it was to question authenticity of Bangladesh’s claims of genocide, and demonstrated its distrust. For the victims of the war, the number game produced a constant disempowering rhetoric. As Theodore Porter suggests, quantitative measurements and formal procedures are specific ways to deal with distance and distrust (Porter, 1995). Numbers, he states offers ‘mechanical objectivity’ and form the basis of knowledge on which strategies are standardized. In the case of the genocide and war crimes in Bangladesh, the politics of numbers also created a social distance between information and the people who generated it. Estimates of the number of dislocated and displaced refugees also vary. While the Pakistani government at the time cited a figure of 2 million, the Indian figure was far higher, at 10 million (LaPorte, 1972: 105). Subsequent estimates by the United Nations and the World Bank supported the Indian figure (New York Times, 17 October 1971). Either way, estimates of the number of refugees in the aftermath of the conflict were far more accurate than the number of killed, due to the fact that displaced persons were issued ration cards or placed in camps in India, and between 10 and 20 per cent of East Pakistan’s estimated 75 million people were ultimately displaced during the crisis (LaPorte, 1972: 105). In addition, the strategic use of rape as a genocide tactic makes the 1971 war a particular case study of ‘gendercide’ and rape as a war crime (Brownmiller, 1975; Copelon, 1995b; Manchanda, 2001). During the conflict, an estimated 200,000 Bengali women were raped by soldiers (Copelon, 1995b: 197; Manchanda, 2001: 30), with an estimated 25,000 forcefully impregnated (Brownmiller, 1975: 84). In the end, the Pakistani state was not worried with either the violence that took place during the conflict or the deaths that resulted. Rather, it was the loss of territory, due to India’s intervention, that proved far more traumatic for the official psyche. Archer Blood, the US consul-general in Dhaka at the time, sent a cable to Washington on 28 March 1971 headed ‘Selective Genocide’. With army support, he wrote, ‘non-Bengali Muslims’ were shooting opposition Awami League supporters, ‘systematically attacking poor people’s quarters and murdering Bengalis and Hindus’ (Kiernan, 2007a). The Pakistani General Tikka Khan also publicly stated, ‘I am not concerned with the people. I am concerned with the land’ (ibid.). On 14 May, Blood dispatched another cable to Washington, entitled ‘Slaughter of Hindus’, in which he detailed the ‘pattern of army operations whereby troops entered a village, inquired where the Hindus lived, and then killed the male Hindus.’ He estimated the toll in the thousands. Ever since the war, Pakistan has officially denied the accusation of genocide that is at the centre of Bangladesh’s historiography. Pakistani scholars, politicians and columnists often describe the 1971 killings as a ‘disaster’ (Sattar, 2007), a ‘debacle’ (Rizvi, 1987; Naqvi, 2000; Faruqui, 2003), an ‘incident’ or ‘catharsis’ (Sehgal, 2000) and, at most, ‘excesses’ (in the words of former President Pervez Musharraf) or ‘summer madness’ (Khan, 1992). Some exceptions in scholarship and in the

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media on labelling the atrocities as genocide include the well-known reports filed by Anthony Mascarenhas for the Sunday Times,5 Feroz Ahmed’s analysis of the break-up of Pakistan (1972), Aijaz Ahmed’s review of Zulfikar Bhutto’s The Great Tragedy (1972: 12), and Rubina Saigol’s analysis of the silences of the genocidal conflict in Pakistani textbooks (1995). The HRC report suggested that one of the primary causes of the Pakistan Army’s defeat was ‘moral degeneration’. An analysis of the report demonstrates that the HRC had been alerted to the army’s brutality in East Pakistan, but chose to downplay the scale of the atrocities committed. Regardless of the debate over numbers from both sides, it is clear that there was a genocidal intent to destroy the population on the part of the Pakistan Army, especially if the victims were Hindu or supporters of the Awami League (AL). During that period, a majority of Bengalis were AL supporters and branded as ‘militants’ or ‘miscreants’ by the Pakistani state (HRC supplementary report, Ch. 2). For example, the Commission’s Witness No. 260, Lieutenant-Colonel Mansoorul Haq, stated, ‘There was a general feeling of hatred against Bengalis amongst soldiers and officers including Generals. There were verbal instructions to eliminate Hindus’ (Section 15, Ch. 2). Mohammad Ashraf, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Dacca stated, ‘People were picked up from their homes on suspicion and dispatched to Bangladesh, a term used to describe summary execution’ (Section 16, Ch. 2). Respected Pakistani security specialists disregarded the suffering of ordinary people. For example, Sehgal writes, the Army action on night 25/26 March in Dhaka was the watershed event that sparked open rebellion in East Pakistan, however, the Report absolves those who planned and executed that charge to blast their way through the civilian barricades, among them Tikka Khan and Farman Ali Khan. In the face of anarchy and the civilian siege of Dhaka Cantonment all options were of Catch-22 nature. Militarily speaking, the surgical operation accomplished its objectives with far lesser casualties than envisaged but in the political sense it could only lead to the blood cycle that ensued. (Sehgal, 2000) In reality, the HRC report significantly downplays the horrors of the conflict that all East Pakistanis had to endure during the conflict. I cite below a few paragraphs from the HRC’s supplementary report, which show how the allegations of sexual violence and rape had been dismissed by the Pakistani authorities. In a vague manner, it mentions: In Chapter I of Part V of the Main Report, we have dealt at some length with the moral aspect of the causes of our defeat in the 1971 War. This became necessary in view of the vehement assertions made before the Commission by a large number of respectable witnesses drawn from various sections of society, including highly placed and responsible Service Officers, to the effect that due to corruption arising out of the performance of Martial Law duties, lust for wine and women and greed for lands and houses. (Introduction, Ch. 1)

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Under the sub-heading ‘Glaring Cases of Moral Lapses Amongst Officers Posted in East Pakistan’ the report discusses the actions of Lieutenant-General A. A. K. Niazi, who was in charge of the military operations in Bangladesh: During the present phase of our inquiry damaging evidence has come on the record regarding the ill repute of General Niazi in sex matters … The remarks made by this last witness [Lt. Col. Aziz Ahmad Khan, Witness No. 276] are highly significant: The troops used to say that when the Commander [Lt. Gen. Niazi] was himself a raper, how could they be stopped. (Section 16, Ch. 1) The Commission also recorded that General Niazi ‘admitted’ (emphasis added) that ‘there were a few cases of rape, but asserted that the guilty persons were duly punished … “these things do happen when troops are spread over” ‘(Section 10, Ch. 2). With regard to rape and forced impregnation, it concluded, The falsity of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s repeated allegation that Pakistani troops had raped 200,000 Bengali girls in 1971 was borne out when the abortion team he had commissioned from Britain in early 1972 found that its workload involved the termination of only a hundred or more pregnancies.6 (Section 34, Ch. 2) From the report it was clear that Pakistan denied any serious charges of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity with regards to its actions in 1971. Yet Pakistan’s refusal to take responsibility was matched by a notable disinterest on the part of successive Bangladeshi governments, leading to the general failure to hold perpetrators responsible for their actions. Such actions by the Pakistani and Bangladeshi governments, coupled with the general unrest in Bangladesh, created a brittle peace in the new country. A political culture in which a general lack of respect for the rule of law existed, and in which injustice and inequality thrived, made for a fast-growing frustration and resentment on the part of Bangladesh’s citizens. Yet the state’s actions since that period have hardly been ameliorative. Dhaka’s has subsequently responded by fabricating history in textbooks and government-sponsored media, in order to serve the needs of various interest groups – in particular, the regimes themselves. It has also responded by thoroughly silencing a spectrum of voices, particularly those that had experienced sexual violence. Initially, stories of sexual violence were used strategically by the Bangladeshi government to attract international attention, both during the conflict and in the aftermath, for financial and technical support in the reconstruction of the new nation-state. And although International Planned Parenthood, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies worked in post-conflict Bangladesh to help with the rehabilitation of ‘war babies’, their actual narratives have been entirely excluded from the official construction of history-making. This exclusion is the result of a complex combination of maintaining traditional norms, strategic silence by the

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state, and the negotiated survival strategies of women who became mothers through wartime sexual violence. In this chapter, I articulate the narratives of 1971. In tracing Bangladesh’s path to independence and the systematic violence used against its women, the first part of the chapter details the background of the 1971 War of Liberation. This analysis is important for an understanding of the complicated and paradoxical context through which Bengali nationalism emerged. Primarily due to the manner and strategy of Indian intervention and the Pakistani government’s response to it, most of the credit of winning Bangladesh’s independence had gone to India. For its part, Pakistani defence analysis has focused on the conflict as Indian intervention in its domestic matters, implicitly suggesting that, had India not intervened, the guerrilla insurgency would not have succeeded in generating another nation-state in the subcontinent. Since the conflict came to an end, distrust between Pakistan and India has deepened, even though Bangladesh’s military regimes (between 1976 and 1990) forged strong ties with Pakistan. As a consequence, India, South Asia’s largest nation-state, which often dominates all the other states in the region in terms of foreign policy, has succeeded in establishing only an uneasy relationship of coexistence with Bangladesh. Identity issues on the part of Bangladeshis make matters still more complex. Citizens whose original identities as Indians were reinvented as Pakistanis through the creation of Pakistan, and eventually again as Bangladeshis, have been affected by a problematic politicization and extreme polarization of religious identities and the supposedly secular Bengali identity. Ironically, this amalgamated identity and divided loyalty – with a pinch of anti-Indian sentiment among the political elite – has created a state policy more sympathetic to a friendly Pakistan. This pro-Pakistani attitude in turn has discouraged successive ruling regimes in Bangladesh from effectively pursuing the war-crimes agenda, and from trying Pakistan Army officials responsible for the use of rape as a genocidal strategy during the war. Not only is the war today treated by some as Indian intervention in Pakistan’s internal affairs, it is also told as a story of the betrayal of Bengali Muslims towards the Islamic fraternity that had been achieved in 1947. Pakistani textbooks have virtually excluded the narration of the 1971 war. As Saigol writes: they erase Bangladesh by not telling the tale. There are many ways of not telling. One of these is to tell a different story, to speak half the truth. The story of Bangladesh is silenced between half truths, and full lies. If ever speech is used to create silences, it happens in the case of Bangladesh. One liners and short phrases on Bangladesh at the end of chapters cover up oceans of unspoken horrors. The idea that language is the ‘cloak of thought’ used more to conceal and mask than to reveal, was never truer than in the case of the genocide of 1971. (Saigol, 1995: 1026) In the next section, I trace the politics of the silencing of Birangona, the rape survivors of the 1971 war, in the national narrative. A common premise is that

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this is a reflection of the often-contradictory subordinate role of women in general in Bangladeshi society. In decoding the contradictory role of Birangona in Bangladeshi society, I briefly consider the state’s regulatory policies and practices on the ‘woman question’ post-1971. I then trace Bangladesh–Pakistan–India post-war diplomacy with regard to prisoners of war; the domestic policies of Bangladesh after 1971, with particular reference to Pakistan Army collaborators; and the revival of religious identity within Bengali nationalism. These three related macro-narratives have substantially muted women’s voices in the national narrative. Moreover, each of these factors jointly contributed to the social construction of Birangona within the narrative of the Bengali nationalist struggle as a victim group with no particular agency of their own. Although Bangladeshi human-rights groups, political activists and women’s organizations occasionally raise rape charges, Pakistan has repeatedly denied such accusations. In 1996 and 2001 several Pakistani feminist organizations publicly apologized for the atrocities committed by the army and their collaborators against Bengali women in 1971, but no official apology from Pakistan has thus far been offered. Meanwhile, the development within pro-nationalistic liberation movements that demanded the trial of war criminals, and the constraints within which they operate, have also been mainly defined by the visible, interventionist and contradictory politics of the state, especially after the assassination of the country’s first prime minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s (‘Mujib’), in 1975. The Mujib regime was preoccupied with war, the deteriorating law-and-order situation, and the disastrous famine of 1974. As such, it had little inclination to deal with the particular situation of women (Kabeer, 1988). As victims of war, women were provided assistance from the state, however these were all framed in terms of the state as the benevolent patriarch supporting ‘weak’ victims of the war. Women’s agency as critical actors after the conflict was not considered important. On the following page, Figure 3.1 depicts the changed map of the subcontinent of India with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

From two to three The story of the birth of a nation-state is usually treated as a singular account – a linear narrative of that people’s territory that has achieved sovereignty (Chapman, 2000). However, it would be overly simplistic to treat the birth of Bangladesh in this way. It may be just one of many areas of South Asia, but the main reason for singling out its nationbuilding narrative (as opposed to that of Sindh, Tamil Nadu or Punjab) is because it has become something that they have not – an independent, sovereign state. This chapter focuses on the sequential order, specific events, high politics and micro-narratives of Bangladesh’s nationbuilding process. In 1947, East Bengal sought self-determination and opted to become part of Pakistan as a way out of the Hindu feudal system. Yet thereafter, East Pakistan’s relationship with the West Pakistani regime replicated a colony’s asymmetrical relationship with a colonizer, which bred significant discontent. The main reasons for the emergence of Bangladesh were the lack of Bengali political participation in

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Figure 3.1 The subcontinent of India in 2010

official decision-making processes, and the colonial-style economic exploitation of East Pakistan by the central government in West Pakistan. As a result, a national movement eventually culminated in an armed conflict, following the Pakistan Army’s brutal crackdown in March 1971. Following Partition, Pakistan failed to develop adequate nationbuilding policies to integrate East Pakistan into the idea of Pakistan. It became increasingly evident to the East Pakistani elites that partitioning Bengal on the basis of religion had

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only been understood by the West Pakistani elite as a political strategy by which to achieve authority over territory – but that, all along, there had been no genuine vision of how Pakistan’s nationbuilding could actually include Bengalis. In addition, there was an imbalance in the distribution of power among different groups within the nation-state. The Punjabis and migrants from north and west India, who had modernized early on, were ethnically and linguistically in the minority (Jahan, 1972), yet from the very outset they constituted the national elite of Pakistan. Inevitably, the concentration of power in this group meant the political and economic exclusion of others, especially the Bengalis. People who spoke Bengali (Bangla) constituted the major segment of the population of the former Pakistan, but were a minority when it came to sharing power. Before long, the right to use the native language as the official language was to become a signifying focus in the national movement of Bangladesh. South Asian scholars (Jahan, 1972; Rashiduzzaman, 1982; Sobhan, 1993) have highlighted four types of factors that contributed to the breaking-up of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh: territorial, economic, political and cultural. Let us look at each in turn. Territorial factors With its territorial irregularity, Pakistan was described as a ‘double country’ (Rashiduzzaman, 1982; Jahan, 1972). The distance between East Pakistan and West Pakistan had long led scholars to opine on the inevitability of conflict, and even of the emergence of another political entity. Indeed, not only were these two entities some 1,200 miles apart and separated by India, but they were also vastly different from one another. While West Pakistan includes most of the Indus River system, the ranges of the Hindu Kush and the Himalaya, East Pakistan/Bangladesh is a semi-tropical land, most of which is near sea level. Through it flows the lower part of the Brahmaputra and Ganges river basin, which floods regularly, making it one of the most fertile alluvial lands in the world. Significantly, the new nation-state did not even have any direct land communication between its eastern and western regions. This lack of geographical continuity proved to be an important factor for Bengali nationalism, which eventually jeopardized the physical integrity of the state. In the absence of a physical link between the two wings of Pakistan, the state could hardly achieve the social mobilization necessary as a common nationbuilding process, and the territorial remoteness ultimately encouraged and escalated the economic disparity that existed between the two regions. Economic factors Rounaq Jahan, Shireen Hasan Osmany and Husain Haqqani highlight the causes of the conflict in terms of resource-sharing that generated resentment in East Pakistan. During the 1950s and 1960s, East Pakistan enjoyed a favourable trade balance with foreign countries; yet though it earned about 60 per cent of Pakistan’s foreign currency, it received less than 30 per cent of its imports. East Pakistan thus

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suffered a constant deficit in trade with West Pakistan, a clear indication of the transfer of resources from the two wings of the country. East Pakistan also served as a captive market for West Pakistani industry, and there quickly arose a serious gap in per capita income between West and East Pakistan. During 1959–60, the average income of West Pakistanis was 32 per cent higher than that of their eastern counterparts; ten years later, that figure had risen to 61 per cent (Osmany, 1992: 114–17). Moreover, there was a lack of entrepreneurial Bengali families in East Pakistan. This was because many major Muslim trading families had settled in West Pakistan at Partition; while the trading Hindu families and landlords (zamindars), of whom 75 per cent were Hindus, had moved to West Bengal in India (Young, 1979). Just 22 families from West Pakistan monopolized more than two-thirds of the country’s industrial assets, as well as 70 per cent of its insurance companies and 80 per cent of its banking institutions (Ahmed, F., 1971: 5; Siddiqua, 2007: 75). Although West Pakistan was not developed in terms of its agriculture, the construction of the gigantic Mangla and Tarbala dams allowed for a huge amount of land to be served by the new irrigation system, and much of the West subsequently benefited enormously. Meanwhile, no such steps were taken for agricultural development in East Pakistan. However, the planning and construction of Kaptai dam,7 in the restive Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), without considering the human costs involved, displaced thousands of indigenous people and produced further resentment in East Pakistan. The economic leadership in East Pakistan following Partition came mainly from the Biharis, which included both migrants from Bihar during Partition and other northern Indians who moved to East Pakistan following Partition (Young, 1979: 483). There was a significant power difference between the Urdu-speaking affluent entrepreneurs and the poor Bengalis who worked in jute mills, as peasants or in various organizations led by non-Bengalis. This also created significant resentment and grievances amongst the Bengalis. Cultural factors Rafiuddin Ahmed (1981), A. M. A. Muhith (1978), M. Rashiduzzaman (1982), Shahriar Kabir (1995), Muntasir Mamun (2008) and Naila Kabeer (1988) highlight the cultural differences, questions and conflicts that contributed to the national movement. East Bengal/East Pakistan was a distinct region in terms of its historical background, landscape, river systems, music and poetry. Yet the age-old name of East Bengal was changed to East Pakistan in 1955 (Muhith, 1978: 65), despite the fact that regions in West Pakistan retained their original names. As Bengali frustration in terms of economy, politics and administration was increasing, linguistic identity eventually became critically important, as an issue to which all Bengalis could relate. The Language Movement of 1952 was to have a far-reaching impact on the consolidation of an ethnic identity of Bengali Muslims embracing secularism, despite just a few years earlier having ardently supported the creation of Pakistan based on religious identity.

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As the Pakistanis well understood from their attempts to preserve Urdu in the face of the onslaught from Hindi in pre-Partition India, language was more than a tool with which to communicate; it was also deeply symbolic of cultural and religious values. Bengali, which was derived from Sanskrit and was written in a script similar to Hindi, was considered a ‘language of Hindus’ by the Pakistanis (Oldenburg, 1985: 724). As such, went the thinking, how could the language of Hindus be the language of a Muslim nation? For Pakistanis, Urdu was a marker of Muslim identity. Statements made by both Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan on Urdu and Pakistan’s linkage to language are crucial in understanding the context of the Language Movement. When Dhirendranath Datta, a Hindu Bengali member from Comilla, East Pakistan, suggested on 25 February 1948 before the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan that Bengali should also be used as a parliamentary language and a state language (Anisuzzaman, 1994: 391–404), Khan snapped, Mr. President, Sir, I listened to the Speech of the Hon’ble Mover [Datta] of the amendment with very care and attention. I wish the Hon’ble member had not moved his amendment and tried to create misunderstanding between the different parts of Pakistan. My Honourable friend has waxed eloquence and stated that Bengali should really be the lingua franca of Pakistan. In other words, he does not want Bengali only to be used as a medium of expression in this House, but he has raised indeed a very important question. He should realize that Pakistan has been created because of the demand of a hundred million Muslims in this subcontinent and the language of a hundred million Muslims is Urdu and, therefore, it is wrong for him now to try and create the situation that as the majority of the people of Pakistan belongs to one part of Pakistan, therefore, the language which is spoken there should become the State language of Pakistan. Pakistan is a Muslim State and it must have its lingua franca, the language of the Muslim nation. (Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Proceedings, 1948: 17) A month later, on 21 March, Jinnah, then governor-general of Pakistan, addressed a large gathering in Dhaka where he repeated Khan’s reasoning. ‘Let me make it very clear to you that the State language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language,’ he noted sharply. ‘Anyone who tries to mislead you is really an enemy of Pakistan’ (Jinnah, 1948: 89). This insinuation that support for Bengali meant disloyalty to the unity of Pakistan meant that, through the act of speech, Bengalis became disloyal citizens from the outset of Pakistan’s nationbuilding. He expressed similar feelings two days later, at a Dhaka University convocation. As such, the political elite, especially the ‘visionary’ of Pakistan, framed the language controversy as a commitment on the part of loyal citizens to the unity of the Islamic identity of Pakistan – contrary to the traitors and enemies of the new country. The idea that Bengali was a ‘Hindu’ language had been in circulation for years by the time of Partition. In late nineteenth-century Bengal, the Urdu-speaking urban elite never accepted Bengali as a ‘proper’ language for Muslims (Ahmed, 1981: 23). This valourization of Urdu over Bengali was not only a matter of linguistic

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priority, but also of Islamic identity. Islam was a powerful source of pride and inspiration for the Muslim elite of undivided Bengal, and they looked beyond their own lands toward the Muslim Middle East in search of the roots of their identity. Writers, journalists and the ulema (Islamic scholars) raised questions about the appropriateness of Bengali as the language of Muslims. At the turn of the twentieth century, one writer, Nur-al-Imam, suggested, ‘We Bengali Muslims have no language of our own’ (Kabir, 1995: 124). Both Badruddin Umar (1966) and Anisuzzaman (2000) argue that the newly educated Muslims, as the rising middle class, began to challenge the predominant position of Urdu in the psyche of Bengali Muslims. They claimed that Urdu was ‘revered’ only by aristocratic Muslims living in the urban areas. These debates were subdued for a while during the anti-colonial and independence movements, when religious nationalism intensified and loyalty to a common Muslim identity surpassed linguistic or ethnic identity. Yet thereafter, these anxieties were able to resurface. The initial elation of Bengali Muslims at the creation of Pakistan suffered a shock when it became clear that their language would gain only a secondary status in the new state. Indeed, in spite of various distinct cultural differences, the central government proceeded to impose Urdu as the sole official language of Pakistan. In 1948, the Constituent Assembly ordained that Urdu would be the official language of Pakistan, and would be used in the National Assembly. The daily tokens of national identity – coins, currency notes, postage stamps – of the new Pakistan excluded Bengali as a language. In response, the East Pakistanis demanded that Bengali, the native language of 55 per cent of the Pakistani population, be one of the state languages (see Table 3.1). The resentment over this issue intensified over the years before finally exploding in 1952. On 27 January that year, Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin (a Bengali) proclaimed while in Dhaka that Urdu would be the only national language of Pakistan. Three weeks later, on 21 February, massive student demonstrations were held at Dhaka University and other educational institutions in the city, disobeying a government ban on public gatherings and processions. Several students were killed during the violent police backlash, which incited protests all over East Pakistan. The government machinery virtually collapsed in the face of a civil commotion that was only able to be suppressed after the deployment of the army. However, the central government finally accepted the people’s demands, and Bengali was incorporated as one of the state languages of Pakistan in the Constitution of 1956. By that point, however, the damage of resentment may have already been done. The language issue redirected the political orientation of Bengalis towards their ethnic identity. The political appeal of religion began to lose its attraction for Bengali Muslims, as illustrated by the title of an article published in 1966 – ‘Musolmaner shwadesh prottyaborton’, or ‘Muslims go home’ (Umar, 1966). This underlines clear signs of the weakening of the hold of religious identity for Bengali Muslims, coupled with a strengthening inclination towards their cultural and regional identity. This movement increased because the rural population widely supported the student demonstrations, which can be partly explained by the fact that many students came from rural areas or smaller towns. Their frustration and

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Table 3.1 Languages spoken in undivided Pakistan, 1961 (%) Language

East Pakistan

West Pakistan

All Pakistan

Urdu Bengali Punjabi Sindhi Pashto Balochi English

1.3 99.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8

14.6 0.1 67.6 14.2 8.9 2.9 2.1

7.2 55.8 29.5 6.2 3.9 1.3 1.4

Source: Pakistan Census, 1961, complied by Young, 1979: 480

disillusionment with the central Pakistani government meant that the Language Movement provided fresh impetus for cooperation between the students and the rural peasant population. Although they had demanded a separate homeland for Muslims, dreaming of an end to exploitation by the Hindu zamindar (landlord), soon after Partition ordinary Bengalis realized that little had changed for the better, and that their conditions had even deteriorated. The Hindu zamindar had been replaced by the Muslim jotdar, the owner of a proprietary agricultural farm. Moreover, the monopoly of Punjabis in government jobs alarmed rural communities, because it caused job scarcity and discriminatory competitions for their sons (Umar, 1966; Chatterjee, 1986). Added to this, the imposition of Urdu made them ‘second class citizens’ (Kabir, 1995) in their own land. The impact of the Language Movement was felt in the 1954 provincial elections, when the Muslim League experienced a crushing defeat in East Pakistan. That election also signalled the weakening of religion as the uniting thread in constructing a national identity.8 In 1961, the centenary of the birth of Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Laureate Bengali poet was celebrated throughout Bengal, in India and in East Pakistan. The West Pakistani regime attempted to prevent these celebrations (Kabeer, 1988, 1991), due to the fact that Tagore, who composed the Indian national anthem and was erroneously perceived as a Hindu poet, could not be accommodated in Pakistan. In 1967, a ban was imposed on broadcasting Tagore’s songs on the government-controlled Radio Pakistan, a move that was vehemently opposed by Bengali students and intelligentsia. A government-initiated step to alter the lyrics of a song written by Nazrul Islam, East Pakistan’s most prominent poet, was probably the best example of how far the central government believed that East Pakistan needed to be ‘purged’ of its ‘Hinduani’, or Hindu cultural ties. The song, ‘Khelichey jolodebi shunilo shagoro joley’ (‘The goddess of the water is playing in the blue water of the ocean’) was changed to ‘Khelichey jolopori …’ (‘The fairies of the water’) since the idea of a goddess was not acceptable in Islam (Kamal, 2001: 16). The contestations within Bengali cultural identity over Islamic religious identities that originated following the Partition of Bengal have yet to be resolved, and this constitutes a paradox at the core of Bangladesh’s creation and nationbuilding.

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Constructing religion as an ‘oppositional self against the cultural other’ meant, first, that the national movement and the war of independence were fought against brothers who belonged to similar religious communities. For this reason, God’s name could not be invoked as easily as it could during the Partition of 1947. Second, in ‘peacetime’, after 1971, when the adrenalin rush of the national idea/unity had subsided, religious differences resurfaced within the nationbuilding agenda. In this new construct, the process of nationbuilding faced the challenge of accommodating both Islam and secularism, as religious identity had earlier been manipulated by the Pakistani elite. Moderate Muslims were pushed to make an extreme choice: to side with Islamic ideals and beliefs, which go beyond loyalty to the nation, to loyalty to the Islamic Ummah (community); or to side with the secular Bengali national idea, which allowed freedom from a neo-colonial ruler but did not resolve the everyday crises faced by people. India’s role has also changed over the years, forcing many Bangladeshis to continue questioning its motives for intervening in the crisis. First, while in literature, poetry and music the two Bengals are still strongly united, the ‘aggression’ of Hindi, especially through Bollywood, has in subsequent decades made Bengali a less-loved language in West Bengal. In other ways, too, the linguistic and cultural ties between West Bengal and Bangladesh are rapidly coming apart. Second, India’s self-interest with regards to having a sovereign nation-state on its eastern front is viewed with suspicion. In interviews for this project, some nationalist Bengalis even lamented that, had India not intervened the war might have continued for much longer, but Bangladesh would have become a much stronger and more united nation. Over recent years, India’s aggressive behaviour towards its small neighbours has generated negative public opinion in Bangladesh. In addition, the role of Hindutva in India’s political sphere – and which now leaks into seemingly every sphere of India’s culture, economy and security – is equally as dangerous as Islamist extremism in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Before moving on from the culture-based discussion, let us look briefly at the gendered aspect of the Language Movement. Over the years, the language question became vital in creating a shared national identity for Bengalis, regardless of their religious identity. The secular Bengali identity, which celebrated religious diversities, also encouraged and applauded women’s participation in the cultural and social space. As such, the Language Movement contributed to gender sensitivity in the national movement during the 1960s, and many cultural activists who protested the repressive steps of the central government were women. Begum Sufia Kamal, Sanjeeda Khatun and Nilima Ibrahim are well known for their activism, along with their colleagues in the Awami League, Amena Begum, Ashalota Sen, Motia Chowdhury and Sajeda Chowdhury. As a consequence of this activism, however, women were specifically targeted as the perceived bearers of Hindu culture and tradition (Kamal, 2001; Kabeer, 1988). Women’s sartorial and cosmetic practices also came under scrutiny. The central Pakistan government suggested that the sari was ‘vulgar’, for instance, and pressured Bengali women to stop wearing it (Kamal, 2001: 16); wearing teep or bindi on television or in other public media was also banned. Thereafter, massive

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propaganda against wearing saris and teep began at universities and colleges. Eventually, saris were officially declared un-Islamic, and Bengali women were banned from wearing them on state occasions (Kabeer, 1988: 110). Pakistani society had always disapproved of the Bengali middle-class culture of training daughters in the arts of singing, dancing and drama, and allowing them to perform in the public (Kabeer, 1988: 110). Doing so was seen as emanating from a strong Hindu influence, and therefore a challenge to the Pakistani state’s puritanical version of Islam. This added another gendered dimension to the national movement of East Pakistan. The challenge to women’s emancipation and the attack on Bengali linguistic-cultural identity created new symbols, slogans and myths, aimed at sustaining a Bengali nationalism based on a linguistic and gendered identity whose foundation, for the first time, was secular. Both Bengali Hindus and Muslims transcended religious differences and emphasized their common ethnic identity. Further, the connection of land with its sons and daughters signified the importance of motherhood. Following the Language Movement, the Bengali language acquired a revered status as the matreebhasha or ‘mother’s language’. New songs depicted how the right to speak in Bengali was paid for with blood, signifying not only a highly emotional but also physical bonding through linguistic identity – one shared by all Bengalis.9 Bengali women, especially university and college students, resisted the government-sponsored propaganda. They participated in the national political struggle by wearing saris and teep, and by singing in the mother tongue. A distinct secular cultural identity of the Bengali ethnic group was portrayed through images of Bengali women, with the nationalistic movement consciously used the ‘image’ of women to promote ideas of a secular and liberal Bengali culture. This context of women’s status and representation, as symbols of national identity within contested political projects, is similar to the gendered policies of other nations. Political factors Between 1947 and 1951, power in Pakistan rested successively with two non-Bengali leaders, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan. After Khan’s assassination by the political opposition in 1951, a small political elite emerged at the centre of a power structure that was supported mainly by the senior bureaucrats of the Pakistan civil service and army officials. Dictatorial cliques thereafter suppressed people’s rights, and identified themselves with the small, powerful, military-supported interest group. While the economic disparities continued to be a focal point of conflict between East and West Pakistan, the most significant frustration arose as a result of the inadequate share of Bengali elite in the centralized political system, as built by President Ayub Khan. His regime publicly defended centralization on the grounds of economic development and national integration, but this was counterproductive because it failed to achieve any sort of equality between the country’s two wings. By supporting and creating a de facto unitary government dominated by the non-Bengali military and bureaucracy, the regime denied any effective participation by Bengalis – who were, in fact, the majority population.

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The capital, of course, continued to be located in West Pakistan, where administrative energies and governmental expenditures were also concentrated; East Pakistanis were not consulted in decision-making processes. As a consequence, there remained a wide gap between the ruling elite in West Pakistan and the East Pakistani civilian population (Muhith, 1978; Jahan, 1980: 7–9). In 1966, out of a total of 114,302 government officials, only 27,648 were from East Pakistan (Haqqani, 2005: 61). By 1970, only three Bengalis had attained the rank of secretary (out of 20) at the highest bureaucratic level. Naturally, inadequate representation in the bureaucracy meant that the senior civil service was not responsive to Bengali interests. Similarly, Bengalis were not proportionately represented in the army. Despite the fact that 56 per cent of Pakistan’s population resided in the East, it represented less than 7 per cent in the army (Khan, 1983: 18). In post-Partition Pakistan, of 35 lieutenants-general and majors-general, only two were Bengali. Furthermore, most of the defence budget was spent within West Pakistan, leaving East Pakistan with largely unprotected borders. As far as explaining this discrepancy, Rizvi, for one, points to a hangover of the colonial policy of developing the ‘martial races’, thought to be the Punjabis, Gurkhas, Pashtuns (Pathans) and others from the North-West Frontier Provinces. This meant that, in 1947, East Pakistanis formed only 1 per cent of the Pakistan Army (1987).10 Table 3.2 provides a brief overview of various groups that participated in the nationalist struggle as a response to crises during specific periods. Each of these contributed to the Bengali national struggle. Against the backdrop of West Pakistani exploitation, the Awami League, the primary opposition parties in East Pakistan, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (popularly known as Bangabondhu, ‘Friend of Bengal’) mobilized public support against the repressive central regime. Mujib launched his six-point formula for all provinces of Pakistan, which became the central document for the right of self-determination for East Pakistanis (Rashiduzzaman, 1982). The six-points were: • • • • • •

Federal parliamentary government based on direct adult franchise; Federal responsibility for defence and foreign affairs; One currency if a system could be devised to prevent the flight of capital from one region to another – otherwise, two currencies; Fiscal policy and power of taxation with the federating units that would assure requisite revenue assignments to the federation on a mutually agreed basis; Maintenance of separate foreign-exchange accounts by the federating units, and conduct of foreign trade and foreign aid by them; and Maintenance of military or paramilitary forces by the federating units and the building-up of defence potential in both regions. (Muhith, 1978: 122–3; Khan, M. A., 1983: 16–21)

The main thrust of the six-point movement was the demand for autonomy on the part of the provinces. Various Pakistani analysts have indicated that the principal grievance for the government was the sixth point (Cloughley, 1999: 135; Rizvi, 1987: chs. 7 and 9; Haqqani, 2005). Jahan argued that Mujib’s intention

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Table 3.2 The political movements of East Pakistan Period

Leading groups

Issues of nationalism

1947–54 Landlords, lawyers, Muslim League dominant students

1954–58 Changing coalition of regional parties

1958–69 Centralised polity of Ayub Khan and frustration of regional elites 1969–71 Against Yahya Khan’s regime, mass-movement, election, aggregation crisis and disintegration of Pakistan

Language, provincial autonomy, allocation of resources, higher jute process for development by the central government Lawyers, students, Economic disparities, workers, Bengali grant facilities to Bengali businessmen businessmen and industrialists, maximum provincial autonomy, larger allocation of resources, parity of representation in the services Lawyers, teachers, Economic disparity, Bengali students, Bengali language and culture, regional businessmen, workers, participation, full regional organised peasants autonomy symbolized in the six-point demand (see below) Economic disparity, Students, workers, maximum autonomy, organized peasants, complete independence for guerrillas, armed East Pakistan, Bangladesh personnel, Bengali civil servants, teachers, lawyers, movement Bengali businessmen

Source: Rashiduzzaman, M., 1982: 113

was to achieve autonomy for East Pakistan under a unified Pakistan, rather than re-splitting the state (Jahan, 1972, 1980). However, the political elite in the Western wing treated almost all Bengali leaders (for instance, A. K. M. Fazlul Haque and Huseein Shaheed Suhrawardy) including Mujib with suspicion, and during times of heightened tensions accused them of being disloyal to the idea of Pakistan (Zaheer, 1994: 96–9). Haqqani writes, ‘Almost every leading Bengali political figure after Partition was at one time or another accused of working in conjunction with India’s intelligence services’ (Haqqani, 2005: 63). Following the six-point movement, Mujib was accused of conspiring ‘to separate East Pakistan through a revolt, which was to have been armed and financed by India’ (Zaheer, 1994: 98). The six-point demands were announced in February 1966 in Lahore, following the Council Session of the Awami League. The central government, headed by General Ayub Khan, resorted to ruthless suppression of the movement for the six-point demand, and arrested Mujib, charging him in what came to be known as the Agartala Conspiracy Case (Muhith, 1978: 126). Yet these suppressive acts also brought the Awami League firmly into the limelight. Thereafter, the people of East Pakistan launched a campaign against the Ayub regime, demanding the release of Mujib. After intense pressure, he was released in early 1969, when he was given an unprecedented and rousing reception in Dhaka.

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As a result of the strong mass movement engineered by Mujib, Ayub was forced to resign, and on 25 March 1969 another military ruler, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, assumed power. That year, Yahya assured the nation that he would hand power over to the people’s representatives, after holding a general election, and the military regime eventually did hold this crucial election on 7 December 1970. The Awami League contested on an all-Pakistan basis, winning 167 out of 313 seats in the National Assembly and all 169 seats reserved for East Pakistan. The People’s Party of Pakistan (PPP) also gained 88 seats, to become the second-largest party. Yet although the AL had won a landslide victory in East Pakistan and a comfortable majority in the National Assembly, power was not handed over to the party (Muhith, 1978: 172–5). Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then the PPP’s leader, was reluctant to negotiate with Mujib, as there was deep distrust and disregard for East Pakistan at the time, in particular regarding Mujib’s ability to lead. In addition, the army was more comfortable with Bhutto, since the military elite worried that Mujib would downsize the army (Nawaz, 2008: 262). Lieutenant-General Gul Hassan Khan explicitly told A. R. Siddiqi, the military’s public-relations chief at the time, ‘Let’s back Bhutto’ (Nawaz, 2008: 262). Asghar Khan, the first commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Air Force, offered an important critique of the conflict and how Pakistan responded to it. He recalls Yahya telling him about Bhutto’s remark to the effect that ‘East Pakistan is no problem. We will have to kill some 20,000 people there and all will be well’ (Khan, A., 1983: 28). Asghar Khan also recalls his discussions with Mujib during the first week of March: He [Mujib] was certain that Yahya Khan had already made up his mind not to hand over power and that he would use the army to crush the East Pakistanis. He said that he was a Pakistani and had played a part in the Pakistan movement, having travelled from Calcutta to Delhi with a Pakistan flag … ‘Where were Yahya Khan and Bhutto then?’ he had asked, in a voice choked with emotion. He said that they, the Bengalis, ‘had never been trusted and had not been treated like human beings’. (Khan, A., 1983: 29–30) On 3 March 1971, President Yahya Khan summoned a session of the National Assembly in Dhaka, in which Bhutto refused to participate. Instead, he advocated a grand coalition between the Awami League and his party, though this was deemed unacceptable to the AL. (For a fascinating account of the negotiations between Yahya, Mujib and Bhutto, see Khan, A., 1983: 24–47.)11 Without consulting the AL, the majority party, the President suddenly postponed the session, evoking a sharp reaction from most of the East Pakistani populace. Mujib then launched a countrywide non-violent movement of non-cooperation against the central government, which engendered an unprecedented response from the people of East Pakistan. With widespread support for the AL, in effect two parallel governments operated during the non-cooperation movement. Understandably, the central government became increasingly worried by the overwhelmingly positive response of

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the people towards the AL. Amidst this upheaval, in early March 1971, Yahya appointed Lieutenant-General Tikka Khan as the military governor and martial-law administrator, to replace the civilian governor of East Pakistan. On 6 March, the president again announced his intention to convene a session of the National Assembly later that month, on the 25th. On 7 March, in a historic speech at the Suhrawardy Udyan monument in Dhaka, Mujib gave a ‘nationalistic clarion call’ (Rashiduzzaman, 1982) to the people of East Pakistan to follow his directives. He also declared that he would consider joining the National Assembly only if four points were met: the immediate lifting of martial law, the transfer of power to the elected representatives, the recall of troops to their barracks, and the holding of an inquiry into the killings of civilians by the army.

The 1971 war Richard Sisson and Leo E. Rose have commented that, similar to the 1965 war between India and Pakistan, the war in 1971 also lacked foresight and coordination (Sisson and Rose, 1990). Other scholars have likewise seen the conflict primarily as one with India (for example, Faruqui, 2003: 58–77). Once again, in the Pakistani state psyche it was the oppressor Hindu state that was challenging the unity of Pakistan. Yet this analysis underestimates the emotive aspects of national movements, which touched East Pakistanis, Bengalis and indigenous groups alike during the 1970s, and which was at the core of the conflict to give it moral legitimacy. The massive flooding of 1970, followed by the cyclone that hit Bhola on 12 November of that year, killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions. The Pakistani regime’s response to assist the flood-affected communities was viewed as half-hearted, and only increased resentment in East Pakistan. The conflict was also understood as one that was devised by Indian conspiracy and Hindu aggression, and which underestimated the resentment felt by various interest groups and ordinary people that united under the banner of Bangladesh. While the conflict offered strategic opportunities to India, this view does not take into account how the deeply embedded prejudices of the Pakistani elite had alienated the people from the eastern wing from West Pakistan. The grievances of ordinary people were only perceived to be manipulated by the political elite of East Pakistan and the rising middle class. However, if the war had not ended within the nine months that it did, the support by ordinary people for the national movement would have continued, and guerrilla insurgency would have undoubtedly taken on a more violent form, eliciting a compromising stand from Pakistan. The territorial distance would have proved too cost-effective to continue a neo-colonial relationship with its eastern wing, when Pakistan itself was only new in its nationbuilding. The commander of the eastern command Lieutenant-General Sahibzada Yaqub Khan and the DMO Brigadier M. A. Majid devised what was to be known as Operation Blitz even before the December elections, and was issued by the former on 11 December 1970 (Nawaz, 2008: 264–6). There were only six numbered copies

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of the command, which were distributed to specific senior officials, and these were meant to follow the declaration of an emergency in East Pakistan (ibid.: 265). Commanders were suggested not to hesitate to use force if necessary. However, Yaqub realized that only a political solution could resolve the deadlock and ultimately resigned. In his place, Lieutenant-General Tikka Khan, who was known as the Butcher of Balochistan for his actions in 1958, was sent to East Pakistan (Ahmed, S., 2004: 174), which many defence analysts of Pakistan considered to be a costly mistake. On the night of 25 March 1971, the military was ordered to move out in force to ‘fully restore the authority of the government’ (LaPorte, 1972). During this action civilians were arrested or killed, and Mujib was charged with treason and was arrested. The paramilitary East Pakistan Rifles, Bengali regular soldiers and police officers were disarmed and imprisoned by the Pakistan Army. The offensive on Dhaka University and other civilian areas led to charges of a bloody repression of civilians – a policy attributed to Tikka Khan, who now became known as the Butcher of Bangladesh. As discussed earlier, Dhaka University was considered to be an institution where Hindu professors framed anti-Pakistani sentiments, in addition to being at the centre of the Language Movement. This brutal military action destroyed once and for all the idea of a unified Pakistan, and during the nine-month-long national liberation movement Bengali nationalism changed from an ‘elite phenomenon to a mass one’ (Jahan, 1972) – thus making the emergence of Bangladesh possible. In his book Witness to Surrender, Siddiq Salik documented a conversation that took place between senior army personnel after the initial crackdown codenamed Operation Searchlight. He wrote: The tragedy in [Dhaka] had eased the nerves of the defence personnel and their dependents. They felt that the storm, after a long lull, had finally blown past leaving the horizon clear. The officers chatted in the officers’ mess with a visible air of relaxation. Peeling an orange, Captain Chaudhury said, ‘The Bengalis have been sorted out well and proper – at least for a generation.’ Major Malik added, ‘Yes, they only know the language of force. Their history says so.’ (Salik, 1979: 78) On 26 March, via a radio station in Chittagong, Major Ziaur Rahman (‘Zia’, who was to take power in Bangladesh in 1976, and the founder of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, BNP) declared the country’s independence on behalf of Mujib, who at the time was incarcerated by the Pakistan Army. With that, the struggle for independence had turned into a full-scale war. On 13 June, the journalist Anthony Mascarenhas wrote in the Sunday Times that ‘senior military and civil officers in Dacca and Comilla’ repeatedly told him that they were ‘determined to cleanse East Pakistan once and for all of the threat of secession, even if it means killing off two million people and ruling the province as a colony for 30 years’. Likewise, the International Commission of Jurists described the principal features of the ruthless massacre by the government as:

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the indiscriminate killing of civilians, including women and children and the poorest and weakest members of the community; the attempt to exterminate or drive out of the country a large part of the Hindu population; the arrest, torture and killing of Awami League activists, students, professional and business men and other potential leaders among the Bengalis; the raping of women; the destruction of villages and towns; and the looting of property. All this was done in a scale which was difficult to comprehend. (Kuper, 1981: 78–9) Although the actual figure is not available, according to the Bangladesh government, during the nine-month occupation by the Pakistan Army, an estimated 3 million people were killed (Kuper, 1981: 79). In addition, 300,000 women were subjected to rape and sexual violence (Brownmiller, 1975). I will come back to this later. The Muktibahini (Liberation Army) officially came into being on 11 April 1971, when Tajuddin Ahmed, the prime minister of Bangladesh’s government-in-exile, stated in a speech on Free Bangla Radio: ‘Today, a mighty army is being formed around the nucleus of professional soldiers from the Bengal Regiment and EPR [East Pakistan Rifles] who have rallied to the cause of the liberation struggle’ (Bangladesh Documents, 2000: 282–6). Colonel M. A. G. Osmani, a retired officer of the Pakistan Army, was appointed Chief-in-Command of the Muktibahini, which faced no manpower problem as Bengalis volunteered by the thousands. The Bangladesh government-in-exile had set up recruiting centres for the Muktibahini in the refugee shelters in India, where those who wished to join were asked, among other things, about their political affiliations (Rizvi, 1981). Yet the overwhelming support for the Muktibahini also created a sense of insecurity among the Awami League leadership. It subsequently moved to set up an elite guerrilla force, the Mujib Bahini (named after Sheikh Mujibur), which

Figure 3.2 Colonel M. A. G Osmany with Bengali Mukhti Bahini and Indian Mitra Bahini personnel Photograph by Purnendu Burmon

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Table 3.3 East Pakistanis/Bengalis killed during the 1971 conflict (various news sources) Source

Date

Number (millions)

Baltimore Sun Momento, Caracas Washington Daily News World Bank Report Die Zeit (Bonn) New York Times Wall Street Journal Christian Science Monitor Newsweek Time Newsweek National Geographic

5/14/71 6/13/71 6/30/71 June 1971 7/9/71 7/14/71 7/23/71 7/31/71 8/2/71 9/2/71 3/27/72 Sept. 1972

0.5 0.5 – 1.0 0.2 0.2 0.5 0.20 – 0.25 0.2 – 1.0 0.25 – 1.00 0.25 0.2 – 1.0 1.5 3.0

Complied by Zunaid Kazi. Available online at http://www.virtualbangladesh.com/history/holocaust. html, cited with permission

comprised of die-hard [supporters of both the AL and Mujib himself (The Times, 20 May and 15 June 1971, and the Far Eastern Economic Review, 4 September 1971). Rizvi notes that special attention was paid to the ideological orientation of the Muktibahini recruits, where the aim was to rectify East Pakistan’s ‘mistake’ in 1947 of joining Pakistan (Rizvi, 1981: 195). But what Rizvi is implying is that Muktibahini recruits were all AL supporters, as he understands the conflict to have been driven by the AL. This is not entirely correct. In fact, during the conflict people who were not consciously or directly AL supporters also joined the in the struggle, as the national movement turned into a movement for liberation. The Muktibahini proved to be quite effective in tackling the Pakistan Army, especially in rural areas. However, in the first few years after Bangladesh became a sovereign nation-state, the parallel politics between the Mujib Bahini and the Muktibahini created factionalism in Bangladesh politics, which can still be seen to a great extent today. An Indo-Pakistani war? Indian sanctuary and assistance played a key role in the creation of Bangladesh. Had India not joined forces with the Muktibahini, it would have taken Bangladesh several more years to emerge as a sovereign nation-state. However, India’s military intervention also robbed the Bengalis of their exclusive role in their own nationalist struggle. It is crucial to understand India’s role in the struggle and its aftermath, as the high politics played by the elites during this time affected and contributed to the silence of the subaltern voices at the micro-level. Let us first look at some numbers. Eventually, there were 80,000 Pakistani soldiers deployed under the Eastern Command. These forces were augmented by an additional paramilitary force of 25,000, a civil armed force of 25,000, and another

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auxiliary paramilitary force (the Razakaars, Al-Badr and Al-Shams) of 50,000 (Aurora, 1973). For most of the conflict, these forces fought a guerrilla-style war against the East Pakistanis, numbering an estimated 175,000, including a large number of deserters from the East Pakistan Rifles, East Bengal Regiment and the Bengali police force (Rizvi, 1987). The Muktibahini, meanwhile, was divided into 11 sectors and made up of Bengali officers who had defected from the Pakistani armed force served as the commanders of each sector. Finally, in December there was an additional 250,000 Indian Allied Forces (the Mitrobahini), which led the offensive against Pakistan. The Eastern Command of Pakistan, under Lieutenant-General A. A. K. Niazi, surrendered to Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the commander of the Indian Allied Forces, on 16 December 1971. For the New Delhi government, the initial rhetorical condemnation of the Pakistan Army’s efforts to crush the autonomy movement changed to active support after refugees began pouring into Indian territory. The absorption of an additional 10 million people (LaPorte, 1972: 105; Kuper, 1981: 79) also made it hard for India to ignore the crisis as an internal issue within Pakistan. Soon, Indira Gandhi’s regime became East Pakistan/Bangladesh’s most important ally, perceiving the Bangladeshi national movement as a political opportunity in the context of the India–Pakistan rivalry. India provided arms and ammunition, training and logistical support to the Muktibahini, while Indian public opinion provided strong moral support for the country’s military actions. On 3 December, the Pakistan Air Force attempted to disable the Indian Air Force with a pre-emptive strike, and airfields at Amritsar, Srinagar, Avantipur, Pathankot and Faridkot were attacked. Following this, a full-scale, two-front war broke out between India and Pakistan. New Delhi declared a state of national emergency, and the Indian Parliament passed the Defence of India Act giving emergency powers to the government (LaPorte, 1972). India also imposed an air- and naval blockade of both East and West Pakistan, and publicly threw its support behind the Muktibahini, giving the guerrillas training and weapons, mainly from the Indian Border Security Force. In addition, India was suddenly forced to deal with a refugee crisis, overflow from the estimated 20 million people displaced within East Pakistan. Given that the majority of these refugees were Hindu, the Indian government was particularly wary that the conflict might be termed as yet another Hindu–Muslim conflict. There was widespread feeling that the independence of Bangladesh would usher in a second Islamic state in South Asia (Ahmed, 1993), leading to fears that the Hindu refugees might not want to return after independence. Therefore, the Indian government downplayed the communal aspect of the conflict by referring to the Awami League’s secular policies (ibid.). The Indian government’s support was given on the condition that the AL led the nationalist movement – a policy that isolated other factions of the movement, especially the Bengali military regiments of the Pakistan Army, which were not under AL command. Following the independence of Bangladesh, this tension re-emerged when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was created, and manifested in the tension between civilian and military interest groups.

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Another aspect of India’s concern was more problematic. Indian officials believed that, as time passed, the Bengali independence forces would become increasingly radicalized. Eventually, the thinking went, the guerrillas would be able to defeat the Pakistan Army, which was essentially fighting a colonial war a thousand miles from home; but the longer it took to achieve victory, the more likely the leadership of the movement, and of post-independence Bangladesh, would fall to the political left. The Indian government already had enough difficulties with its own volatile Bengali population, and the West Bengal state government were already considered too radical by New Delhi. Consequently, Indian leaders were unwilling to accept an independent leftist Bengali nation just over the border. Shalom suggests that although the Indian intervention12 ended Pakistani atrocities in the East, it is not obvious that the people of Bangladesh ultimately benefited from the intervention, and it is thus difficult to justify India’s action as humanitarian intervention (Stephen R Shalom, The US Response to Humanitarian Crises, online at http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/ShalomHumnCri.html). On 6 December 1971, India formally recognized Bangladesh, causing the Islamabad government to sever diplomatic relations with New Delhi. Four days later, however, the military operation of the Muktibahini came under the sole command of the Indian Armed Forces, with the formation of the Mitrabahini or Joint Command (Chakrabarti, 1978). Although the Mitrabahini agreement described the Indian Armed Forces as ‘supporting forces’ (Maniruzzaman, 1980), in reality they had become the sole military authority in the nationalist struggle of Bangladesh (Ahmed, 1993). This is a significant factor in understanding the relationship between India, Bangladesh and Pakistan post-1971. Ironically, India’s direct military intervention forced the Muktibahini to be regarded not as the primary force to bring freedom but rather as the supporting force in the Liberation struggle. Ahmed (1993) suggests that even had the Indian Army restricted its attacks on the Pakistani posts in border areas, the Pakistan Army would still have soon collapsed. The Indian Army, however, did not wait for the Muktibahini to defeat the Pakistan Army, and moved swiftly towards Dhaka. The Mitrabahini successfully isolated Table 3.4 The refugee situation Source

Date

Number (millions)

Washington Daily News Die Zeit (Bonn) New York Times St. Louis Post-Dispatch Newsweek Time US Senator Kennedy The UN in Bangladesh Newsweek

6/30/71 7/9/71 7/14/71 8/1/71 8/2/71 9/2/71 8/15/71 1972 3/27/72

6.0 6.0 6.0 6.5 7.5 7.5 12.0 10.0 10.0

Source: http://www.virtualbangladesh.com/history/holocaust.html, cited with permission

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70,000 Pakistani troops from West Pakistani control. A massive force was also deployed to secure Kashmir on the other side. With the Indians in control of the final phase of the Liberation War, the nationalist struggle of Bangladesh was transformed overwhelmingly into an Indo-Pakistani affair. Moreover, what followed was treated solely as a matter between those two countries, specifically excluding Bangladesh. Even the surrender document is glaring proof of this: The Pakistan Eastern Command agree to surrender all Pakistan Forces in Bangladesh to Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora … This surrender includes all Pakistan … armed forces. These forces will lay down their arms and surrender at the places where they are currently located to the nearest regular troops under the command of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora as soon as this instrument has been signed … Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora gives a solemn assurance that personnel who surrender shall be treated with dignity and respect that soldiers are entitled to … and guarantees the safety and well-being of all Pakistan military and para-military forces who surrender. Protection will be provided to foreign nationals, ethnic minorities and personnel of West Pakistan origin by the forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora. (Srivastava, 1972: 160–1) Not only did the document refrain from mentioning the Muktibahini, it also provided the Indian Army with the sole authority to determine the fate of the Pakistan Army personnel in Bangladesh. The Muktibahini also did not have any representation in counter-signing the document. As such, Bangladesh essentially lost the right to try Pakistan Army officials for the rapes and killings that were committed during the nine months of war. Indeed, the surrender document failed even to mention the genocide and rapes committed by Pakistani forces. Although ample evidence of the commission of these war crimes remained, the surrender document only provided assurance for the ‘safety and well-being’ of the Pakistan Army, consequently restricting any future possibility of bringing its members to trial for genocide and rape as war crimes. The surrender document also transformed the Bengali nationalist struggle into an Indo-Pakistani affair in terms of international politics, leading to the redefinition of India’s relationship with Pakistan as the latter was reduced in size (both in terms of area and population), and also grounding India to emerge as the dominant regional power in South Asia.

Micro-narratives What took place during the Liberation War (Kuper, 1981: 57) is one of the most undocumented genocides of the century, a central part of a collective amnesia within Bangladesh. The stories of the survivors have not been publicized over the last three decades, and documents on the genocide are generally unavailable. Importantly, there are no documents on the rape camps, the use of rape as a strategy of war, or the testimonies of Birangona women. When the National People’s

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Enquiry Commission conducted investigations of notorious, publicly known war criminals, it discovered that ‘a great deal of document[ation] dating to the genocide period had been destroyed’ (Ziauddin, 1999). Although the Enquiry Commission failed to mention the nature of the documents that were destroyed, it is believed that papers in government offices were destroyed either deliberately or due to negligence (ibid.; D’Costa interviews, 1999). Successive governments have failed to establish any thoroughgoing national narrative of 1971. There is a significant absence of the study of rape or genocide in the national educational curriculum. Indeed, neither the successive regimes nor the universities have even attempted to research systematically and scientifically the events of 1971. Only recently did the University of Dhaka announce plans to open a new discipline, Liberation War Studies. Before explaining how the politics of the region contributed to the subsequent silencing of micro-narratives, let us look at the three most vulnerable and most silent/silenced subaltern groups in Bangladesh – Hindus, Biharis and the Birangona. First, it is important to understand the situation of the Hindu community in the context of mass killing, rape and the forced impregnation of Bengali women by the Pakistan Army to make ‘true Muslims’ (Sobhan, 1994: 63) out of the Bengalis. After the war, angry Bengalis targeted Bihari women (D’Costa, personal interview with Geoffrey Davis, 2001), and the voices of these women have been completely silenced in the narrative of 1971. Finally, the Birangona women were rehabilitated according to government wishes that did not necessarily reflect their own choices. Hindus Post-Partition, Hindus constituted the largest religious minority in Pakistan, with their numbers representing 12.9 per cent and 10.7 per cent of the population in 1951 and 1961, respectively. Most of the Hindu population was in East Pakistan, where they constituted 22 per cent of the population in 1951 and 18.4 per cent in 1961 (Rizvi, 1981). In West Pakistan, they represented only 1.6 per cent (1951) and 1.6 per cent (1961) of the population (ibid.). Although no census was held in 1971 due to the war, official and unofficial sources claim that there was a decline in East Pakistan’s Hindu population during between 1961 and 1971, because of the Hindu exodus that took place during that decade. (Several respondents who migrated to India during that decade told me that they left out of fear of persecution.) However, it is estimated that Hindus constituted between 13 and 17 per cent of the East Pakistan population in 1971 (ibid.). The Hindus suffered from insecurity because of the communal riots that took place in East Pakistan, the first of which broke out in 1950 coinciding with similar riots in West Bengal. This caused a mass migration of Muslims from India to East Pakistan, and Hindus from East Pakistan to India. A serious political crisis between India and Pakistan was diffused by an agreement signed by Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan in 1950, which attempted to protect minorities in both countries. However, sporadic riots continued to break out in both countries

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during the 1950s and 1960s, which inevitably caused deep anxiety among the Hindus in East Pakistan. Some of the Hindu elite (e.g. politicians, businessmen and those in government and semi-government services) who could afford to do so sent their families to West Bengal. This enabled them to ‘keep one foot in India and the other in East Pakistan’ (D’Costa, interviews with Jama’at activists, 2000). The periodic migration of prominent Hindus, their disapproval of Pakistan and demands of reunification of Bengal compromised the security of Hindus who chose to remain behind in East Pakistan. These individuals were subsequently caught in a vicious cycle of violence caused by the Pakistan Army during the war. The language controversy provided the first major opportunity for Hindus and Muslims to frame the national movement as a secular movement, in which both could be accommodated. With political alienation caused by the central government of Pakistan, both the Muslim and Hindu communities of East Pakistan decided to pool their resources for the nationalist movement. The Pakistani elite, on the other hand, treated this cooperation very suspiciously. Ayub Khan’s characterization, from 1967, is an example of this: East Bengalis … probably belong to the very original Indian races. It would be no exaggeration to say that up to the creation of Pakistan, they had not known any real freedom or sovereignty. They have been in turn ruled either by the caste Hindus, Moghuls, Pathans, or the British. In addition, they have been and still are under considerable Hindu cultural and linguistic influence. As such, they have all the inhibitions of downtrodden races and have not yet found it possible to adjust psychologically to the requirements of the newborn freedom. (Oldenburg, 1985: 724) Such a view had grave implications during the war. It was this deeply engrained idea that Pakistani Muslims were the vanguard of the nation – that they were born to rule the new state and to ‘instruct’ the Bengalis on how to become ideal members of the nation – that was largely responsible for the indiscriminate killing of Hindus and the mass rape of Bengali women. In a way, the forced impregnation of women was also meant to instil the ideologies of Pakistan in the Bengali psyche. The Pakistani elite believed that the Hindus were responsible for the revolt and, as soon as the Hindu problem was solved, the trouble would cease (ibid.: 728). The killing of Hindus was not necessarily a vicious act as such, but rather a strategic policy that Pakistanis thought would have a beneficial effect. Defence documents, autobiographies of Pakistani generals (e.g. Major General Rao Farman Ali Khan, 1992; and Lieutenant-General A. A. K. Niazi, 1998) and partisan academic literature from Pakistan all pointed to East Pakistan’s strong emotional and psychological attachment to West Bengal and ‘Hindu’ India. For decades following 1947, after all, the abduction and rape of Muslim women during the violent riots of Partition remained fresh in the minds of the ruling elite of Pakistan. Most of the senior officials of the Pakistan Army had experienced the violence of 1947 firsthand, and the mostly Punjabi members of the army hated

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anything related to Hinduism.13 All provinces of West Pakistan, other than Punjab, protested against the army crackdown of 25 March 1971 in East Pakistan (Mamun, 1999: 48). In an interview, I. A. Rehman, an eminent journalist and the chairperson of the independent Pakistan Human Rights Commission, observed the response of the Pakistani media to the East Pakistan crisis. He said that all newspaper reports had shown a negative attitude towards the struggle of Bengalis, and had carried propaganda that Bengalis were influenced by their ‘Hinduani’ culture (Mamun, 1999: 94–9). The intense hatred of Pakistanis towards Hindus was evident in their particularly brutal actions against the Hindu community in 1971 (Kuper, 1981: 79), as Hindu women were ruthlessly raped and killed by the army and its collaborators in Bangladesh (Mamun, 1999; D’Costa, interviews). Reflecting on the establishment of Dhaka University in 1921, K. Sarwar Hasan, who in 1971 was the secretary of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs in Karachi, writes of how the late Moulana Mohamed Ali thought that the establishment of the University was perceived by Hindus as ‘the reincarnation of the spirit of partition’ – referring to the first Partition of Bengal, in 1905, which was annulled in 1911 – ‘and opposed it’ (Hasan, 2000: 6). He suggests that the West Pakistani government accommodated all Hindu demands, and as a result Dhaka University was established as a predominantly Hindu institution. He goes on to say, It was staffed mainly by Hindu professors. But in as much as Pakistan came into being in the teeth of Hindu opposition and as the entire Hindu community was opposed to it, the Hindu professors of Dacca University and the hundreds of thousands of Hindu school masters throughout East Pakistan openly preached to their students against Pakistan. In fact it was these professors and teachers who sowed the seeds of the crisis.14 (Hasan, 2000: 6) On the ground, army officers operated with the perception that killing Hindus and driving out Hindu survivors would help save Pakistan (Oldenburg, 1985: 729). Officers of lower rank were quick to identify the minority Hindus. One Major Bashir told the journalist Anthony Mascarenhas, as published in the 13 June 1971 Sunday Times: This is a war between the pure and the impure … The people here may have Muslim names and call themselves Muslim. But they are Hindu at heart … [W]e are now sorting [them] out … Those who are left will be real Muslims. We will even teach them Urdu. The justification went beyond the notion that Hindus should leave for India – where they ‘belonged’, thus leaving East Pakistan ‘pure’ (Oldenburg, 1985: 730). For Bengali women, the dangerous implication of being connected to a ‘Hindu’ identity meant indiscriminate and vicious mass rapes by the army. Women were abducted and taken into rape camps located throughout the country, where they were often kept for months (D’Costa interviews, 1999). Although the existence of rape camps and the forced impregnation that took place there are today common

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knowledge in Bangladesh, official documents indicating these war crimes have either been sealed or destroyed. Biharis Like the Hindus and Bengali women, another community suffered grave, focused consequences of the 1971 war. The Bihari community, which in many instances supported the Pakistan Army in Bangladesh, faced the wrath of the Bengali community after 1971, though there is virtually no documentation of their experience. Bihari women were also subjected to torture and rape by Bengali men, both in the chaos of war and after (Brownmiller, 1975: 81). In 1947, Bihar was assigned to India, which led to a mass migration of Muslim Biharis to East Bengal (which was to become the eastern wing of Pakistan). During that time, an estimated 1 million refugees came from Bihar to East Pakistan (Minority Rights Group, 1972); post-1971 Bangladesh, however, the Biharis, who had been the Urdu-speaking community of East Pakistan, faced mass Bengali outrage. After Yahya Khan postponed the promised National Assembly on 1 March 1971, the Biharis began to be targeted as symbols of Pakistani domination. Early in March 1971, 300 Biharis were killed by mob attacks in Chittagong, following which the Pakistani government used the ‘Bihari massacre’ to justify deploying its military on 25 March – eventually, of course, leading to the 1971 conflict. In East Pakistan, the army had also made a practice of appointing Biharis to replace educated Hindus in many important administrative positions, as well as in the railway workshops and jute mills. During the war, the Pakistan Army created an auxiliary force to provide local support, the Razakaars, one wing of which (the Al-Shams) was mainly, though not entirely, composed of young Biharis. (The second wing, the Al-Badr, was used for particularly vicious fighting.) After a brief period of training, the Razakaars were used to guard industrial installations, communications channels and other vital establishments of the Pakistani government (Ahmad, 1982: 70). Starting from 25,000, their numbers grew to 50,000; they were found to be both useful and effective, and were placed under the army’s command in August 1971 (ibid.). At that time, a number of Bihari Razakaars seized the opportunity to take their revenge on Bengalis, slaughtering and looting alongside the Pakistan Army. Many of them were also perpetrators of sexual violence. The Razakaars searched houses in both urban and rural areas for freedom fighters, and reported them to the army. Moreover, they assisted the army to find ‘acceptable’ women and girls and, in many instances, forcibly abducted them for placement in rape camps (D’Costa interviews, 1999, 2001). When it became evident that the Pakistan Army was going to surrender, the Al-Badr massacred hundreds of Bengali intellectuals in Dhaka on 14 December 1971. The entire Bihari community was subsequently blamed for this (D’Costa, 2008). After Bangladesh’s creation, most West Pakistani civilians were evacuated to India, along with the defeated army. However, Biharis who were very poor and landless were abandoned by the Pakistani authorities, left to the mercy of the

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Bengalis. On 27 January 1972, following the withdrawal of the Indian Army, Bengali soldiers attacked the Bihari enclaves of Mirpur and Mohammadpur. Since the political leaders made no effort to distinguish between Biharis who collaborated with the Pakistan Army and the large number of Bihari families who had committed no crime, a massive cross-section of Biharis were forced to face the wrath of aggrieved Bengalis. Ultimately, several thousand Biharis were arrested as collaborators, to be imprisoned or disappeared. According to my interview with the doctor Geoffrey Davis, Bihari women were also kidnapped as retaliation for the wartime abductions of Bengali women during the war. Birangona My fieldwork research suggests that three parallel narratives are today operating in Bangladesh. First are the government-sponsored official narratives describing the political history of that time – for instance, the glorious liberation struggle movement by the muktijodhya (freedom fighters) at home and distinguished expatriate Bengalis overseas. Second is the Bengali literature (fiction and non-fiction) that provides noteworthy glimpses of people’s suffering And third are the experiences of survivors as found in their silences, or in the secrets guarded by families that suffered during the war – in particular, the families in which women and girls were raped and/or killed, or were taken to the rape camps to be impregnated. Together, these narratives have resulted in a general silence and secrecy regarding the experiences of women and the population in general during the Liberation War. In 1972, the Bangladesh government created the national body of the Bangladesh Women’s Rehabilitation Programme, in order to assist the thousands of rape survivors. Its headquarters were in Dhaka, with nationwide projects to assist the women to train for jobs. The programme’s chairperson, Justice K. M. Sobhan, noted that most of the 1,500 women who had applied for job training by May 1972 were mainly housewives who had never been out of their homes before and did not ‘know what the outside world looks like’ (New York Times, 12 May 1972). Employment opportunities were provided for Birangona women. However, their ‘rehabilitation’ was sustained neither in the bureaucracy nor in any authoritative position. Traditional employment regarded as ‘suitable’ for women included sewing, weaving, cooking or secretarial jobs, but the women who found employment reported being treated in a patronizing way by their employers and state officials (D’Costa interviews, 1999). In addition, such training was hindered by the fundamental paternalism and class bias of the state. Ultimately, there was little scope within these employment programmes for women to develop any real autonomy or integration into self-sustaining mainstream forms of employment. Their training activities were geared to the production of handicrafts for elite urban consumer markets, the dynamics of which were outside the experience of most of the Birangona women, many of whom belonged to the poorer classes within Bangladesh society. General Ziaur Rahman’s accession to power in 1975 coincided with the declaration of the UN Decade for Women, and he made overt and skilful use of the

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platform provided by the Women and Development lobby. The second Five-Year Plan (1980–5) was the first, after nearly three decades of development planning, to consider strategies to integrate women into the development process. Ten per cent of all jobs in the public sector were reserved for women, and two women had to be appointed by the government to the union councils, the main unit of village administration (Kabeer, 1988). At the same time, the Bangladesh Women’s Rehabilitation Programme was constituted as a statutory body in 1975, with a mandate to extend its activities to all poor women. The following year, the National Women’s Association was established to coordinate the activities of the various government and non-government organizations. In 1978, a separate Ministry of Women’s Affairs was set up to assist the government in formulating policies and programmes for women and children (Kabeer, 1988). Yet despite protests, the interests of women and children continue to be inextricably linked as far as the state is concerned.

Religion strikes back Bengali ‘secular’ nationalism adopted religion back into its fold soon after independence was attained. The intricate politicization of Islam, combined with Bengali nationalistic fervour, was particularly harmful to women. In order to understand why it was necessary for the country to wilfully overlook the issue of the Birangona, the return of Islamic elements into Bangladeshi politics needs to be discussed. The uneasy relationship between Bangladesh’s identity at birth and how the political scenario changed in 1975 with Mujib’s assassination rests on the tension between Islam and secularism, and between religious and ethnic identity at the heart of Bangladeshi nationalism. The Language Movement of 1952 created East Pakistan’s first martyrs for the cause against their indigenous colonial masters, who were also their Muslim brothers. As noted earlier, language became the central identity point for Bengali Muslims, and gave rise to a vibrant secular Bengali nationalism – to the point that the appeal of religion in politics and public life began to erode during the nationalist struggle. Immediately after independence, the secular national consciousness encouraged the authorities to change the names of institutions, parks and streets that had been named after Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Dr Muhammad Iqbal, the poet who prominently envisaged a Muslim state in the subcontinent (Rashiduzzaman, 1998). The Quranic symbols in university emblems were also removed, to reassert the secular nature of the academy. One significant issue was the country’s national anthem, Rabindranath Tagore’s song ‘Amar shonar bangla ami tomay bhalobashi’ (‘Oh my golden Bengal, I love you’), which had been selected by the government-in-exile. Rashiduzzaman observes: There was a philological romance with the ‘glorious past’ conveyed through the song, which was part of a future imagined for sovereign Bangladesh. For the Orthodox Muslims, the Tagore poem had an implied ‘worship’ of

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Hatred for Pakistan and the memories of the armed forces’ ferocity during 1971 were effectively used to create an imagined community of Bengalis, which was very masculine in nature. Political opportunists and the claims and counterclaims about whose leadership achieved freedom meant that brutalized women were tolerated only to the extent that they could be used to demonstrate the Pakistan Army’s viciousness. The widely used phrase ‘raped and tortured mothers and sisters of Bangla’ was deployed in such a way as to grant no honour or respect to the women themselves. On the contrary, it produced a rhetoric of pity and shame, from which it has been hard for Birangona women to escape, even four decades later. Two important, politically pragmatic choices of the successive regimes in Dhaka made it necessary to overlook the Birangona issue in the official national narrative. First, doing so became important in order to forge alliances with the Islamic political parties, as both domestic- and foreign-policy decisions derived from economic necessity and Bangladesh’s aid dependency. And second, doing so was necessarily simply in order to, gradually, create friendship with Pakistan. Yet importantly, both of these choices were made solely by the political and military elite of the country, and were not reflective of the people’s choices. At the ideological level, the secular politics of the Awami League were more compatible with women’s emancipation than were the theocratic politics of the Pakistani state. In 1971, Bangladesh was declared to be a People’s Republic, rather than an Islamic state, and its new Constitution embodied principles of secularism, democracy, socialism and nationalism. The Awami League’s support for these principles derived from an analysis of the ‘divisive political role played by religion in the nation’s history and its links with Pakistani colonialism rather than any commitment to gender equality’ (Kabeer, 1988: 112). Before long, however, Mujib realized that his regime’s policies were alienating the Islamic forces in the country. The Islamic Academy that Mujib had abolished in 1972 was revived in March 1975; he also began to attend religious gatherings, and gradually dropped the nationalistic slogan ‘Joy Bangla’ (‘Victory to Bengal’) from his speeches (Ghosh, 1993: 700). Most importantly, the Islamic nationalist parties – including the Jama’at-i-Islami, several factions of the Muslim League, the Nizam-i-Islami and the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam – had earlier been considered Pakistan Army collaborators, and thus had been banned. But because of strong pressure from leftist revolutionaries, the Awami League eventually decided to co-opt the Islamic nationalists. On 30 November 1973, a general amnesty was granted to all collaborators, with the exception of those who were charged with murder, rape and arson (Maniruzzaman, 1975). Fostering friendships abroad took on increased momentum. In September 1973, Bangladeshi representatives officially attended the Non-Aligned Movement in Algiers. Moreover, it began using its ‘Muslim’ image to gain Arab friendship,

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and scored a diplomatic success when it was recognized by the Arab countries in 1973, subsequently sending a medical support team for the Arab side during the Arab–Israeli War in October of that year. By 1975, Islamic anti-Indian nationalism in Bangladesh had gained precedence over the secularist ethnic nationalism that the Awami League had propagated during the liberation struggle. Internal factionalism, corruption and growing discontent within the armed forces finally resulted in a bloody coup on 15 August 1975 that included the assassination of Mujib, thus opening the door for the military elite to gradually take over leadership. On that day of the coup, Khondakar Mushtaq Ahmed told the nation via radio that the armed forces had taken over and, in response to the ‘historic necessity’, he had assumed the presidency of the country (ibid., 1982b). Pakistan was the first country to recognize the new government. The next day Saudi Arabia, which had withheld recognition for nearly four years, followed suit. India, however, made no secret of its resentment of what had transpired. Thereafter, a series of coups and counter-coups took place during the chaotic months of 1975 and 1976. Finally, on 30 November 1976, Ziaur Rahman took over power as Chief Martial Law Administrator. Two years later, in September 1978, he founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which worked to reinstate Islamic elements into politics – an important step for the military regime to gain legitimacy with vested interest groups, such as the religious elite. In fact, by 1977, the year before the BNP’s creation, Zia had already succeeded in abolishing secularism from the constitution (Huque and Akhter, 1987: 206), which was accomplished partly due to the need for donor monies from oil-exporting Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia. From the Constitution’s Preamble, ‘secularism’ was replaced by the words, ‘absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah’, and the addition of: ‘The State shall endeavour to consolidate, preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity’. Article 12 of the Constitution, which provided for the adoption of secularism, was also omitted by the same Order, passed on 23 April 1977. An earlier Order, passed the previous year, had already omitted the provision forbidding the operation of religion-based political parties, thus allowing Islam-oriented parties to return to the political arena. Cultural artefacts also came under the scanner. Zia declared the slogan ‘Joy Bangla’ un-Islamic. In its place, he popularized ‘Bangladesh Zindabad’ (‘Long live Bangladesh’), patterned after Pakistan’s slogan. He also made it mandatory for public servants to preface their speeches with the words ‘Bismillahir rahmanir rahim’ (‘In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful’). In 1980, Zia went still further, announcing his intention to declare Bangladesh an Islamic state again. However, due to public protests – especially by the cultural elite – the matter was quickly dropped. The issue was not dropped for long, however. Following Zia’s assassination by a military faction in 1982, Bangladesh began its second encounter with martial law and military rule, which was to last for nine years. Lieutenant-General Hussain Muhammad Ershad, a repatriate,15 reinstated martial rule and manipulated Islam to construct his political legitimacy, particularly in the rural areas. He

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also amended the Constitution and, finally, declared Bangladesh an Islamic state. Ruthless suppression of all demonstrations against the military regime quickly made it impossible for the cultural elite to mobilize in any strength against the declaration. Playing to the Saudis carried different gender implications from those with the Women and Development lobby. The Middle Eastern influence sought to strengthen traditional Islamic values, including the withdrawal of women from the public sphere and enforcing their seclusion in the home. To make matters worse, aid from Muslim countries was channelled into strengthening the madrasa-based education system in the countryside, adversely affecting women by imposing further social controls on them. The situation of women in general – and of Birangona in particular – in the nationalist debate should be observed in this context, bearing in mind that two important developments in the first two decades of Bangladesh’s existence had silenced women’s narratives in the official history. First, the emotional make-up of Bengali nationalism changed significantly with the 1975 coup, which transferred power to the military elite. Although the Awami League did not accept the BNP’s proposal to call citizens ‘Bangladeshis’ instead of ‘Bengalis’, this debate successfully divided the citizens on their Bengali-versus-Bangladeshi identity (see Rashiduzzaman for details). This offered yet another way by which to imagine the history of Bengali nationbuilding – and one that was not secular in character at all. Second, Islamic revivalism in Bengali national identity politics necessitated that the story of women’s participation in the national struggle be pushed back into the private sphere. There was simply no space for the Birangona women to negotiate their place in the rewriting of history of the 1971 struggle. During the national struggle for liberation, the collaborators and Islamic parties had allegedly supported the Pakistani government’s oppressive policies towards women. Moreover, numerous unofficial documents, including literature, films and the personal stories of Bengalis, illustrate that the activists and political leaders of Islamic parties were directly involved in the rape and abduction of women. Imams and mullahs (Muslim religious leaders) publicly declared Bengali women to be gonimoter maal (public property), thereby making it ostensibly acceptable for the men of the Pakistan Army and their collaborators to rape Bengali women (Mamun, 1999). To reinstate these collaborators back into the core of politics, the official narrative had to neglect the micro-narratives of the war, which in turn silenced the Birangona story. It is one thing to cite numbers, but it is quite another to document individual stories that may well lead to trials and possible redress. The political elite of Bangladesh knew this, and subsequently worked to manipulate the history by censoring the contents of textbooks (Zaman, 1999: 39), destroying official documents (D’Costa interviews, 1999, 2000), and discouraging unbiased research into the war. Yet while the state policy directly intervened through official history-writing, it could not prevent the corresponding formation of history in Bengali narratives, most of which were documented by the Bengali cultural elite, composed of academics, Bengali nationalists, political activists, social workers, reformists, writers, singers, artists, lawyers, journalists and feminists.

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‘Embedded in the background of nationalist movements before 1947 and subsequent anti-West Pakistan agitational politics culminating in the 1971 independence war,’ Rashiduzzaman writes, ‘the liberal intellectuals and their political cohorts are a force to be reckoned with’ (Rashiduzzaman, 1994: 976). A significant majority of this cultural elite was educated at the University of Dhaka. Its members had been among the first targets of the Pakistan Army’s crackdown in 1971, as well as its final targets on 14 December 1971, in the attempt to destroy the intellectual base and civil society of the new state of Bangladesh. Secular nationalists who sought to unify the country through linguistic and literary symbols as opposed to religion were killed (ibid.: 976–9). They were opposed to the religious orthodoxy, and they highlighted the emancipation of women as the differentiating category between them and the Islamic elite. They were uncompromisingly critical of the Muslim fundamentalist groups, including Jama’at-i-Islami and the Muslim League, which had opposed Bangladesh’s independence. Since that time, the strength of the Islamic parties in Bangladesh has grown dramatically. On 29 July 1994, an alliance of 13 pro-Islamic groups, the United Actions Council (the UAC, from which Jama’at-i-Islami was formally excluded), with nearly 100,000 supporters, demanded that the author Taslima Nasreen, other ‘atheists’, murtaads (apostates) and anti-Islamic writers be arrested, punished and even hanged. The UAC further demanded that the Bangladesh government pass a blasphemy law; that NGOs be restrained from their ‘anti-Islamic’ activities; that no Indian, American or external interference be allowed in internal and religious matters (note that, in this, there was no mention of Pakistan); and that all anti-Islamic newspapers and publications be banned (ibid.: 983). A few controversial statements made during a protest meeting at that time intensified the debate between the religious and secular cultural elites. For example, the then high-ranking Islamist leader Khatib Obaidul Haque (now deceased) reportedly blamed Western-educated nationalists for the ‘break-up of Pakistan’ in 1971. Another leader, Fazlul Karim, said that non-fundamentalist Muslims should be marked as ‘bastards’ (ibid.). This is comparable to the Pakistani attitude towards Bengalis in 1971, when in official and non-official conversations they mocked Bengalis for not being ‘true’ Muslims and for having strong ties with Hindus. To a considerable degree, this reasoning was also used as a justification for raping and impregnating Bengali women, so they could give birth to ‘true’ Muslims.

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During the struggle for Bangladeshi independence Muslims slaughtered fellow Muslims, invalidating the previously held notion that shared religion alone was sufficient to hold Pakistan together. On 16 December 1971, Bangladesh became a sovereign independent state, following nine months of guerrilla warfare and armed intervention by India at the very end. The war was sold to West Pakistanis not as a fratricidal war, however, but rather as a jihad, a holy war, against infidels (Sobhan, 1994: 71). As stated earlier, Pakistani soldiers and their collaborators, allegedly targeted women, boasting that they would ‘convert’ East Pakistan by engendering ‘true’ Muslims (Sobhan, 1994: 71). While it is difficult to find the exact number of women subjected to sexual violence during the war, genocide scholars estimate that 200,000 women were raped. Some 25,000 of these attacks resulted in pregnancies (Brownmiller, 1975: 79). The discrepancy in numbers, however, does not alter one inescapable fact: that, in 1971, the Pakistan Army used rape as a genocidal strategy (Copelon, 1994 197; Manchanda, 2001: 29–30). Descriptions by both men and women of their experiences of 1971 indicate that Pakistani soldiers kept Bengali women in camps where they raped them repeatedly. Although no official proof exists that the rapes were conducted at the command of those high up the scale of authority, all indicators suggest that there was no attempt to prevent the attacks. Moreover, rape was encouraged by the Pakistani military elite as a strategy to ‘cleanse’ the Bengali community of its Hindu influence. The official history of 1971 narrates the political and military struggle that finally gave birth to a nation-state for the Bengalis. As Chapter 3 demonstrates, the political, social and cultural movements that have since evoked the memory of 1971 have given importance, alternately, to both the heroes and the anti-heroes of the national struggle. But more than anything else, the story of 1971 is that of the experience of the common people of Bangladesh and their struggle. The experiences of women played a significant part in that story, yet many such experiences were either struck out entirely or homogenized in such a way that very few individual women were highlighted. Of course, none will say that this was the intention. Dr Sukumar Biswas, who was on the editorial board of the Liberation Documents of Bangladesh, was quoted by the Independent (2 April 1999) regarding the board’s view on the women’s

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stories: ‘We never intended to ignore women in the history of 1971,’ he said. ‘One can see the presence of women, as sufferers as well as participants, in the research work like the 15-volume documents prepared under Hasan Hafizur Rahman. And in numerous works later on, there has been no diminishing of women’s role.’ Yet such a focus on rape and sexual violence did not make the women visible, even though that was now the intention. On the contrary, from the Bangladeshi perspective, focusing on the victimization of these women was one of the central ways to publicize the atrocities committed by Pakistani soldiers during 1971. The stories of victimization were also used to create international sympathy in order to attract foreign aid that was urgently needed to rebuild the war-devastated economy. Graphic details of rape and torture reinforced ideas about the seemingly ‘passive’ and ‘helpless’ nature of Bengali women. The distinction between a focus on women in general and a focus on particular women and their unique stories, however, is fundamental. In the preface to the report by the Ain-O-Shalish Kendra’s Oral History Project on 1971, the prominent women’s-rights activist Hameeda Hossain observes that women’s experiences were not given any space in the construction of the national narrative (ASK, 2001: 10). Only a limited number of women’s stories – in particular, those of women who were political or social activists – have been incorporated into the history. Most of these women were educated and from the middle or upper classes. (Two prominent examples include the political leader Motia Chowdhury, the agricultural minister in the Awami League Government, and the social worker Rokeya Rahman Kabir, executive director of Nari Progoti Shogho, a leading NGO concerned with women’s affairs.) Most other women, meanwhile, slipped quietly into the folds of history. These include those left behind to take care of their families (particularly the aged and infants) while their men went off to fight the war; those who became freedom fighters and fought alongside the men; those who supported the freedom fighters by providing them with food and medicine; those who took care of the wounded, which often led to their incarceration by the Pakistan Army or the Razakaars (collaborators). Finally, these also included those who were raped, either in their own homes or taken to rape camps to be raped repeatedly and forcibly impregnated. In this chapter, I refer to all women who participated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, in the national war. But my key point of reference is always the experience of the Birangona, or rape survivors – those who have suffered a more strenuous process of silencing than any others. Often families tried to hide the fact that their daughters had been abducted by the army. (In Bengali, the phrase would be, ‘Punjabira dhorey niey gechilo’, meaning ‘The Punjabis have forcibly taken her’.) But in close-knit, communal rural settings, it was hard to disguise the abductions and rape. I spoke with many people in order to publicize the fact that I wanted to document the narratives of women survivors for academic purposes only. But despite these assurances, no immediate family members volunteered information on the details and whereabouts of Birangona. In every case, it was farther removed contacts – relatives, social workers, NGOs working in the community – who ultimately helped me to find the women.

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Broadly, the government’s view was twofold. Such women were in no way responsible for what happened to them during the war, yet at the same time it was also their ‘sacrifice’ that made the creation of Bangladesh possible. On the other hand, at the local, day-to-day level, individual families never revealed that their daughters had experienced sexual violence during the war, although it was quite common for neighbours to whisper about the survivors. As such, a large amount of information on the issue comes from the primary reports of journalists, Internet discussions and a small amount of literature. Yet it was through these scant sources, and with the assistance of a few women, that this project has been able to weave an alternative narrative. The silence on the experiences of many women was imposed by a combination of factors. In Chapter 3, I discussed the major factors that contributed to this shroud of silence on Birangona narratives: the high politics of India–Pakistan–Bangladesh post-war diplomacy; the domestic policy choices of regimes in Bangladesh; and the self-interest of elite groups that worked only for their own survival. In this chapter, however, I discuss the factors that influenced the silencing of women’s voices at the micro-level. In particular, these include the government-initiated rehabilitation programme, as well as the traditional and cultural norms of shame, purity and honour – all of which collectively gave impetus to women’s silence. This chapter is divided into three parts. The first describes my entry in the field. The second part has four broad sections, in which I detail the experiences of the Birangona during the war, the programmes carried out by the Bangladesh government to rehabilitate rape survivors into the society, the abortion and adoption policies of the state, and the situation of Hindu victims of the war. The final part is an analysis of the gendered construction of national identity that was apparent in the Bangladesh Liberation War narrative. I should first offer some contextual background to the sensitive material that follows. This book has been concerned with silenced voices and the representation of women in the historical narratives of their countries. My concern here has not been to break this silence, but rather to interrogate its nature and the levels in which it exists. This section is important in focusing my position for readers, and allowing for an understanding of what kind of information I gathered and how I gathered it. I also briefly discuss the challenges I faced in order to do this. Obstacles faced during the field research eventually caused me to change my focus from the silence of women to the nationalist construction of gendered experiences. As such, my intention has not been to forcibly bring back the silenced voices for the purpose of analysis, but instead to demonstrate the difficulty in breaking through a silence imposed on women by the state’s exclusionary approach when constructing national stories. In order to create a coherent identity, the sufferers’ voices have been muted and the differences ignored. In this process, women who were raped have become mere numbers and statistics. Although I am concerned about, and very conscious of, the silencing of women’s voices, I have not been able to bring these voices ‘directly’ into this book. Many women spoke through social workers, medical examiners and families, and the final work thus relies heavily on the voices of these people. Another important

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‘voice’ has been that of the Oral History Project documents (many of which are unpublished), carried out by the Ain-O-Shalish Kendra (ASK). I was closely involved with the ASK project during my fieldwork, and was able to access its unpublished interviews. I was also able to speak with some women directly, but each had strong reservations about printing her words directly. Ultimately, and unfortunately, all of the women today have in common a wariness towards attempts to document their stories. Their experiences of being used as political pawns, often forcing them to become pariahs in their own communities, have made many extremely cautious in sharing their stories. In this, the only exception1 I could find was the sculptor Ferdousi Priyobhashini, who was raped during 1971. She continues to actively engage in dialogues on the war, and to share her experiences; her story is included later in this chapter. Figure 4.1 traces my fieldwork locations in both Bangladesh and India.

Entering the field2 For this project, field research meant gathering qualitative data and incorporating the experiences of women into a new narrative. This required a particularly intensive method, using a necessarily small number of subjects. Critically, this process has directly linked oral history to the social history of the colonized subcontinent. In so doing, I adopted Wolf’s definition of oral histories as ‘a way to capture the pasts of less literate and more marginalized groups whose histories might not otherwise be transcribed’ (Wolf, 1996: 8), which has been utilized in particular by feminist historians. Indeed, oral history seems to hold for feminists the very real promise of exploring the social experience of women, and retrieving it as both compensatory and supplementary women’s history. Yet while welcoming its revealing potential, we must be equally attentive to the difficulties of oral history. Early on, feminist researchers realized that traditional oral-history methodology was still grappling with the separation of subject and object, researcher and respondent, the personal and the political, and so on. Uncomfortable realities about class privilege in interview situations, material inequality between the researcher and the respondent, and the implications of collecting oral narratives for use in research – each of these can create complexities. During the interviews that are part and parcel to building this oral history, my own research experience posed similar problems at almost every stage. Particularly troubling was my inability to deal with the reversal of roles inherent when women would ask me, ‘What is the use of asking all of these questions now? It’s too late – you can’t change anything.’ Nonetheless, I continue to believe that it is important to ask such questions, and to document women’s narratives – not only for the purpose of setting the record straight, but also in order to analyse properly how the nation-state deliberately excludes voices it considers dangerous. The reassertion of women’s voices can help us to understand how the control of women’s lives, mainly their motherhood and sexuality, is important to the nation-state’s identity. Their voices also help us to make sense of the heavy silence that hangs over Bangladeshi women’s experiences of sexual violence during the war. Today

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Figure 4.1 Field work sites in Bangladesh and India

I feel I can answer the women’s questions more clearly: I want to help in creating a fresh dialogue with marginalized groups in Bangladesh, especially with women, so that the war crimes committed in 1971, particularly those that have ongoing implications for women, can be addressed. The case studies included in this book demonstrate that the process of designing state policies is inherently an elite project, with subaltern people, especially

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women, playing little part in the formation and transmission of dominant ideas. The masculine elite groups in both India and Bangladesh dominated the construction of the official narratives of the conflict. The problem is not that the stories of women are absent from the narrative of 1971, but rather that they have been presented from a male perspective that has rigidified history as a collective experience of the war. This constricted history-making has reinforced the traditional space of women within the boundary of the nation-state. Women were not consulted about their post-conflict ‘survival’ techniques, and thus it fell to the nationalist elite to ultimately decide their destiny. For example, the elite simply assumed that all women who were raped and impregnated would want either to have abortions or to give their babies up for adoption – the state thus has no room for ‘war babies’. In this way, the voices of the Birangona and other subaltern groups – who did not participate directly in the creation of the ruling ideas – were effectively silenced or excluded from the history. Although confinement in rape camps for forced impregnation may have been discussed at the official level in terms of numbers, or in terms of the politics of putting on trial those responsible for war crimes, the Birangona were not considered in the official narrative in any other way. This is a shame, for in hearing women recount their experiences of 1971, it was particularly empowering to see how many had created new identities in which suffering was hidden, at a time when resistance and survival was central. They reinvented their homes, re-landscaped their worlds and survived. Writing about rape, recovery of memory and violence is never an easy task, influenced as it is by assumptions, presuppositions and contradictions. Vested interests, personal history, ideological loyalty and published documents all shaped my field research (details in D’Costa, 2005). Each time I was introduced to a new respondent, I was haunted by the question of where and when I should enter this new life. The answer proved different for each individual. As importantly, I learned that the enduring reality of war and survival after the war resonated not only in the words being spoken by the women, but also in their silences. In many cases, this silence had been forced on the women through a political process, as will become apparent later in this chapter; but they also chose to remain silent as a necessity, imposed upon them by the traditional patriarchal society in which they lived. New lives – shaped by a war that they had neither initiated nor actively participated in – were forced upon them by the state, both in the capital and at the local level, as well as by their communities and families. Against this backdrop, an important conceptual question arises: How can we relate a rigorous structural analysis of how, why and where the political shifts take place, to how we can analyse women’s lives as agents of history through their struggles and survival? Adding women into the official narrative, or even simply making them visible, are necessary but ultimately insufficient steps towards intellectually and politically satisfying explanations of political change. Bearing this in mind, I focus on the life stories of marginalized women and their survival initiatives, as told to social workers, families or friends. In the end, possibilities for social change can indeed be found in analyses that locate and link the political

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margins with the political centre in diverse social theories and political practices. Feminist methodology makes it possible for researchers to provide such windows both in academic environments and in activist networks.

The search for the past My field experience indicated that merely asking women what they thought in response to set questions would not necessarily lead to the women being heard by society at large. Birangona, especially those who live in rural areas, might lack the means to reflect upon or to articulate their own experiences, except through socially learned norms of thought. As such, it could be more important to focus on the expressed emotions and lived realities of women in actual situations, and thereafter offering them choices such that they could have the opportunity to gain useful insights into how they have been silenced in the national history-making of the state. It was with this objective in mind that I proceeded to conduct interviews on women’s experiences from 1971. I conducted field research in Bangladesh and in India during two stages, from September 1999 until April 2000, and from March until May 2001. I travelled to distant parts of Bangladesh and India – to Rangpur, Sri Mangal, Sylhet, Chittagong, Comilla, Jessore and Dinajpur – to collect these women’s ‘micro-narratives’. On both field trips, my starting point was to ask where women are generally situated with regards to the state-sponsored discourse of nationalism. Originally, I had planned to document and analyse the gendered dimension of the post-conflict politics of the exclusivist formation of national identity in Bangladesh. Constraints in the field forced a rethink of this focus, however, and the approach was eventually forced to become more indirect. The first and foremost constraint was that more some three decades had passed since 1971. Second, despite those intervening years, the silence surrounding the rape of women in 1971 remained extremely strong, with the attacks continuing to be well-guarded secrets within families. The women, too, still do not feel comfortable in talking about the pain and trauma of 1971. Their discomfort is a combination of traumatic memories, traditional perimeters of shame and purity, the stigma attached to the rape experience, the need to reintegrate into their society and the need to address basic requirements for survival. In combination, these factors have led each individual woman to create her own strategy, which constitutes her survival technique by which she can, as women told me, ‘just to get on with their lives’. As such, my presence as a researcher exploring their silences in some cases threatened to disrupt the women’s lives. Many women therefore had no interest in speaking with me about their experiences. In most such cases I had to settle for comments from family members, neighbours and other community members. I do not consider this to be a weakness of the project, however. Rather, it is a potent reflection of the complicated politics of memory and silence – both of which lie at the heart of this project. Indeed, this process also created a unique and useful introduction to the women’s lives through the networks of their families and communities.

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As such, although the Birangona remained the central focus of my discussions, I was also able to converse with a far broader spectrum of people. These included muktijodhya (freedom fighters), social workers, political activists, academics, medical personnel, emergency relief staff, journalists and others, all of whom had worked in Bangladesh during and after the war. Finding enthusiastic respondents interested in narrating their own war stories was not a difficult assignment, as almost everyone who lived through the war had unique stories to tell. While in India, I interviewed nuns at the Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity Home in Calcutta (now Kolkata) who were initially involved with the adoption of war babies. There, I interviewed Respondent M (who wishes to remain anonymous), one of the principal actors in the Bangladesh government’s rehabilitation and adoption programme; as well as Dr Geoffrey Davis,3 who worked in Bangladesh for nine months in 1972, at which point he guided the government-sponsored abortion and adoption programmes. I also interviewed some individuals who had been political activists during the 1960s and 1970s, who eventually fled to India during the regime of Ayub Khan in Pakistan (1956–69). Finally, I spoke with Hindu families who left East Pakistan during the late 1960s due to severe government actions against them. However, my interviews with Birangona women fall into a completely different set of criteria. In all the interviews I had several objectives. First and foremost, I wanted to listen to and document the gendered narrative of 1971, and to gain an understanding of the role the Birangona women expected the state to play in their lives. Second, I wanted to understand how the state’s intervention and politics have affected their lives. Finally, I wanted to document the women’s understanding of their own roles in the national struggle and their negotiated survival strategies. The questions I asked were quite broad, and were mainly aimed at discerning the nature of the rescue operation and the immediate post-war experience of the women. For instance, Who rescued the women from the rape camps? What were their attitudes? What was the initial response of the families and friends? Have they since received any counselling or help? While interviews with the women formed my primary sources, the respondents did not give me permission to use their words directly in quotes. As alluded to earlier, one major reason for this was apprehensiveness about anyone keen to know about their experiences of 1971. Many viewed such ‘digging into the past’ as an unnecessary exercise that would only cause more pain and misery for the women, especially because no organized attempt to seek redress has yet taken place in Bangladesh. This is a sentiment shared by many cultural elites and feminists in the country. A good example of this reaction was that of Dr Nilima Ibrahim, one of the most prominent social workers in the country, who was appointed by former Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to coordinate the post-war rehabilitation programme for women. During an interview, she became upset when I asked her to introduce me to some of the women, and ultimately refused to disclose the identity of any to me. Such reactions are not surprising, of course. In the past, many women’s stories have been exploitatively used, without any legal, financial or moral support being

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offered to the women. Moreover, the sensitive nature of their stories and what was likely to happen to them if their identities were disclosed had been ignored in the past, which had only further contributed to the stigma such women were forced to bear by their communities. In 1992, four rape survivors arrived in Dhaka to testify for the People’s Tribunal, organized by a group known as the Committee for the Elimination of the Killers and Collaborators of ’71and Restoration of the Spirit of the Liberation War, also known as the Nirmul Committee (Dhaka Courier, 3–16 April: 14–16). Due to a government-sponsored attack (Kabir, 1993; Begum, 2001: 82), the court was not able to document the women’s testimonies; nonetheless, their photos appeared in newspapers the following day. The women suddenly found themselves excluded from life in their communities – and particularly disinterested in speaking again about their experiences with ‘outsiders’. This type of suspicion presented the single largest impediment to conducting the research required for this project. I now suggest that if, in future, such women are interviewed in woman-friendly environments, sensitive to their traditional and cultural restrictions, this difficulty might be overcome. But bearing this in mind, a key consideration of my research had to be to maintain the confidentiality of all respondents. Although the interviews have significantly enriched my analysis, this confidentiality has in most instances meant that I am not able quote the women directly, which constitutes a major constraint of the project. Another significant and related constraint was limited time. In order to create an open and trustworthy relationship, each interview required more time than I was able to afford with my restricted resources. Yet while these limitations shaped my research to a certain extent, my objective of representing women’s voices was not compromised. (Readers should also be aware that most of the testimonies and interviews here are my own translations from Bengali or Hindi into English. I tried to maintain the integrity of words in the original language, and to translate without changing the meaning of the words.) I should also sound a note of warning about memory in general. Although memory holds important meaning, such meaning gathers only in the silence of its own absence – an absence that memory demands, though we understand remembering as its defiance. Memory and forgetting are no more opposites than are language and silence (MacKendrick, 2001: 101). Along these lines, for instance, it was exasperating to be unable to identify a pattern in the abusive language used by soldiers in the rape camps, because neither the women nor others (for instance, guards, maids and janitors) could remember more than a few pertinent words – often expletives used to abuse the individual for being Bengali. For women, forgetting such abuse may have been very significant because only through forgetting could they survive. In order to supplement the interviews, I looked for information about women survivors in a variety of sources and places. I looked through memoirs, newspaper reports, official documents, reports of inquiry commissions (for instance, the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report) and, of course, books (see the Bibliography). I investigated old documents in colleges, churches (the Armanitola Catholic Church in Dhaka and the Khulna Church), orphanages (the Bottomly Home Orphanage in Dhaka and the Missionaries of Charities Home in Calcutta)

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as well as a few NGOs (ASK in particular). Collectively, these sources were used to reconstruct many different voices of the war and national identity politics, and together these have made for a narrative in which my presence as both author and interpreter is quite visible. Ultimately, the fact of the matter is that the difficulties and experiences of women in the official history of Bangladesh cannot be investigated through a clearly defined set of records. Yet by analysing the historical invisibility of women and by drawing insights from women’s narratives, new areas of enquiry have opened up: women’s sexuality and its regulation, and women’s maternal rights in contradiction to the state’s ‘imagined’ identity.

Birangona stories, I In order to understand the context of the atrocities committed on the Birangona, it is important first to understand the Pakistani elite’s general perception of Bengalis in the period leading up to the War of Liberation. On 22 March 2002, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn published an article titled ‘Who distorts history?’, which quoted Yahya Khan who, as President of Pakistan, ordered the infamous army crackdown in the country’s eastern wing in 1971. ‘I am Chief of Army Staff, Chief Martial Law Administrator and President of Pakistan – in that order,’ Yahya famously stated just after his plane had landed in Jessore, in western Bangladesh, after flying from Dhaka Cantonment. At the time, he was talking to a small group of Dhaka journalists who had travelled to Jessore to cover the arrival of Burmese Muslims. (In Burma, the minority Muslim community was periodically prosecuted and forced out of the country, thus creating a refugee crisis in Bangladesh.) When Yahya was informed about the newsmen’s assignment, he made pointed comments towards a Bengali crowd that had assembled on the fringes of the airport. In Urdu he stated, ‘Pahle inko Musalman Karo’ (‘First and foremost, make these Bengalis Muslim’). This brief encounter took place a few months before the army crackdown on the Bengali population (all quotes, Akhter Payami, Dawn, 22 March 2002). The general’s words and actions were significant for two reasons. First, he made the real source of his strength known in no uncertain terms. He was not carrying out the popular will of the people; he did not derive any inspiration from democratic norms and principles; and he was fully aware of the ‘wisdom’ of the dictum that power always flows from the barrel of a gun. Second, by making a derogatory remark about the loyalty to Islam of the Bengali Muslims, as well as about their sense of patriotism, he specifically questioned their integrity. In this, of course, Yahya was not the first military ruler of West Pakistan to bluntly express his contempt for the people of East Pakistan. Many before him, including several top bureaucrats, had ridiculed the Bengalis for their way of life. The work of the revered poet of Bengal, Rabindranath Tagore, was even banned by Radio Pakistan, while a section of the Pakistani media did much to disseminate hatred between the Bengali and non-Bengali segments of Pakistani society. Yahya Khan’s order to make ‘true Muslims’ out of Bengalis was certainly carried out during the nine months of war in Bangladesh by the Pakistan Army and its collaborators, the Razakaar. As noted previously, although the exact number

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of rapes is still heavily disputed, the widely held estimate is that almost 200,000 women were raped during those nine months (Brownmiller, 1975: 79; Jahan, 1995a, 1995b: 102, ASK, 2001). In the immediate aftermath of the conflict, this number was reported at a press conference in Geneva by an official with the World Council of Churches, Reverend Kentaro Buma (New York Times, 18 January 1972). Yet in an interview with me, Dr Geoffrey Davis, who was working in Bangladesh in 1972, suggested the number was far higher (D’Costa, interview, 2002). Dr Davis also discovered that gynaecological infection was rampant, noting that ‘almost every victim tested had venereal disease’ (D’Costa, interview, 2002). As a term, ‘Birangona’ was introduced by the first prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (‘Mujib’), in order to ‘acknowledge’ the ‘sacrifice’ of women for the freedom of Bangladesh in 1971. The literal translation of the word is ‘war heroine’, and originally its use was intended to honour all women – the political activists, freedom fighters, rape survivors and so on – who participated in the national struggle. Most often, however, the term is used only to identify women who were subjected to rape and sexual violence during the war. Mujib was well intentioned in including the raped women under this rubric, as were those who committed themselves to assisting the women in the rehabilitation programmes. Unfortunately, rather than doing justice to the women or granting them special status, the term ended up labelling them as ‘fallen’ women. In essence, the word worked as a distinct marker, a boundary even, which identified them as victims of rape. In addition, in Bengali a term phonetically similar to ‘Birangona’ – barangana – means a prostitute or a loose woman, and has been used in some instances to mock the survivors. Its use is a stinging reminder to the state of how the norm of purdah, or female seclusion, collapsed during the war, when men were unable to defend their women. Not only were the women left unprotected during the fighting, but their families also subsequently abandoned many of them after the war. Initially, the official accordance of the term ‘Birangona’ was meant to give these women an honorary status, in order to provide them with equal access to privileges in the public sector, such as the education and employment rights granted to male freedom fighters (Pereira, 2002: 6). By its very nature, however, the term was a restrictive privilege. So strong was the stigma of rape in Bangladesh that most women did not take advantage of the title, ‘because to do so would be tantamount to focusing on the scar of rape on the victim, thus forcing her to risk a social death’ (Pereira, 2002: 62). In response, concerned Bengalis, especially the cultural elites, coined new terms, such as nari jodhya, meaning women fighters. But introducing new or innovative terms has rarely proven to be the solution to the problem. The stigma cannot be removed simply by changing the term itself, because the stigma itself emanates from tradition and societal norms and values. Unless the aim is to change those specifically, no new terminology will be able to bring about effective change. Moreover, the word jodhya means combatant; after all, wars are not only about freedom and heroic tales, they are also tales of killing, brutality and violence. In Bangladesh, many women’s lives were changed dramatically by a war that they neither initiated nor in which they were active participants. Furthermore, their battle with the

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structural violence did not end after the war was over (D’Costa, interview, 2002), while their sacrifices have gone virtually undocumented (though not unnoticed) and unaddressed. As such, introducing new terminology is clearly not the answer to the problem. Indeed, the term ‘Birangona’ is a valiant and important part of Bangladesh’s history. For these reasons, I use ‘Birangona’ to refer to those women who, despite victimization, fought both during 1971 and in the aftermath of the war. Again, the official response was at first well intentioned. The social workers, government officials and medical staff involved in the rehabilitation project were genuinely compassionate towards the survivors. But although their work was highly commendable, their attitudes and decisions were also reflective of traditional values and patriarchal state policies. All involved endorsed decisions that were supposed to reintegrate women into society as soon as possible, by keeping their trauma and the ordeal they had undergone a secret. Three related concerns in Bangladesh contributed to the official silence surrounding rape. First, because reintegration into society was given the highest priority, the option of classifying rape as either a war crime or a crime against humanity received no significant attention from the government and its elite segments. (In this, it should be noted that Bangladesh signed the Rome Statute on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court on 16 September 1999, and now formally recognizes that rape, sexual aggression and gender-specific violence constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity [Pereira, 2002: 7]). Second, the post-war diplomacy between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh left no space in which to discuss rape as a war crime. Third, the gradual rehabilitation of collaborators with the Pakistan Army into the Bangladeshi political scenario at both the local and state government levels silenced individual stories through both direct and indirect coercion. In particular, with the lifting of the ban on extremist religious political parties (Jahan, 1995: 97), the lingering Birangona issue was further buried. In addition, at the time there was not a strategic feminist movement or consciousness by which to make available a ‘pro-women’ political language and basis for claim. Interestingly, such conditions left the initial stories to be told by foreigners. While reporting on the Bangladesh War in 1971, Joseph Fried, a war correspondent for the New York Daily News, wrote: A stream of victims and eyewitness tell how truckloads of Pakistani soldiers and their hireling razakaars swooped down on villages in the night, rounding up women by force. Some were raped on the spot. Others were carried to military compounds. Some women were still there when Indian troops battled their way into Pakistani strongholds. Weeping survivors of villages razed because they were suspected of siding with the Muktibahini freedom fighters told of how wives were raped before the eyes of their husbands, who were then put to death … Pakistani officers maintain that their men were too disciplined ‘for that sort of thing’. (cited in Brownmiller, 1975: 79) Another war correspondent, Aubrey Menen, wrote about a 17-year-old Hindu bride whose father described the rape committed by six soldiers. The father said:

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Gendered nationbuilding Two went into the room that had been built for the bridal couple. The others stayed behind with the family, one of them covering them with his gun. They heard a barked order, and the bridegroom’s voice protesting. Then there was silence until the bride screamed … In a few minutes one of the soldiers came out, his uniform in disarray. He grinned to his companions. Another soldier took his place in the extra room. And so on, until all six had raped the belle of the village. Then all six left, hurriedly. The father found his daughter lying on the string cot unconscious and bleeding. Her husband was crouched on the floor, kneeling over his vomit. (Menen, 1972)

Menen later found the girl in the rehabilitation centre in Dhaka. She said that her husband had refused to take her back and her father was ‘ashamed’. Menen wrote: I took my leave. I was at the door when she called me back. ‘Huzoor,’ (a title of honor)! ‘Yes?’ ‘You will see that those men are punished,’ she said. ‘Punished, punished, punished’. (ibid.) In Chapter 3, I discussed at length how the issue of justice was hijacked by politics and the vested interests of various groups. After the war, the government of the newly independent Bangladesh arrested 37,000 individuals on various charges of collaboration with the Pakistan Army. Only 7,500 of these were ever convicted, however, and most of these were later released (Rashiduzzaman, 1999). The politicians and intellectuals failed to distinguish between those who might have pro-Pakistani political beliefs and those charged as killers and rapists. As a result, Bangladesh has found itself in an endless process of writing and rewriting history, with hate and mutual suspicion between the perceived pro-liberation and anti-liberation forces. One particularly notable example of this is the divisive question of exactly who declared Bangladesh’s independence, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman or Ziaur Rahman. Bangladesh today remains dramatically polarized over this question – one that is no academic disagreement over the past, but rather a politically explosive issue that determines the winners and losers in Bangladeshi politics to this day. The political decisions taken in the immediate aftermath of the war were no less explosive. Maleka Khan, a social worker and an important player in the rehabilitation programme, lost her brother during the war. When asked about post-war justice, she remembered her mother’s anger. ‘My younger brother was a martyr,’ she said. ‘My mother retorted, “Go and ask the prime minister which martyr’s mother he asked before granting amnesty to Pakistanis!”’ (ASK Oral History Project interview, unpublished). Indeed, the personal indignities suffered by many at the hands of the Pakistani soldiers are incredible, and make any mother’s anger understandable. But few stories are as difficult to stomach as those involving the women, despite the resounding silence that followed most of them. Geoffrey Davis recalled: We used to hear about it all the time. Some of the stories they told us were appalling. Being raped again and again and again by large Pathan soldiers.

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You couldn’t believe that anybody would do that. All the rich and pretty ones were kept for the officers and all the other ones were distributed among the other ranks. And the women had it really rough. They didn’t get enough to eat. When they got sick, they got no treatment. A lot of them died in those camps. There was an air of disbelief about the whole thing. That nobody could credit that it really happened! But the evidence clearly showed that it did happen. (D’Costa, interview, 2002) Such evidence aside, very few attributed survivors’ accounts existed for decades after the war. Nililma Ibrahim’s book Ami Birangana Bolchi, first published in 1994, was the only available collection of testimonies of women survivors in print until 2001, when ASK published its oral-history report. Yet as important as these works were, they offered only a handful of accounts between them. Ibrahim published seven interviews in her book, based on direct contact with women whom she had known since 1971. For its part, after four years of intense research, ASK was able to publish only five additional interviews. This gives an indication of the extremely hostile and difficult circumstances in which these women continued to live in Bangladesh, where coming forward with their stories remained (and remains) extremely hard, albeit not impossible. Ibrahim’s book was reprinted in 1998. In the preface to that edition, she wrote: I promised my readers that I would publish a third edition of Ami Birangona Bolchi (‘I, the Birangona’). However, I no longer want to do so, for two reasons. First, my physical condition: writing about Birangona women affected me both physically and emotionally. Second, the present society’s conservative mentality. They [society] do not hesitate to call the Birangona sinners. Therefore, I don’t want to insult all over again those women who were not allowed to live an easy and normal life even 25 years ago. In addition, many compassionate people requested me for their [Birangona] contacts. I believe it wouldn’t be right to rub salt in the wounds of those who we coldly banished from our community one day. Until her death in June 2002, Ibrahim steadfastly refused to reveal any personal information about the women. Yet when I talked with her during my field research, she was willing to share some of her experiences of talking with the women. In the following paragraphs, I will rely on the testimonies provided by Ibrahim to form a general idea about the experiences of women in 1971. One of the women, a Hindu girl, Tara Banarjee, reported: There were eight to ten other girls where I was kept. All of them were from different villages and their age varied from 13 to 30. A beautiful girl who used to study at the University was also there … We were not permitted to wear any saree or dupatta scarf [for fear the girls would hang themselves] … The sounds of firing were gradually decreasing … One day, several men in uniform arrived … The leader came forward and said softly, ‘Come here’

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Gendered nationbuilding … I screamed and passed out. Later, I heard that they were muktijodhya and Indian Army. They took me to the nearest hospital … The doctor told me a few days later that I was pregnant. He asked me where I wanted to go. I said I didn’t have anyone, so they should arrange the same thing that they organized for other victims. A few months later, I ended up in the Dhanmondi Rehabilitation Centre, where I met you [Ibrahim]. I gave my father’s address to the social worker, and looked forward to seeing him. Finally, my father sent a note saying that he’d come later. I could only utter, ‘Father, you as well?’ After that, I started avoiding people … In the meantime, I had abortion. You have seen how many women didn’t agree to have abortion … But where will I go with this child? Do you remember Marjina?4 That 15-year-old girl who didn’t want her son to go overseas? She used to scream when she saw you, fearing that you might steal her child … Seven or eight of us went to see Bongobondhu [Prime Minister Mujib, who was called the ‘friend of Bengal’]. He said, ‘You are my daughters. You’ve sacrificed your most precious possession for freedom. You are Birangona. You shouldn’t worry, I am here for you.’ My father came to see me and I said, ‘Baba, I have to notify the office that I’d go with you.’ My father said that he wouldn’t be able to take me back … My brother came to visit me and said that, in the future, I didn’t have to write letters home. (Ibrahim, 1998: 18)

Ibrahim met Tara in Copenhagen, where she had married a Danish journalist. There, Tara told her that it was only in 1982 that she had finally returned to India, where her sister had previously lived, and then to Bangladesh. When her father met her along with her husband, he repeatedly asked for her forgiveness. To this, Tara says she thought, ‘What could my father have done? The Bengalis of those days were only liberated in body, but their minds were not free … To Bengalis, tradition is more important than humanity’ (Ibrahim, 1998: 27). Another one of the girls with whom Ibrahim talked was Shefa. She remembered that at the time of her rescue by the Indian Army, she was in a bunker that was being used as a rape camp. From outside, she could hear jubilant voices, and suddenly knew that her country was free at last. In Shefa’s words: Suddenly, I could hear the yelling of many people. One of them peeked into the bunker and said in Hindi or Urdu, ‘Koi hai? Idhar ao’ (‘Is anyone there? Come here’). The language made us scared again, and we started crying. Then there were some voices speaking in Bengali, ‘Ma, you can come out. The country has been liberated. We came to receive you.’ I, the brave one, got up. But then I realized that in front of all those men I was totally naked! I started running back into the bunker. But that person whose strong voice I heard the first time … gave me his turban to wear. When I said that there were six others inside, the men gathered some shirts and lungis for them … I screamed and cried. The Sikh soldier told me, ‘Don’t cry!’ (Ibrahim, 1998: 76)

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Afterwards, Shefa returned to her ‘normal’ life. She got married and called her first child Yogi, named after Jogindor Singh, the Indian soldier who had rescued her. After the initial euphoria of release, however, the response – both public and official – was dramatically subdued, with the Birangona being perceived less as having helped in achieving Bangladesh’s independence than as traitors. Another survivor, Reena, said: Didn’t we contribute to achieving that flag [of Bangladesh]? The martyrs and their families are paid homage now. Streets are named after them … but where are we? Is there even one street that has been named after a Birangona? Didn’t they become martyrs in their death as well? Why is this injustice happening? (Ibrahim, 1998: 56) After her initial struggle and rejection by friends and relatives, Reena is now happily married. But she continues to yearn for one thing: respect. [I wish] that one young person of this generation would come and tell me, ‘You are Birangona. We respect you. You are a freedom fighter, you also have your share of this flag. Your voice is in our national anthem. You also have rights on this soil.’ (Ibrahim, 1998: 56) In December 1996, four of the testimonies of rape survivors recorded by Nilima Ibrahim were staged and broadcast on Bangladesh Television. Ibrahim said that, after the telecast, women came and found her and the Shommilito Nari Shomaj, a forum of women activists that took the initiative to stage the testimonies (D’Costa, interview, 1999). One of the women bluntly said, ‘I was raped by the Pakistan Army in 1971,’ an extremely uncommon statement to make in public. When asked why they were coming forward after 26 years of silence, one woman said, ‘Because now I have the courage to do so,’ an explanation echoed by many others. Another explained: ‘I was raped and I want to tell my son about it, but I don’t know how to do so.’ Together, these cases demonstrate one critical issue. Despite the hardship, if an appropriate forum were provided for them, some rape survivors would clearly be interested in coming forward to speak about their experiences.

Birangona stories, II The testimonies recorded by Nilima Ibrahim imply that many women were rescued by muktijodhya and, in some instances, by Indian Army soldiers. All the freedom fighters with whom I conversed suggested that such individuals helped the women rescued from the rape camps, and took them to hospitals or back to their families. One of the muktijodhya told me that they always treated the women with respect; offered them food, water and medicine; and were genuinely sympathetic to their cause (D’Costa, interview, 1999). In contrast to these sympathetic responses – notably, by men who were in most cases unrelated to the women rescued – the initial responses of the women’s

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families were far from welcoming. In most middle-class families, the issue of rape was treated with the utmost secrecy. These families often took pregnant women to clinics for abortions; or, if the women were in an advanced stage of pregnancy, they were left in rehabilitation centres or clinics to give birth, after which the babies were given up for adoption (D’Costa, interviews, 1999, 2002). No official statistics exist indicating the number of women who had abortions or the number of babies sent to other countries. Those families that could afford to take their daughters to India or a Western country preferred to do so, in order to get rid of their family ‘shame’ as quietly as possible. Rejection by their families had far-reaching implications on the women themselves, particularly young girls. Nilima Ibrahim recounted one day in 1972 when she received some shocking news. Between 30 and 40 women survivors were about to leave the country with a group of Pakistani prisoners of war, who were being taken to India. She immediately contacted both the Bangladeshi and Indian authorities to seek a meeting with the women, at which she urged them to stay in Bangladesh. Having been thoroughly rejected by close relatives, they had made up their minds to leave the country. Ibrahim even offered one young girl in her mid-teens that she could come live with her ‘as my own daughter’. But the girl refused, asking, ‘When you aren’t there, what would become of me? When people know that the Pakistanis have touched me, then everyone will loathe me.’ In desperation, Ibrahim asked her, ‘Do you know what the Pakistanis will do with you?’ She answered, ‘I know they are going to sell me. But no one will know me there’ (Kabir, 1999: 16). Every one of the women mentioned here fits the standard profile of a Birangona: having been forcibly taken by Pakistan Army soldiers, their pain and trauma were more ‘visible’ to any observer. Ironically, in this condition it was easier for the state both to show its sympathy and to exercise its power over these women. However, the stories told by these women are not homogeneous. The story of Ferdousi Priyobhashini is well known in Bangladesh. She is a sculptor who currently resides in Dhaka. Ferdousi decided to tell her story to Shahin Akhter of ASK, who interviewed her over several times over the course of three years. I subsequently interviewed Shahin during the course of my fieldwork, because Ferdousi at that time was still not prepared to come out in public. Ferdousi’s story intrigued me because she remained in a peculiar space in relation to the term Birangona – known publicly as a collaborator of the Pakistan Army, and as one of its soldiers’ ‘entertainers’. In 1971, Ferdousi was in her mid-twenties. She had previously worked as a telephone operator and receptionist in Khalishpur Crescent Jute Mill, in the southern town of Khulna. When the war broke out in March of that year, Ferdousi’s mother moved to her house, along with her younger brothers and sisters. She herself was divorced and had three children. With the start of the war, the Bengalis had left the jute mill, but Ferdousi was forced to back to the office in order to take care of her family. She remembered the day she returned to the mill: When I reached the Crescent Jute Mill, I saw the Agakhani general manager, Mr Fidai … He asked me, ‘Where were you? Have you joined the Mukti?’ I

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said, ‘No, sir. All of my brothers have gone to Muktibahini. I am alone.’ … He asked me, ‘Do you want to join [the mill]?’. (ASK interview) Ferdousi agreed to rejoin the office, and began working the following day. She continued: It is the first day. After ten minutes, General Manager Mr Fidai summoned me. Then he said, ‘Please sit here. I have something to say. We will not allow you to stay outside. You have to stay in the mill quarters. The second thing is that my family is in Pakistan. Can you help me?’ After that he brutally attacked [raped] me … I had no language to protest. Wherever I went, there were the hyenas. I entered the telephone room. There was another officer called Sultan Panjoani … He suddenly locked the door and grabbed me. (ASK interview). Ferdousi also accused a naval commander, Guljarin, of interrogating and raping her. ‘My cold, stone-like body, I gave to one of the murderers,’ she said. ‘Just to stay alive’ (ASK interview). During the following months, Ferdousi was repeatedly raped by Pakistan Army officers, in addition to being taken briefly to a rape camp. One of the army officers, she said, was ‘weak’ towards her, and that was the only reason she did not have to remain in the camp. She justified their relationship as follows: I also started to love him. Maybe it was just an infatuation or just to stay alive. Maybe that love was of gratitude. But just because a Pakistani saved my life, I couldn’t marry him and go to Pakistan. In that way, I would’ve only betrayed my country. (ASK interview) After the initial exhilaration of Independence, Ferdousi returned to the jute mill, which was by then buzzing with Bengali officers and staff. As soon as she entered her office, however, one of the mill’s labour leaders came running over to her. ‘You can’t join here,’ he told her. ‘You are a collaborator of the Pakistanis’ (ASK interview). Despite her protests, she was fired from her job. In this way, Ferdousi joined the silent survivors of the war. In the end, she came to the conclusion that, although she had been tortured and raped for nine months, at least her attackers had not taken away her job and forced her into starvation. Now, she said, in this free country, she had ‘no soil under her feet’, a phrase used to describe people who have no means to survive. She maintained her silence for 28 years, until 1999. It was during my fieldwork in Dhaka that a local journalist first published Ferdousi’s story. It immediately sparked a wide-ranging debate regarding how to define those rape survivors who should be ‘honoured’ with the title Birangona. One group said that while its members had sympathy for Ferdousi, they had no wish to accord her this title – because she had purportedly worked for the Pakistanis in 1971, and had been seen ‘flirting’ with Pakistani officers. Another group believed that she had been raped by the Pakistanis, and therefore should obviously be

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dubbed a Birangona. Unfortunately, these debates did not lead to further reflection on the negative connotations of the term ‘Birangona’ itself. Moreover, the entire debate revolved around Ferdousi’s alleged consent in the matter, and thus did not generate new discussion regarding the definition of rape. Interestingly, the stereotypical idea about women who are seen to be ‘promiscuous’ and therefore ‘deserve’ to be raped prevailed in Ferdousi’s case for nearly three decades. ‘Some saw her getting out of an army car or heard that she was going out with a Pakistan Army official,’ Shahin, the interviewer, said. ‘Nonetheless, that doesn’t make the story of her ordeal of 1971 false’ (D’Costa, interview, 1999). Let us return briefly to one of the central issues of this project – namely, to investigate the nature of the silence maintained by women raped during the events of 1971. To what extent were these women silent by choice? Had they chosen to be silent, or had their stories been silenced? Maleka Khan, a prominent social worker and the secretary of the Bangladesh Girls’ Guide Association, related her experience with a woman who had survived 1971: ‘She came to visit me, and I asked her how she was. She said, “Apa [sister], I came to cry.” Suddenly, she remembered something, and that’s why she came to visit me. She cried and cried’ (ASK interview, unpublished). This woman married after 1971, but never told her husband about her experiences during the war, a relatively common experience. Khan went on, however, to say that many rape survivors have stayed in contact with each other. Indeed, although women’s experiences are silent in official versions of Bangladeshi history, both Ibrahim’s and Khan’s work suggests that the Birangona do share their experiences with each other. Ibrahim reported the story of Fatema and Chapa, a Muslim and a Hindu who shared similar experiences in a rape camp in Jessore (1998, 103–15). They were abducted from their homes by Bihari collaborators of the Pakistan Army. Fatema’s experience was particularly brutal and violent. The Biharis abducted her while she was trying to run away with her infant brother. They threw away the baby, splitting open his skull. She described how the men laughed while she was screaming with pain and anguish. Thereafter, Fatema was tortured in a range of vicious ways, including being gang-raped, being urinated on, and being tied to a rotating ceiling fan by her hair. Several years after the war, Fatema began to experience severe headaches, and became mentally unstable. By then Chapa, who had witnessed Fatema’s ordeal in the rape camp, was a registered nurse. Although they lived in different cities, they had maintained regular contact. Learning about Fatema’s misery, Chapa arranged for her to be taken to India for brain surgery, after which she recovered. According to several sources, it was not uncommon for women survivors to help each other after their experiences in such ways. In a recent interview, one of the women with whom I spoke mentioned that she had financially assisted some of the poorer women with whom she was in the same camp (D’Costa, interview, 2002).

The politics of rehabilitation In early 1972, within months after the conflict came to an end, the Bangladesh government set up the Women’s Rehabilitation Organization. It was headed by

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Justice K. M. Sobhan, and additional members included Nilima Ibrahim, Bashanti Guhathakurta and Mumtaz Begum (personal interview with Nilima Ibrahim, D’Costa, 1999). According to Maleka Khan, the first effort to institutionalize a women’s rehabilitation centre took place on 7 January of that year (ASK interview, unpublished). The government’s post-war rehabilitation policies was to be coordinated by the National Central Women’s Rehabilitation Board, which in 1974 was renamed the Bangladesh Women’s Rehabilitation and Welfare Foundation (M. A. Gafur, 1979). The previous board had provided jobs for 500 women. At that time, war-affected women received BDT 75 per month (US$ 1.20), and 100 families each received 20 ducks, 20 chickens and two goats (ibid.: 556). Other than these supports to a limited number of women and their families, it was not clear whether or not the state had provided more support in the aftermath of the conflict. From interviews, scattered reports and old documents (which often did not have publication information), the objectives of the Women’s Rehabilitation Organization can be summarized as follows: Primary rescue and rehabilitation programme • • • • •

To rescue and rehabilitate the women; To provide medical assistance; To ‘free’ women from the unchosen ‘curse’ of motherhood (ibid., p. 555); To ‘encourage’ men to marry the unmarried Birangona. The government promised to provide opportunities for men who agreed to marry the women (ibid., p. 429); and To create social awareness so that the families of the Birangona would take them back (ibid.).

Rehabilitation of children • • • •

To organize international adoption of unwanted babies; To construct orphanages for orphan children. In addition, to renovate and develop the government and non-government orphanages already operating; A proposal existed to establish a home for abandoned children;5 and A day-care centre to look after the children while the mothers worked.

Income-generation programmes •



To help the women become self-sufficient through training programmes, which included sewing and garment production, jute and tapestry production, spice grinding, work in the poultry industry, leather goods and cooking. In addition, adult learning and cooperative programmes were provided for the women (ibid.: 555); and To provide economic assistance to widows to enable them to use their entrepreneurial skills.

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Maleka Khan also discussed her own experiences with the government’s rescue and rehabilitation programmes. On the official mission to rescue the women and girls, she recalled: It went on for almost a year. Those were terrible times. For example, there were some girls rescued from Rajshahi, and slowly they were brought to Dhaka. Then from Khulna, Chittagong … Some were unmarried mothers, some married but pregnant. Women from various age groups … The hardest times were faced by younger girls. Many girls became mentally imbalanced. In the meantime, some of us went to look for houses. Where will we keep the rescued girls? The first house was in Eskaton [a residential area in Dhaka city], which probably was the residence of a Pakistani family. This was the first house where girls were brought back … The girls were rescued from the Cantonment area … There were five or six women. That was my first experience … For the next few days, I helped to rescue women from a number of places. Finally, the government allotted number 88 and number 20 of Eskaton, and it was officially declared as the Central Rehabilitation Organization. (ASK interview, unpublished) Khan also says that a list and compilation of testimonies of rape survivors existed, but that most of these were later destroyed by the government. During my field research, however, I received contradictory statements regarding the existence of these testimonies. For example, Khan herself told the ASK project that there were ‘plenty of testimonies; I myself made one list. And I read the case studies of almost 5,000 women. There were many more which I didn’t have time to read’ (ASK interview, unpublished). But in her interview with Rokeya Rahman Kabir, of the women-focused NGO Nari Progoti Shogho, Khan said, ‘There were no lists of women because we didn’t want to identify the women, and only wanted them to move fast back into normal life’ (Kabir, 1999: 13). While discussing these alleged files with me, Ibrahim firmly stated that the files had not been destroyed, and that sooner or later they would be found (D’Costa, interview 1999). Either way, both Khan and Ibrahim point to one event in particular as being responsible for the silencing of much of women’s history in Bangladesh: the merging of the Women’s Rehabilitation Centre with the Women’s Ministry. Both women say that this momentous decision was not discussed with the Central Committee for Women’s Rehabilitation. Khan explained how the Women’s Ministry evolved from the Rehabilitation Centre. First, she said, the government established the Women’s Rehabilitation Board in a house in Dhanmondi, which was later turned into the Women’s Welfare Foundation, which in turn became the Women’s Rehabilitation Training Foundation. The foundation received a large amount of foreign aid. Finally, the government changed its name again, and created the Women’s Division of the Women’s and Children’s Affairs Ministry. Khan recalled: I protested at that time, because the history would be distorted. It was the history of the welfare and rehabilitation of women who had been affected by the

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war. That was its history. If there had been a research cell on the contribution of women in the Liberation War of Bangladesh, we didn’t have to look in every senseless direction. We could have gathered all information here. I told Dr Shafia Khatun, the minister in charge of the Women’s Ministry, ‘You are not doing the right thing.’ It was probably during Ershad’s time … We may have many faults, but we dreamt of a free country. It hurt me to see that our history was being destroyed … I heard that the files were burnt with kerosene … Shamsunnar Begum, the chairperson at that time, told me that they had no other option (D’Costa, interview, 1999).6 It is clear from this discussion that even the social workers who held high-level positions were not consulted about the merger of the Rehabilitation Centre with the Women’s Ministry. It is still uncertain who ultimately made this decision, because many documents pertaining to parliamentary sessions were unavailable during the time of the field research. Moreover, the information regarding women-related documents is contradictory. A full investigation about what exactly happened to the documents could lead to deeper analysis of the silenced stories of women. During my fieldwork I searched bureaucratic offices for lists or files relating to women, but was unable to track down any additional information. As another central plank of the rehabilitation campaign, the government also attempted to either marry off Birangona women, or to offer them traditional jobs, such as sowing, paddy husking and domestic services. But when asked whether any Birangona received preferential access to jobs, Ibrahim replied, ‘No, I don’t know about that. But we knew that they wouldn’t get jobs here. They were considered as an enemy force’ (D’Costa interview). The government even initially announced that BDT 5,000 (US$ 100) would be given to men who agreed to marry the Birangona, though this was not successful. Susan Brownmiller described the failure of the programme: Prime Minister Mujibur Rahman’s declaration that victims were national heroines was the opening shot of an ill-starred campaign to reintegrate them into society – by smoothing the way for return to their reluctant husbands or by finding bridegrooms for the unmarried ones from among his Mukti Bahini freedom fighters. Imaginative in concept for a country in which female chastity and purdah isolation are cardinal principles, the ‘marry them off’ campaign never got off the ground. Few progressive bridegrooms stepped forward, and those who did made it plain that they expected the government, as father figure, to present them with handsome dowries. (Brownmiller, 1975: 83) Indeed, the demands from the grooms bordered on the outrageous. One government official bitterly complained, ‘The demands of the men have ranged from the latest model of Japanese car, painted red, to the publication of unpublished poems’ (Brownmiller, 1975: 83). Ibrahim likewise mentioned that the government gave some men BDT 10,000 (US$ 200) as dowry money, in addition to sewing

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machines and other items. But often even this did not help. ‘Those who married accepting the dowry in the end only took the money and didn’t take the bride,’ she said (D’Costa interview).

War babies and national honour Bengali women were traditionally used to norms of purdah and separate, private spaces that isolated them from men. However, the concept of purdah was never as strict as it was in West Pakistan. Bengali women were raised in a rich, vibrant Bengali culture that allowed most of them lives full of music, literature and so on. Therefore, one of the sole similarities that they shared with the Pakistanis was a religious heritage. In addition, Punjabis were generally taller and lighter-skinned compared to the shorter, darker Bengalis. This external difference added significant anguish to Bengali women who found themselves pregnant after their physical trauma (Brownmiller, 1975: 81), as the children created by rape could show readily apparent differences in physical characteristics. This was a very real concern, because the unwanted pregnancies posed a serious crisis for the state in the aftermath of the war. As noted earlier, accurate statistics are not available, but the generally accepted figure is that some 25,000 women found themselves pregnant after that war (Brownmiller, 1975: 84). In a country such as Bangladesh, where virginity was considered the ‘virtue of chaste women’, the issue of rape sparked an immediate debate about honour, shame and

Figure 4.2 Part of a wall in a Pakistani army camp near Shalutikar Airport, Sylhet Source: Courtesy of the Liberation War Museum, Bangladesh Photograph by Anjali Lahiri

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Figure 4.3 Newspaper reports on war babies and Birangona in 1972 Source: Courtesy of the Liberation War Museum, Bangladesh Photograph by Naibuddin Ahmed

‘pollution’. In public meetings, Prime Minister Mujibur Rahman repeatedly called the Birangona women his ‘daughters’, and asked the nation to welcome them back into their communities and families. At the same time, however, he also declared, ‘None of the bastard babies, who carry the blood of the Pakistanis, will be allowed to remain in Bangladesh’ (ASK interview, 1997, unpublished; D’Costa, interview, 1999). Ibrahim herself met with Mujib about the fate of the war babies, at which point he said: No, apa. Please send away the children who do not have their father’s identity. They should be raised as human beings with honour. Besides, I do not want to keep that polluted blood in this country (Ibrahim, 1998: 18). Bangladesh’s first official five-year plan identified women’s needs only in terms of motherhood (Jahan, 1995: 95). The state, which had a significant level of control

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over women’s motherhood, assumed a strong paternal role, and encouraged women to have abortions. Through state-sponsored programmes, Planned Parenthood International, the International Abortion Research and Training Center and local clinics helped women to have abortions. Planned Parenthood set up clinics with the help of the newly created Bangladesh Central Organization for Women’s Rehabilitation, in Dhaka and 17 outlying areas, to cope with unwanted pregnancies. Even with the assistance of international organizations, however, many of these procedures were considered dangerous. Although in his interview with me he was unable to remember the exact figure, Dr Davis had been cited elsewhere stating that nearly 5,000 women managed to abort their babies through various medically unsafe methods (Brownmiller, 1975: 84). As mentioned earlier, Dr Davis travelled to Bangladesh in 1972 to help women survivors of the war. That year, a detailed report on his work was published in the Daily Bangla (16 February 1972), which mentioned that, in his opinion, a large number of the survivors would never be able to have children. He further suggested that before the official abortion programme had begun, most survivors had already had abortions with the assistance of the local/village dai (midwife) or untrained local doctors. Contrary to Brownmiller’s figures, Davis suggested that, almost 150,000 to 170,000 women had had abortions before the government even began its abortion programme (D’Costa, interview). He also accused the government of providing incorrect information concerning the number of women who had been subjected to sexual violence during the nine months of the Pakistan Army’s occupation of East Pakistan, and reiterated a lack of proper documentation. Babies who were not aborted, on the other hand, were constant, graphic reminders of how national events took shape through the bodies of women. In 1972, the New York Times reported: [The] Bangladesh government, at the instigation of US social workers, is setting up legal machinery for the international adoption of child victims of occupation and war, including unwanted offspring of women raped by Pakistani soldiers. This step is considered a significant precedent in Bangladesh, where adoption of children by strangers is an unknown concept. International Social Service American Branch General Director W C Klein says the service has suggested adoption as an alternative to the prevailing practice of abortion, infanticide and selling of unwanted children to beggars, who use them to elicit sympathy. (New York Times, 29 May 1972) Ibrahim said that the Rehabilitation Center’s first policy was of abortion, with a secondary government policy to decide the fate of the ‘bastard children’ (ASK interview, unpublished, 1997). She said: We decided that if any of the foreign countries offered to take the babies, we’d give them up for adoption … Many girls cried and didn’t want to give their babies away. We even had to use sedatives to make the women sleep and then take the babies …

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One girl was only 14 … Women that were a bit older realized that there would be no space to take the babies, but the teenagers were very emotional. (ASK interview, unpublished, 1997) Likewise, Maleka Khan noted: There was this girl who gave birth. She said before the delivery that she wanted to give her baby for adoption. However, when the time came she had been crying so much! No one offered to help … no one said ‘Let us take care of the baby and the mother.’ I have not seen any such thing! (D’Costa, interview, 1999) Whatever the decision made on the fate of the war babies, such accounts highlight the fact that women were not given any choice about the future of their children. The social workers obviously wanted to help women, but in the end the trauma and distress suffered by the women were virtually ignored; instead, the ‘purity’ of the state was the highest priority, and the social workers’ view of the ‘protection’ of the women prevailed. It should be noted, however, that there was disapproval of parts of the state policy from certain sections of society. Ibrahim mentioned that the mullahs (Muslim clerics) initially protested over the adoption policies, because the babies were being sent to Christian countries (ASK interview, unpublished, 1997; D’Costa, interview, 1999). Indeed, many babies that given up for adoption were offered shelter by the Catholic Convent of Mother Teresa, in Calcutta (D’Costa, interview, 1999). Respondent M, who as introduced previously worked with Mother Theresa in the aftermath of the war, was heavily involved in the Bangladesh government’s adoption programme. At the end of December 1971, Mother Teresa visited some of the rape camps in Bangladesh. ‘She didn’t find any girls there,’ Respondent M said. ‘Only their hair, petticoats and some other things. Their hair was cut because they [Pakistan Army soldiers] were afraid that they’d [use it to] commit suicide’ (D’Costa, interview, 1999). (Respondent M also indicated the forced impregnation of the women in the camps, but did not wish to elaborate on the topic.) On Mother Theresa’s request, Respondent M also went to Bangladesh on 21 January 1972. There, she arranged for the adoption of war babies, most of whom were eventually taken in by families in Canada, though some were also sent to France and Sweden. She suggested: I have a feeling that babies of the Pak [Pakistan] Army were all aborted in different clinics. Otherwise, parents could not take these women home. And they wouldn’t tell anybody who was violated, who was not. When they realized their daughter was pregnant, they quickly got her aborted. So, it was not so very open a thing. (D’Costa, interview, 1999) From this statement, it would appear that the norms of honour for both families and the state were mutually supportive. However, merely by creating a new term – ‘war babies’ – the state was able to bring women under its authoritarian powers.

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An alliance was thus forged between social workers and medical professionals with the state in its patriarchal role. In a previous conversation with me, Respondent M had incidentally mentioned a particular rape camp in the Dhaka Cantonment area. When I asked her during the official interview about more information on this camp, she said that she had not actually seen the camp herself, but rather had heard descriptions of it from Mother Teresa. She said: We went in with a big noise that we’d work with girls who have been violated by the Pak Army. But when we actually arrived we found almost no one. But we did find lots of babies. A lot of children have been adopted. We have records in Dhaka. We asked the nursing homes, ‘When the babies are aborted, or born, do not throw them in the dustbin. Bring them to us if they are alive.’ They didn’t care. They were interested in the mothers only. Babies were put into the dustbin. (D’Costa, interview, 1999) This contradicts Dr Davis’s statement. Indeed, he denied Respondent M’s allegation, and claimed that babies were never thrown out under any circumstance (D’Costa, interview, 2002). Although I previously documented Nilima Ibrahim’s comments about women crying and screaming, both Dr Davis and Respondent M stated that women were mostly silent about their trauma and ordeal. Both said it was ‘natural’ for shy, timid Bengali women to be silent about such experiences of shame and dishonour. I also asked Respondent M whether any of the women with whom she met spoke of the actual rapes. She answered: No, and we also didn’t ask. There was a wound. We tried to rehabilitate them, tried to accept the situation they were in. And we’d never write down names, nor addresses. The stigma would remain if people knew. (D’Costa, interview, 1999) Dr Davis likewise recalled: No, nobody wanted to talk about it. You could ask questions and get an answer. Quite often, it would be that they couldn’t remember. And the men didn’t want to talk about it at all! Because according to them, the women had been defiled. And women’s status in Bangladesh was pretty low anyway. If they had been defiled, they had no status at all. They might as well be dead. And men killed them. I couldn’t believe it. (D’Costa, interview, 2002) Here we can clearly see the state’s alliance with social work. This alliance silenced the survivors with an abstract concern for a ‘just’ response, but with a very real interest in maintaining the nation-state’s honour. From these interviews, the coercive practices of the Bangladeshi state can be most clearly traced in the case of the war babies. They were made ‘undesirable’ to the family, through the practices of

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the state: the state did not embrace the children as its own citizens who had rights, but rather insisted that they were not included into their mothers’ families. In this sense, the state failed to protect both the women and their babies. Nationalist interpretations of rape and the forced impregnation of women saw these experiences as being less about women themselves than about the challenge to Bengali nationalist and masculine identities. As Menon and Bhasin argued in the case of children born out of Partition violence (1998), while in the Pakistani context ‘purity’ meant creating a ‘proper’ Muslim identity that would fit the Muslim Pakistani imagination, in the context of Bangladesh it meant ‘purging’ the state of the Pakistani blood. As noted previously, children were vivid reminders of the attack on a ‘pure’ Bengali identity. Therefore, the Bangladeshi state responded to the issue of wartime pregnancy in a way it perceived as legitimate: it exercised its authority over women’s bodies and their maternal role through abortion and adoption programmes. In this nationalist construction of identity, the needs of the women themselves were insignificant, while clinics, international adoption agencies and religious organizations acted as surface mechanisms for the state. Meanwhile, the power of the state often acted against the wishes of women, thereby making them victims for a second time. As far as Bangladesh was concerned, however, the task of flushing out ‘impure’ (Menon and Bhasin, 1998) Pakistani blood was necessary for the honour of the new nation.

Hindus and homeland In the previous chapter, I briefly mentioned how the Pakistanis regarded Bengalis as not being ‘true’ Muslims, given that they shared strong cultural ties with the Hindus. In 1971, this perception was manifested in two related ways: first, the conflation of all Bengalis as being too ‘close’ to Hindus; and, second, the persecution of the Hindu community in its own right in order to force its members to move to India, where Hindus ‘belonged’. The Partition of India in 1947 created a separate state for the region’s Muslims – Pakistan. Thus, in the Pakistani imagination, the only way to maintain the purity of Islam in its eastern region was to create a religiously homogeneous Muslim community. For this reason, the thinking went, the Bengalis needed to be purged of any Hindu influence, and Hindus needed to leave the Muslim homeland. In 1971, due to its strong ties to Hinduism, the Bengali community was seen as distinctly feminine by the Pakistanis, in comparison to the masculinity of the Pakistan Army. The Bengalis were thus seen as effeminate and weak, powerless to save themselves from a dominant Hindu influence. The protective masculine Pakistani ‘other’, through its militant policies, thus intended to ‘cleanse’ the Bengali community. This argument is supported by several prominent Pakistani journalists who covered the 1971 war from Pakistan. For example, during his interview with Muntasir Mamun, the renowned Pakistani journalist M B Nakvi said: In 1971 something else happened. A common perception here was that the Bengalis are inclined towards Hinduism. Their language is close to Sanskrit

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US Senator Edward Kennedy’s report to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee from the time confirmed Nakvi’s comments. In the summary of his report, dated 1 November 1971, Senator Kennedy mentioned: Field reports to the US Government, countless eyewitness journalistic accounts, reports of international agencies such as World Bank and additional information available to the sub-committee document the reign of terror which grips East Bengal (East Pakistan). Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked ‘H’. All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad. (‘1971 Genocide of Hindus in East Pakistan’, organized by S. N. Vyas, 12 January 1997, online at http://www.hindunet.org/hindu_ history/modern/hindu_bangla.html) Such accusations were backed up by copious eyes on the ground. For instance, Sydney Schanberg, the New York Times correspondent in Bangladesh in 1971, in an article titled ‘The Pakistani Slaughter that Nixon Ignored’, wrote: I covered the war and witnessed first the population’s joyous welcome of the Indian soldiers as liberators. Later, I toured the country by road to see the Pakistani legacy first hand. In town after town there was an execution area where people had been killed by bayonet, bullet and bludgeon. In some towns, executions were held on a daily basis. This was a month after the wars end [i.e. January 1972] … human bones were still scattered along many roadsides. Blood-stained clothing and tufts of human hair clung to the bushes at these killing grounds. Children too young to understand were playing grotesque games with skulls. Other reminders were the yellow ‘H’s the Pakistanis had painted on the homes of Hindus, particular targets of the Muslim Army. (ibid.) In his report, Senator Kennedy also provided some details about Bangladeshi refugees. The report mentioned that, as of 25 October 1971, 9.54 million refugees from East Pakistan had crossed over into India. During the course of that month, the average influx was some 10,645 refugees a day, making the total refugee population at the start of the Indo-Pakistani war, on 3 December 1971, about 10 million. Senator Kennedy further mentioned that, wherever possible, the Indian government had set up separate refugee camps for Hindus and Muslims – that is, refugee camps of Hindus were located in Hindu-majority areas and Muslim camps were located in Muslim-majority areas. At that time, around 80 per cent of the refugees was Hindu,

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15 per cent was Muslim, and around 5 per cent was Christian and others. When the senator asked several chief relief officers in charge of the refugee camps what was needed most urgently, their reply was ‘crematoriums’. (Hindus are generally cremated, while Muslims are buried.) According to the Bangladesh census data for 1974, the country’s actual Hindu population was 9.65 million. Indian Government records indicated that 1.11 million Hindu refugees crossed into India between 1964 and 1970 prior to the 1971 crisis (ibid.). Several of the respondents with whom I spoke specifically mentioned the Pakistan Army’s brutality in its ‘handling’ of the Hindus. The members of the Hindu community with whom I talked strongly believed that, during the war, Hindus were deliberately persecuted by the Pakistan Army and the Razakaars. In addition, most Hindu women abducted by the army were never seen again, often killed after being raped. (I spoke with the relatives of two Hindu women who were forcibly taken by the ‘Punjabi’ army men, neither of whom returned after the war.) The plight of the Hindu community was thus highly gendered in nature. Women were targeted in two ways: first, Hindu women were raped and usually killed; second, Bengali Muslim women, according to the Pakistani rationale, were imagined to have had strong Hindu influences, and were forcibly impregnated to create a ‘pure’ Muslim identity. Regardless of religion, as has been seen in previous sections, all women in East Pakistan were oppressed by the Pakistan Army during 1971. More specifically, all women were targeted by the political project of the Pakistani government to create a ‘pure’ Muslim state. Such an experience thus directly positions women’s narratives at the core of a nationalist discourse, as well as in the construction of a national identity. In post-conflict Bangladesh, however, the state compromised the women’s narrative in this regard, because of its alliances with the religious right, in particular with fundamentalist Islamic parties such as the Jama’at-i-Islami. I will return to this point in the next chapter. At a practical level, women became central subjects in the construction of a national identity that directly structured the community identity. At a symbolic level, as Floya Anthias and Nira Yuval-Davis argued (1997), women’s destiny and biological role as mothers became central to the new nation’s view of itself. This is an example of women’s biological destiny shaping their targeting by genocidal projects in an ideology that rested on the Pakistani racial superiority over Bengalis.

Women and national identity: 1971 In documenting war rape and reactions to it, field research around the world suggests that women occupy a strategic location in the emergence of national, territorial, religious and other community identities. Survivors often do not openly describe sexual humiliation, rape, pregnancy, abortion and vulnerability. Nevertheless, it is useful to reiterate that, however academics and others interpret and construct accounts, beyond our words a real world and real lives do exist (Stanley, 1993: 214). Women are central to the construction of these identities and, without accommodating a gendered framework of national identity formation, the

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story of the nation and nationalism remains incomplete. In their introduction of the feminist nationalist movement, Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid have argued that ‘every attempt towards identity has been a redescription of women’ (Sangari and Vaid, 1990: 9). In Bangladesh, women’s strategic location across class, religion, territory and community boundaries, and the enormous symbolic weight that women bear in the nationalist spheres of social life, certainly highlights such descriptions of the feminine. In her reading of maternity in the Bengali tradition, Jasodhara Bagchi looks at what she describes as the ‘ideological mobilization of motherhood’ that was employed for the national movement in nineteenth-century Bengal. She stresses the ‘undying spirit of self-sacrifice for the family’ (Bagchi, 1990: 65). In Bengali national identity, motherhood is used to assert the ground for national identity. The Birangona-Mother thus became a domain that the state could claim as its own. Women’s consent or lack of it in relation to abortion and adoption is also problematic. Kumkum Sangari has argued that patriarchies work in part by obtaining consent from women, and not just through overt coercion. Granting women agency under certain conditions may be one of the ways in which this consent can be obtained. In this case, Sangari perceives consent as ‘part of this uneven process of the reconstitution of patriarchies’ (Sangari, 1993: 869). Although Sangari does not mention nation or community in this context, her argument that ‘women’s consent may itself be one of the nodes of the condensed articulation of patriarchies with other social structures in specific historical conjunctures’ (Sangari, 1993: 869) suggests that women’s reproductive capacity constitutes and produces the national and community identity as well. Religious community identity was also very significantly gendered in the context of Muslim Bengali women, who needed to identify with their Hindu ‘sisters’ during the national struggle. Women were important signifiers of the differences between groups and community identities that focused on the conduct of women. The Pakistani regime propagated the view that the attire of Bengali women and their participation in the vibrant cultural life of East Pakistan (in music, dancing, performing arts) was non-Islamic, a judgement that was in turn used as an excuse to highlight the ‘impure’ Islamic identity of the Bengalis. Bengali women remained at the very centre of the communal political imagination of the Pakistani regime. As such, Bengali national leaders needed to redefine the symbolism of women’s national identity during the struggle. Bengali leaders who perceived their movement to be secular drew inspiration from modernization, secularism and women’s active participation in cultural life. The idea of emancipated Bengali women suited this nationalistic and secular imagination, as opposed to the conservative Pakistani imagery. In this way, gender interest and national interest overlapped with each other at this time, and all contradictions were disguised. The situation in South Asia during both 1947 and 1971 clearly demonstrated that women were symbolic in maintaining the community’s notion of its purity. Their rape signified not only their impurity, but also the pollution of their respective communities. In the case of Bangladesh, this was twice as offensive, because the Pakistan Army repeatedly boasted of creating a ‘true’ Muslim community

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there. In such proclamations, the real identity of the Muslim Bengali woman was unimportant; rather, it was the imagined Hindu-ized identity of the entire Bengali community that became crucial. As noted, all Bengalis were targeted, irrespective of religion, because the Pakistani regime perceived them to have been strongly influenced by Hinduism. Therefore, the community as a whole needed to be ‘purged’ through the bodies of its women. To speak of women as the grounds for identity-defining processes can suggest that a woman’s location is characterized by exclusion and abjection, by invisibility (Gedalof, 1999: 36). Along with other feminist scholars in South Asia and other regions, my work likewise observes that ‘the identity of a community is constructed on the bodies of women’ (Kannabiran and Kannabiran, 1995: 122). It is the capacity of the female body to give birth that makes women so crucial to the community and to the preservation of a particular community’s integrity and perceived purity. These abstract notions of purity and honour are, of course, dangerous rationales, for which women often pay heavily. The state’s appropriation of birth, the denial and, when possible, ability to stop it through abortion, demonstrates the state’s power over the bodies of its women. Under such conditions, women are expected to have little or no personal control; instead, they are symbolically distanced from birth by the nation-state’s narrative. The abortion and adoption programmes carried out by the Bangladesh government following the war indicate the forcible appropriation of women’s bodies for the interest of the nation. Dr Davis, Ibrahim and Respondent M all agreed that women were inclined toward giving away their babies. Yet the women with whom I spoke offered a slightly more nuanced understanding, giving an overall impression of their strength and quiet nature in accepting the adoption procedure, given that there appeared to be no other choice available. Individual ‘choice’ on the part of women has often been subsumed beneath the ‘greater good’. In the context of the mass suicide of women during the 1947 Partition, for instance, Urvashi Butalia has argued that these actions were approved of because women were protecting the purity of their communities (Butalia, 1998). Similarly, in the 1971 context, the whole concept of ‘choice’ becomes increasingly problematic due to the complex intersections of gender, religion and national interests in which women were trapped. Butalia (1998) further observed that where women’s agency complicates the simple equation of ‘woman equals community’, and when they might want to negotiate their locations, this is seen as unauthentic agency that must be disallowed. In 1971, for instance, Ferdousi Priyobhashini was not granted the position of either a Birangona or a woman muktijodhya. Rather, she was seen as a Pakistan Army collaborator because, despite being caught in a violent structure, she attempted to maintain some sort of personal agency for the economic survival of her family. In the eyes of a patriarchal and conservative society, a woman such as Ferdousi did not deserve to be categorized as either a victim or a combatant. Because she became the sole decision-maker with regards to her survival, the society in which she lived regarded her rape as ‘deserved’ or ‘not worthy

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of sympathy’ – she became dangerous and threatening to the nation-state and community identity. On the other hand, Birangona women raped in front of their families were perceived as ‘powerless’ victims, and therefore ‘deserved’ to be given sympathy (a reaction that is separated from pity by a very fine line). Women whose brothers, husbands or fathers went off to fight in the war – thus leaving the women to take care of their families and, in some instances, doing so by remaining in their jobs – had therefore made themselves ‘available’ for rape (for example Priyobhashini’s narrative). Thus, the nation-state could not simply grant them the status of heroines. Finally, it should be noted that women also fought alongside men in the war, and were given the honorary title of muktijodhya. That does not necessarily mean that they received the glory of their male counterparts, however. For example, Taramon Bibi, then 16 years old, fought and earned the award of Bir Protik, the nation’s highest honour for freedom fighters. Yet forgotten in the official history of 1971, Taramon did not know that she had been given the award until 1995. In an interview, Taramon said, ‘I don’t know what freedom is, but I surely know the pangs of poverty’ (Hossain, 1995). At the time of the interview, she and her husband earned the equivalent of a dollar a day. On the 25th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence, a local newspaper reported that Taramon’s children (a 12-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son) had gone ‘virtually unfed’ for four days. All women survivors interviewed for this project wanted the Pakistani government and its collaborators to be brought to trial in an international setting. Indeed, this was the decisive factor encouraging the vast majority of women to come forward to speak for this project. Women did mention their feelings of shame, but always in relation to their families. As one of the women said, ‘You can shut women’s mouths, but you cannot shut their souls’ (D’Costa, interview, 2000). Such individual righteousness, however, did not extend to the institutional level. Interestingly, for the last three decades women’s movements in Bangladesh did not work actively to mobilize support for the women survivors. In reflecting on reasons for this, women leaders offered a variety of perspectives. Many groups and individuals were still hesitant to challenge Bangladeshi society’s strong patriarchal traditions, and feared that doing so would invite a backlash that could hurt the survivors even more (D’Costa, interviews, 1999, 2000). One leading organization stated that it wanted to remain ‘apolitical’, implying that even after 30 years of independence the stories of women can make some powerful groups uncomfortable, even angry (D’Costa, interviews 2000). Recent years have seen some steps taken by national organizations in Pakistan, however. On 2 August 2002, 51 civil-society organizations in Pakistan, including the Human Rights Commission and other groups, issued a joint public apology to the ‘sisters and brothers’ of Bangladesh, for the excesses and atrocities committed against them in 1971. The statement added, ‘We feel sad and burdened by what we know was a violation of the people’s human rights.’ Although the apology should have come a long time ago (and, it should be noted, some citizen groups did attempt to do so), the statement nonetheless continued: ‘We deeply feel that a message from us is necessary to acknowledge the historic wrongs, to express

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sincere apology and to build a bond based on honest sentiments.’7 Ironically, Pakistani civil society appears more open to considering the wrongs committed in 1971 than does its Bangladeshi counterpart. After my field research, I can conclude that the stories of women present an alternative narrative of 1971 that challenges the official version of the creation of Bangladesh flavoured with invented memories. It is surely not too late to begin a gendered narrative of the war and to conduct a more critical and reflective study of nationalism and state-formation. Despite the complex politics of who ‘owns’ the legitimate right over 1971 – which also divides Bangladeshi civil society – it is important to address the past and to uncover silence in order to create a comprehensive national narrative.

5

Frozen in time? War crimes, justice and political forgiveness

‘Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.’ Press release on war-crimes case of former President of Liberia Charles Taylor1

On 14 May 2009, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan had ‘rejected Bangladesh’s demand for an apology over the alleged 1971 atrocities’. The official response was that Bangladesh should not be ‘frozen in time’ but rather should move ahead and ‘let bygones be bygones’; it also expressed the hope that relations between the two countries would not be held hostage by the past (Syed, 2009). Many Pakistanis seem to have already followed this advice. Pakistani scholars generally describe the traumatic narrative of 1971 as a ‘debacle’, while the media tends to use the term ‘incident’ or ‘disaster’ (see Chapter 3). However, genocide scholars across the world widely accept that, in its intent to destroy an ethnic group, in the systematic and strategic use of rape, and in the selected and targeted killings of a religious minority (Hindus) and intellectuals, the 1971 war was indeed a case of genocide.2 The most recent tension arose in early 2009, when the Bangladesh Parliament adopted a resolution to try alleged war criminals under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973. While the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has not offered any formal support, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has announced that it would assist Bangladesh in designing and setting up a war-crimes tribunal.3 Renata Lok Dessallien, the head of UNDP’s country office in Bangladesh, also confirmed that UNDP had ‘suggested the names of some top international experts who have experience in how war crimes tribunals operate across the globe’ (Daily Star, 8 April 2009). The genesis of Bangladesh as a sovereign entity in December 1971 is celebrated by many as a victory of a secular identity that went beyond any religion. However, the Bengali nationalist movement also generated a radical and homogeneous ethnic and linguistic fervour that excluded other minorities living within the borders of the new country. Since the early 1980s, this has subsequently contributed to yet another narrative of violence and armed insurgency, this time in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The exclusion of other linguistic minorities, such as plains Adivasis

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and Urdu-speakers, also contributes to the complexities of Bangladesh’s failure to achieve more than brittle peace following 1971. In this chapter, I focus specifically on the justice-seeking movement in Bangladesh that brought the issue of redressing war crimes to the forefront of the political and security agenda. The Pakistani forces were perceived by the overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis who supported liberation as ‘occupation forces’, and India’s intervention to end the conflict was welcomed. Pakistan also attracted global condemnation due to its brutal military crackdown in 1971, which resulted in mass atrocities and genocide. As noted in Chapter 3, estimates vary, but the widely accepted figure in Bangladesh is that between 1 and 3 million people died during the nine months of conflict, and a further eight to ten million were forced to leave their homeland. In addition, 200,000 women were reportedly victims of rape and sexual violence, with 25,000 of these attacks resulting in forced impregnation. A white paper issued by the Pakistani government in 1972 has also noted that at least 30,000 Biharis and West Pakistanis were killed as a result of the national movement and the conflict. Ultimately, a recent study suggests that 269,000 people died during the war leading to the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 (Obermeyer, Ziad et al., 2008). In the following section, I return to the aftermath of the conflict and discuss the ‘high politics’ of the subcontinent. This discussion provides some understanding of why the alleged war criminals were not brought to justice at that time.

Post-1971 diplomacy It is necessary to analyse post-war diplomacy in the post-1971 India-PakistanBangladesh triangle in order to comprehend what policies of the ruling regimes served as catalysts to the official history-making process, which excluded subaltern groups, especially Birangona women. After the war ended on 16 December 1971, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi clearly stated that she wanted Pakistan to recognize Bangladesh and, most importantly, that she wanted to bury the ‘Kashmir question’ by making Pakistan accept the ceasefire line as the permanent international boundary (Burke, 1973: 1036). Pakistan, on the other hand, advocated a step-by-step approach that excluded the Kashmir issue. From the Pakistani point of view, the immediate challenge was the withdrawal of Indian forces from the western front and the release of Pakistani prisoners-of-war (POWs). On this last point, India countered that the POWs had surrendered to the India-Bangladesh joint forces, and that therefore India could not release them without Bangladesh’s concurrence. Prime Minister Gandhi and Pakistan’s President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto subsequently had meetings in Simla from 28 June to 3 July 1972, but even afterwards the fate of the POWs remained unresolved. Under the Agreement of Bilateral Relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, both parties decided to withdraw their armed forces to their respective sides of the international border. In Kashmir, they agreed to respect ‘the line of control resulting from the ceasefire of December 17, 1971’ (Burke, 1973: 1037). However, there was a continuing deadlock over the release of approximately 93,000 Pakistani POWs, including

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15,000 civilian men, women and children captured in East Pakistan. India was adamant that the prisoners would not be released without Bangladeshi agreement; Bangladesh refused to discuss this or any other issue without Pakistani recognition of its sovereignty; and Pakistan was firm in not recognizing Bangladesh before Mujibur Rahman spoke to President Bhutto. Moreover, Mujib was determined to try some 1,500 POWs for war crimes. When Bangladesh applied for UN membership in 1972, it was barred by China’s veto in the Security Council. At the time, the relationship between China and Pakistan was strategically important because Pakistan was mediating between the Nixon Administration and China. Bangladesh obviously needed international support, and finally moved towards normalizing its relationship with Pakistan. A joint India-Bangladesh declaration was issued on 17 April 1973, which, although it leaving out political matters altogether, did include the recognition issue, UN membership and the Kashmir dispute. The declaration stated: The two Governments are ready to seek a solution to all humanitarian problems through simultaneous repatriation of the Pakistani prisoners of war and civilian internees, except those required by the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh for trial on criminal charges, repatriation of the Bengalis forcibly detained in Pakistan and repatriation of the Pakistanis in Bangladesh, that is all non-Bengalis who owe allegiance and have opted for repatriation to Pakistan. (India News, 27 April 1973) This meant that the 400,000 Bengalis detained in Pakistan would return to Bangladesh, that about 260,000 non-Bengali citizens of Pakistan would be repatriated, and that about 90,000 Pakistani POWs would return to Pakistan. However, Islamabad rejected Dhaka’s right to try the POWs on criminal charges, and expressed its readiness to constitute a tribunal to try individuals charged with offences. Pakistani Minister of State for Foreign and Defence Affairs Aziz Ahmed publicly stated that Pakistan was willing to set up an international tribunal to try the prisoners-of-war (Dawn, 24 April 1973). However, Bangladesh insisted that the Pakistani POWs be tried in Bangladesh by Bangladeshi judges and, on 17 April 1973, the government announced its decision to convene war-crime trials. Although India and Bangladesh jointly proposed a three-way exchange of detainees, the first Bangladeshi foreign minister, Kamal Hossain, declared that 195 Pakistani prisoners would be brought to the capital and prosecuted for genocide and other war crimes (Statesman Weekly, 21 April 1973). On 11 May that year, Pakistan filed a petition in the International Court of Justice requesting that it issue an order prohibiting India from transferring any prisoner to Bangladesh (Pakistan Affairs, 1 June 1973). On 28 August, India and Pakistan signed another treaty, with Bangladeshi support, providing repatriation procedures for all POWs other than the 195 charged with war crimes. The 1973 treaty was the result of compromises on the part of all three parties. Bangladesh moved away from its non-negotiable stance regarding POWs, and agreed to release all but the 195 even without Pakistan’s recognition of

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its sovereignty. In turn, Pakistan agreed to repatriate all Bangladeshis and non-Bengalis, and implicitly recognized Bangladesh. Clause V of the treaty stated that Bangladesh would participate in a meeting with Pakistan ‘only on the basis of sovereign equality’ (Jahan, 1974: 134). As a result, no Pakistan Army officials were ever tried for war crimes that took place during the Liberation War. As Roushan Jahan comments, the agreement was a diplomatic victory for Pakistan because Bangladesh was ultimately forced for make far more compromises than was Pakistan (Jahan, 1974: 135). The POW compromise, meanwhile, overshadowed the other important issue, the legitimacy of Bengali nationalism and the recognition of Bangladesh, on which no national consensus in Pakistan had yet emerged. Even today, the astonishingly small amount of impartial analysis of 1971 on the causes leading to the conflict reinforces the impression that Pakistani writers did not wish to be dubbed as traitors. Moreover, the emergence of Bangladesh and its deep emotive significance was seen as a ‘national humiliation’ – but one caused not so much by Bengalis as by India (Memon, 1983). Political tension in the subcontinent eased with Prime Minister Mujibur Rahman’s decision to grant a general clemency to Pakistani military and civil service officials held in India on charges of war crimes. However, Bangladesh never quite recovered from this decision. On 29 November 1973, Mujib further announced a general amnesty for all ‘Bangladeshi’ prisoners held under the Collaborators Act, the only exceptions being those facing criminal charges (Jahan, 1974). Nearly 33,000 ‘detained collaborators’ were subsequently freed. Yet the government’s policy clearly isolated people who had suffered human-rights violations at the hands of the Pakistan Army and its Bengali collaborators. Already there was growing frustration among the public, and the regime was proving itself unable to serve the interests of the subaltern and fragmented groups. In fact, the political situation had already begun to deteriorate the previous year. By 1972, groups previously united by the war against the military regime of Pakistan had begun to splinter along personal and ideological lines. The ruling Awami League (AL), created a repressive special force, the Rakhi Bahini, essentially government-sponsored vigilantes who ruthlessly suppressed anyone not supporting the League (Maniruzzaman, 1975, 1976). This shaped a political culture that continues to this day. As a result, the jubilation experienced by the people of the new nation-state was quickly tempered by fear of the bitter power struggle among the many leaders of the revolution – guerrillas, communists and Awami League workers. The prolonged anarchy was suspended for a while when Mujib returned from detention in West Pakistan on 10 January 1972.4 He was seen as the legitimate leader of the new nation-state, and the role of governing the country clearly belonged to the Awami League. Various guerrilla units of the Muktibahini (Liberation Army) loyal to him surrendered their arms in ceremonies throughout Bangladesh within the ten-day limit set by Mujib. However, the politics of the region regarding the amnesty of war criminals would continue to divide the nation-state, while the history of the principal sufferers was ignored.

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Political calculations Not only was the suffering of much of the Bangladeshi populace largely ignored, but many of those who perpetrated the violence in the first place have subsequently risen to positions of significant power. Here are the words of Jamal Hasan, a non-resident Bangladeshi, from 2002 (used with permission): It makes me more and more angry to see [that] the Razakaar, Al-Badr’s partners, are in the pinnacle of Bangladesh’s power. And so-called pro-liberation forces are splintered and are gradually marginalized. Of course, they cannot escape their responsibility for this quagmire. My blood boils to see those parasites of glorious liberation era are having the last laugh. Did we deserve to experience such humiliation? Abul Kasem, said this nicely, ‘Probably we would have been better off dying earlier so that we did not have to see the Razakaar, Al-Badr capturing state power.’ Although the darkness is engulfing everywhere, I still try to be optimistic. Because I believe truth will ultimately prevail. One of the first problems that Bangladesh suffered was acute factionalism within the Bangladesh Army. This was threefold, between the Muktibahini; the freedom fighters, those who had fought the war; and the repatriates, those who had been in West Pakistan during the war and who returned to Bangladesh in 1973–4. These internal divisions, combined with the systemic weakness of Bangladeshi politics, caused almost a dozen successful and unsuccessful coups d’état in just the first decade of Bangladesh politics. The bureaucratic elite in Bangladesh was adversely affected by sectarian discontent, factionalism and contradictory political orientations. From its very establishment, the bureaucracy was plagued by controversy due to the conflict between ‘patriots’ and ‘non-patriots’. The first major complication within the bureaucracy occurred over the issue of ‘collaboration’ with the Pakistani regime in 1971. About 6,000 government employees, including nine former CSP (Civil Service of Pakistan) officers, lost their jobs on charges over being collaborators (Maniruzzaman, 1982b). At this time, a significant shift took place with regard to all new appointments, with a quota being reserved for members of the Muktibahini and a special civil service exam being held to recruit the muktijodhya, or freedom fighters. Moreover, any freedom fighter who could establish links with Awami League leaders was automatically appointed to various positions. With a rapid rise in unemployment and increased economic hardship, many managed to secure fake certificates of participation in the Liberation War, in order to take advantage of the quota system (Maniruzzaman, 1982b). In the aftermath of the war, the words ‘collaborator’ and ‘miscreant’ rapidly began to lose meaning. Increasingly, they were used to denounce any element within the community, including economic rivals or political opponents, whom the ruling authority wished to eliminate. I use the word dalal (‘collaborator’) to refer to members of the Razakaar, Al-Badr, Al-Shams as well as the so-called

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Shanti (Peace) Committee, set up to oversee these groups; Bengalis who actively supported the Pakistan Army by providing them with information about the Muktibahini or ‘suitable’ women and girls; and members of the Bihari and other West Pakistani communities who were loyal to Pakistan and reported the movements of the Muktibahini, assisted in mass killings and looting, administered rape camps and so on. The government screened out these individuals following a special investigation commissioned to identify major war criminals. However, the investigation’s report was never made public, nor were the names of the 195 principal planners and executioners charged with responsibility for genocide and rape committed during 1971. On 24 December 1971, Home Minister A. H. M. Kamruzzaman publicly pledged that the collaborators would not escape justice, and that a large number of collaborators – including the former governor, Dr Malik, and members of his Cabinet – were officially reported to have been taken into custody. On 31 December, the government decided to set up an inquiry into the dimension and extent of genocide committed by the Pakistan Army in Bangladesh, and a presidential order establishing special tribunals to try collaborators was also issued. On 29 January 1972, Mujib declared that his government would not forgive those who were guilty of genocide in Bangladesh. In accordance with the Geneva Convention, the Bangladesh government also decided to set up two tribunals, one for the trial of individuals accused of genocide, and another for the trial of war criminals (Ziauddin, 1999). The Indian Army finally withdrew from Bangladesh in March 1972. In a public meeting attended by Indira Gandhi, Mujib announced that the Pakistani POWs would be handed over to Bangladesh for trial. This position was negotiated through several diplomatic manoeuvres around the subcontinent. The Bangladesh government appointed S. R. Pal and Serajul Haque as chief prosecutors for the trials of Pakistani POWs accused of genocide. However, regardless of the government’s public statements, it soon realized the impossibility of the situation, and finally decided to try only the 195 prisoners accused of serious crimes (ibid.). In 1975, the Awami League was ousted from power, when Mujib and most of his family were brutally assassinated by dissatisfied factions of the Bangladesh Army. The AL would not reassume power until 1996. In many ways, the issues of the Liberation War and the ‘spirits and aspirations of independence’ were seen as exclusively belonging to the Awami League, because it had led the Bengalis in their nationalist struggle. Moreover, the other two major parties that alternately ruled the country – the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jatiyo Party – openly included some politicians who had played extremely questionable roles during the Liberation War. Unfortunately, even with the AL’s re-assumption of power two decades later, nothing was done about war criminals and collaborators. Faced with massive poverty and economic hardship, a war-crimes tribunal was simply not high on the government agenda. While the country was struggling with economic crisis in the mid-1990s, one perilous growth slowly engulfed the nation. The political parties and collaborators who had engaged in partisan roles in the genocide and rape of 1971 slowly made

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their ways back into power. For survival reasons, both the BNP and Jatiyo Party cohabited with the Jama’at-i-Islami and the Islamic Alliance, and it has become clear that issues related to war crimes will never be considered by these alliances. For many of the political elite, the issues of war criminals and collaborators are ‘dangerous’ history or even ‘too close to home’. Fresh analysis of 1971 and the demand to prosecute the war criminals and collaborators could well bring down some very high-level politicians.

Victims still In fact, the seeds for the failure of successive governments in Bangladesh to make any progress on war-crimes prosecutions were sown during the war itself. First off, there is no evidence to suggest that the government-in-exile, which led the war, made any serious effort to formulate policies regarding war criminals and collaborators. Virtually from the beginning of the army crackdown, the East Pakistan leadership knew about Pakistan’s genocidal strategies. Moreover, in its declaration of the formation of the new government on 17 April 1971, it based its claims on, and specifically referred to, ongoing genocide on four separate occasions (Ziauddin, 1997). As a result, the new government lacked any credible strategy by which to deal with the war criminals once the war was over. Immediately after the war, mob anger was turned indiscriminately on the alleged collaborators, and instant violent justice was meted out, which on many occasions resulted in killings (D’Costa interviews, 1999–2003). Although the government tried to control public passions through repeated announcements that the public should not take the law into its own hands, these were largely ignored. As noted earlier, the Bihari community in particular faced the wrath of the public. After the initial settlement, the Bangladesh government issued executive orders to arrest collaborators. The Pakistan Army surrendered to the Indian command, and its members were taken as POWs. No evidence suggests that, even at this stage, there was any well-formulated plan by which to deal with war criminals. Moreover, the government’s strategies had one fatal flaw: distinguishing between the Pakistan Army and the local collaborators, despite the fact that both carried out the genocide and rape (Ziauddin, 1997). In 1972, the Bangladesh government promulgated the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order; but although this provided a new forum, it was required to deal with the aftermath of a revolutionary situation with peacetime legal norms that proved completely unsuitable. Furthermore, other than imprisonment or death, the new law did not frame any additional form of punishment, for instance the withdrawal of civil or political rights. Not every collaborator actively carried out genocide or rape, but many were involved in acts that ought to have seen them forfeit their future political rights, such as voting or participation in political activities (ibid.). In July 1973, the Parliament passed the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, aimed at bringing to trial members of the Pakistani armed forces. The Act also recommended the creation of a special tribunal, which never materialized. With regards to the victims of those who were to be put on trial, the official rehabilitation

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programmes were likewise disorganized, although the government did recognize the suffering of the victims and the need for financial compensation, psychological help and so on. But although the victims had directly suffered human-rights abuses during the war, they were not consulted regarding the government’s decisions on clemency and pardons. Ziauddin points out that the victims did not organize any forceful protest or even demand justice (Ziauddin, 1997), nor was there a popular movement or any sort of survivors’ organization that addressed the human-rights issues. The local and foreign disaster and relief organizations working in Bangladesh at the time diverted their energies to disaster management and the rehabilitation of the affected people, rather than calling for justice. However, despite the lack of any consolidated movement, victims nonetheless maintained hope that they would eventually receive justice (D’Costa interviews, 1999–2003). Meanwhile, more than three decades have passed and the voices of the survivors, especially of the Birangona women, have been silenced by the successive government policies of reinstating war criminals. For example, Khaleq Majumdar, the alleged killer of the distinguished author Shahidullah Kaizer, was sentenced to ten years in jail in 1972. However, he was released after Mujib’s general amnesty in November 1973, along with Maulana Mannan, Shah Azijur Rahman and many members and leaders of the Peace Committee, the Jama’at-i-Islami, the Muslim League, the Razakaar and the Al-Badr – all of whom had been actively involved in the mass killings in 1971. Because of the general amnesty, these people were able to assume powerful positions from the 1980s onwards. After Ziaur Rahman came to power, he abolished the Dalal Aain (‘Collaborator’s Act’); as a result, the Jama’at-i-Islami, the Nijami Islami, the Islami Democratic League and the Muslim League, all of which had been banned, were suddenly able to reorganize and rehabilitate themselves into fully functioning, lawful forces. One of the most notorious collaborators of 1971, Shah Azijur Rahman, was even appointed Prime Minister; and Maulana Mannan, who had formed the Peace Committee to organize the Razakaar and Al-Badr membership, was appointed Minister for Religious Affairs. Abdul Alim, who in 1971 had lined up innocent Bengalis and bayoneted them to death, also became a minister. In December 1991, Golam Azam was appointed amir (chairperson) of the Jama’at-i-Islami. Possibly the most notorious collaborator with the Pakistan Army, Azam had fled East Pakistan just before it became Bangladesh. In 1978, however, he returned with a Pakistani passport, and has lived there as a Pakistani national ever since. Yet against his return, public sentiment eventually coalesced into a popular movement. Jahanara Imam, mother of a martyr muktijodhya named Rumi and an eminent author who wrote Ekatturer Dinguli (‘Those Days of ’71), organized the National Coordinating Committee for the Realization of Bangladesh Liberation War Ideals and Trial of Bangladesh War Criminals of 1971. Popularly known as Shahid Jononi (Martyr Mother), she began a crusade directed specifically against Azam (Ghosh, 1993: 703–4). This widespread movement intensified with the creation of the Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee (Committee for the Elimination of the Killers and Collaborators

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of ’71 and the Restoration of the Spirit of the Liberation War), commonly referred to as the Nirmul (Elimination) Committee. In Jahanara Imam’s words, ‘Prompted by our commitment to the values of the Liberation War and love for our country and aggrieved by the failure of the government to try the war criminals,’ the Committee vowed to work to unearth ‘evidence of complicity of all collaborators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, killings and other activities’ (Ziauddin, 1997). In 1999, the Committee set up the National People’s Enquiry Commission, vested with the responsibility to investigate selected individuals. The commission eventually published two reports on 16 war criminals and collaborators; by 26 March 1999, it was also supposed to publish a third report on another seven, though this was never done. Regardless, in general the quality of the commission reports was very poor – the language emotive rather than reasoned, and lacking details that could have possibly led to criminal prosecutions. The movement also came to be seen as a watershed opportunity by the thenopposition Awami League, which decided to use the popular uprising to embarrass the BNP government. A number of BNP officials, fearing that any trial would lead to a domino effect of additional investigations of other collaborators, opposed the movement strongly – especially President Abdur Rahman Biswas, who had been a member of the Barisal Zilla (in the south) Peace Committee that had helped the Pakistan Army in 1971. Therefore, from the beginning the movement and the Gonoadalot (People’s Court) were studiously ignored by the government, before it finally retaliated by filing a sedition case against 24 People’s Court organizers, though this was later withdrawn. During the campaign to try war criminals, three Birangona women – Elejaan, Masuda and Duljaan – were brought to Dhaka from Kushtia to present their testimonies publicly. Although in the end they were unable to give their presentations because of a recent police attack on the People’s Court, their photographs nonetheless appeared in the newspapers. The freedom-fighter association responsible for the public appearance of these women eventually took them back to their villages; as it turns out, however, the story did not end there. In February 1997, Shahriar Kabir, a journalist and a major organizer of the Committee, visited the women in their villages while making a documentary on the events of 1971. He found that, in the aftermath of the publication of the photographs, the three women had each been ostracized by the members of their respective villages (Kabir, 2000). (Their experiences are further discussed in the next chapter.) Masuda had been barred from fetching drinking water from the local well, for instance, while Elejaan had been unable to marry off her daughter. Despite the good intentions behind bringing these Birangona before the public, the Committee’s ill-conceived decision proved insufficiently sensitive to the lingering social impact of the Birangona issue. Even while the Birangona were used to make an important political point to bring war criminals to justice, this adversely affected their personal interests. The committee failed to foresee that while testimonies of muktijodhya were stories of heroism, the experiences of Birangona were stories of violence that could be read as the failure of their men, families and communities to protect them from suffering and torture during the war. The

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Birangona stories were stories of shame; although the word ‘Birangona’ literally means heroine, its use failed to refute the stigma of the women’s suffering and its implications. In reality, these women were the living evidence of the failure of their communities to protect them, in addition to being the proof of the crimes committed in 1971. In the next chapter, I will observe how the women coped with these contradictory roles. The Liberation War Museum, which opened in March 1996, has started to archive documents and testimonies of wartime experiences of the Birangona and others. In addition, with limited resources but sharing the same goal, a number of other organizations – for example, Projonmo Ekatttur, Ain-O-Shalish Kendra and Odhikar – have started to document wartime experiences specifically of Birangona women. Although the political situation remains hostile, the work of feminist scholars on gendered violence elsewhere has encouraged local feminist human-rights organizations to analyse the 1971 war and the ‘brittle peace’ situation of the intervening decades in terms of its effect on Birangona women. In 2000, Ain-O-Shalish Kendra published its work in a book titled Narir Ekattur (’71 of Women). In addition, Bangladeshi newspapers periodically report on campaigns carried out by various other organizations, usually when Pakistani ministers come on state visits, during which events the Movement of the Trial of War Criminals of 1971 also regularly mounts high-profile campaigns. Until 2007, however, there had been no effective or strategic networking among these organizations to pursue the matter further. Moreover, the incoherent and small-group or individual activism that runs parallel to the official disinterest in pursuing the perpetrators of war crimes makes it unlikely the issue will be taken up by the government. In April 2008, following nine years of research, the War Crimes Facts Finding Committee (WCFFC), an independent research organization in Bangladesh convened by Dr M.A. Hasan, made public a list of 1,597 war criminals who had been involved in killings, rapes, looting and other serious crimes during 1971. The list of war criminals, who were directly involved in crimes against humanity and mass murder, includes 369 officers of the Pakistan Army, 852 Razakaar members, 64 Al-Badr members, 78 members of the Bihari community who had collaborated with the Pakistan Army, 106 political collaborators and 128 members of the Peace Committee. Following the WCFFC’s public announcement, the conservative Islamic group Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan stated in a press release: Our attention has been drawn to the campaign by certain people claiming to be Sector Commanders of Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War and the so-called war crime facts finding committee. Such groups mostly filled by atheists, leftists and anti-religious elements are continuously conspiring to destabilize internal situation in Bangladesh with a ulterior motive of labelling the country as a ‘Failed State’.5 This anger largely stemmed from the group’s leader, Hazrat Maulana Mohammadullah Hafezzee Huzur, who had been one of the ones denounced as a war criminal. Yet the press release also clearly indicates how the Islamic right has

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traditionally framed the justice movement for war-crimes trials to be secular and leftist, and therefore ostensibly against Islam. This is similar to the Pakistani state’s propaganda to justify its crackdown in Bangladesh. This issue is crucial to respond to, given that the history of Partition, the violent memories of Hindu-Muslim riots, and the subcontinent’s religion-based identity politics have all contributed to the framing of Islamic identity in Bangladesh as an oppositional force, one perceived to be counter to the justice movement. In reality, however, there were many clerics and Islamic leaders who supported the movement for an independent Bangladesh. Drawing on that history, rather than the confrontational politics, is imperative if the justice movement is to succeed.

War-crimes movement – why now? India and Pakistan signed the Simla Pact in 1972, and the former, following a series of meetings with both Pakistan and Bangladesh, agreed to return the 93,000 POWs to Pakistan. In the aftermath of the conflict, the new state of Bangladesh was pre-occupied in gaining both global recognition and foreign aid, especially from the Middle East, US and China, which in turn paved the way for recognition from Pakistan. As noted earlier, in exchange for recognition from Pakistan and the assets,6 Bangladesh’s new leaders agreed not to prosecute the POWs, except for 195 prisoners who were accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. (For details, refer to the Tripartite Agreement of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, 9 April 1974.) In the years following 1971, Bangladesh experienced a very chaotic situation, rife with political assassinations, authoritarian military regimes, structural violence and problems of governance (especially corruption, nepotism, police violence, political violence and religious extremism). Inevitably, this pushed the justice agenda further under the rug. However, following some hope of democratization in and following 1990, the demand for the trial of war criminals has increased. A People’s Tribunal took place in 1992, which had no legal status but did contribute to a strong symbolic meaning for the justice agenda. While it was not overtly successful in holding public mock trials, it did generate sustained (if not always thriving) activism to demand for the prosecution of the war criminals. I call this continuing activism and advocacy ‘the justice-seeking movement’, which draws upon the networking and knowledge from both the women’s and human-rights movements (as discussed in Chapter 6). Three important factors contributed to the intensification of the current justiceseeking movement. First, following President Fakhruddin Ahmed’s declaration of a state of emergency and the behind-the-scenes military ‘takeover’ in January 2007, civil-society groups have intensified their demands for the trial of war criminals. Their advocacy had a significant amount of space in which to operate during a period when partisan political activities were formally prohibited, and also gained quite a bit of airtime from sympathetic media. It was perceived that the interim military-backed government would be more sympathetic to the justice-seeking movement, especially as then Chief of the Army Staff, Moeen U. Ahmed, himself

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called for war-crimes trials. This strategic framing gained momentum when the Sector Commanders Forum (SCF, a platform of war veterans from 1971, led by the commanders) publicly pressed the interim regime for the prosecution of war criminals. This support from the armed forces is significant. According to Defence Ministry statistics, 3,713 of Bangladeshi soldiers died during the Liberation War. Second, the normative values attached to voter-awareness campaigns by various agencies and civil society in 2008 heavily focused on democratization and justice mechanisms, contributing to the Awami League’s pledge to address the issue of war crimes if it returned to power. (The AL did subsequently win the December 2008 election, and as of this writing remains in power.) Some noteworthy steps in this regard were the voter-education programme funded by the UNDP, in addition to a high-level panel established by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the December 2008 election, consisting of senior UN officials and election experts; media activism, highlighting the corruption and nepotism of politicians; and advocacy by international human-rights watchdogs such as Amnesty International. In addition, strong interest in the election was shown by Bangladeshi expatriates, fuelled by write-ups in online forums. Third, important factions of the armed forces, led by Army Chief Moeen U. Ahmed, supported the move to go forward with the war-crimes trials. It was reported in the media that he even approached the US and Pakistan to provide crucial documents to support such trials. Yet it should be noted that recent war-crimes demands have been somewhat blinkered and inward-looking. The interest groups are primarily interested in prosecuting the most infamous collaborators of the Pakistan Army, who are Bangladeshi nationals or Bengalis. In addition, the age-old tension continues to exist between religious and secular nationalist politics of the 1971 war, which has not been sufficiently addressed. While the justice-seeking movement goes beyond the secular to attract a relatively moderate religious populace, in many instances it also directly confronts the Islamic factions. Let us briefly look at a few examples. First, some revered religious elites supported the Pakistan Army’s actions during the war. Pirs, following the Sufi mystic tradition, have long had a strong influence in Bangladeshi society, particularly the holy men who embody a divine order, myths about whose miraculous healing powers invoke tradition built on veneration (Mills, 1998). This cult has attracted not only ordinary people but also powerful elites, and a few of the Pirs have contributed to the corrupt political power of the elites. On 31 July 1971, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported: Pir Sahib of Sarsina Sharif, president of the Jamiatul Mushaikh, East Pakistan and Amir, Hizbullah (East Pakistan) said … that the action taken by the army on March 25 was the only course open in view of the situation created by Indian infiltrators and local miscreants particularly criminals breaking jails in East Pakistan … He said now the people of East Pakistan were fully aware of the real position and were determined as ever to remain united with their brothers in West Pakistan. He appealed to president general Yahya Khan to award exemplary punishment to those conspiring with India to disintegrate Pakistan. In a joint statement signed by Pir Sahib Sarsina Sharif, Pir Sahib Dewal Sharif

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War crimes, justice and political forgiveness and Maulana Abdul Mannan, president, Jamitul Mudaraseer, East Pakistan and member of the delegation said a branch of the Jamiatul Madreseen had been opened in West Pakistan and about 200 ulema of this Wing have joined hands with the East Pakistan organisation of 25,000 ulema teachers of Arabic madrassas to help keep the country united and strong. They emphasized the need for reforms in educational system to make it Islamic ideology oriented. They also called for taking to Islamic way of life. Pir Sahib Sarsina sharif and Maulana Abdul Mannan appealed to those West Pakistanis who had left East Pakistan because of abnormal conditions there a few months back to return to their business at the earliest. They said the people of East Pakistan were determined to defeat any Indian design to harm this country.7

This demonstrates that East Pakistani religious leaders were trying to emphasize the idea of Pakistan through a brotherhood of men, India as the archenemy and, finally, commending the brutality of the Pakistani state’s action in East Pakistan/ Bangladesh. It is also believed that the Pir of Sarsina issued a fatwa during the conflict to the effect that it was permissible to rape Bengali women, especially Hindu women, as the conflict was to be considered a holy war against infidels. Other Islamic clerics in rural areas issued similar fatwas. Many of these Pirs, Islamic preachers and other leaders who directly or indirectly supported the Pakistani state’s violence in 1971, have resettled comfortably in post-conflict Bangladesh. (Some of these have been also been detailed in Chapter 3.) Sarsina Pir, for instance, has followers in the influential political parties, and was given the Liberation War Award (Shadhinota Podok) during BNP rule. The former military dictator Hussain Mohammad Ershad (1986–91) is a follower of the Atroshir Pir of Faridpur, who was also known for his pro-Pakistan stance during the conflict. Others have done well for themselves in the diaspora. Lutfur Rahman, for instance, is now the imam at the Bordesley Green Mosque in Birgmingham, UK; Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, Al-Badr’s operations-in-charge in Dhaka, is now the vice-chairman of the East London Mosque.8 Testimonies by a number of victims regarding specific allegations of rape, abduction, the intentional killing of Hindus and land-grabbing have also been made against Saidi, a self-proclaimed Islamic preacher from Pirojpur who continues to preach in the UK, the US and elsewhere. Jama’at-e-Islami, a key party in the BNP-led four-party alliance that was in office till 2006, has been publicly nervous about the recent justice-seeking movement, as some of its central members would likely face war-crimes charges. Throughout the nine months of conflict, a number of political and religious leaders publicly supported the Pakistan Army, drawing on the Islamic identity of East Pakistan to legitimate its excessive force, and there exists allegations of war crimes against specific Jama’at and BNP leaders. There has, however, been some very recent official work on redress on this front. On 9 April 2009, an inter-ministry meeting decided to set up an investigation agency, appoint prosecutors and establish tribunals for the trial of Bangladeshis who had collaborated with the Pakistan Army in killings, rapes, looting and arsons, under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973.

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The following month, as a result of a public-interest petition filed the previous November, the Dhaka court issued an order against Jama’at’s former amir Ghulam Azam, incumbent amir Matiur Rahman Nizami, secretary-general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and 32 others to explain why they should not be declared war criminals (New Age, 12 May 2009). Nizami was the all-Pakistan chief of the Al-Badr high command, the paramilitary force of the Pakistan Army; Mujahid was the East Pakistan chief of the Al-Badr, and he is allegedly responsible for carrying out the order to kill intellectuals on 14 December 1971, two days before Pakistan’s surrender. While addressing the assembly of the paramilitary forces at the Razakaar district headquarters in Jessore, a district bordering India, Nizami stated, ‘In this hour of national crisis, it is the duty of every Razakaar to carry out his national duties to eliminate those who are engaged in war against Pakistan and Islam’ (Daily Sangram, 15 September 1971). Another crucial challenge is that the justice-seeking movement, especially the women’s movements that are integral parts of it (as discussed in the next chapter), clashes with the ideological underpinnings of the Islamic movement in Bangladesh. If this tension is not resolved, justice-seeking mechanisms will never be successful. To illustrate this point, I will focus very briefly on some of the tensions. The Ulema committee that was formed to review the National Women Development Policy strongly opposed equal rights for women, and recommended the deletion of six sections of the policy and the amendment of 15 others because they were said to ‘clash’ with the Quran and Sunnah. It also asked for the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to be withdrawn on a national level. Mufti Mohammad Nuruddin, the acting khatib of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, who headed the committee that reviewed the National Women Development Policy stated, ‘A woman cannot enjoy rights equal to a man’s because a woman is not equal to a man by birth’ (Daily Star, 18 April 2008). That women’s rights are not equal rights has been a sore point of contention between the Islamic right, which challenged various regimes’ development and rights policies focusing on women. It will be imperative to initiate dialogues and debates with the religious elite regarding justice mechanisms that would integrate allegations of rape and sexual violence during the war, as well. Some of these issues had already been addressed by the Sector Commanders Forum since mid-2008. An example of this was the meeting between Islamic leaders and the SCF on 7 June 2008, where the SCF chairman, Air Vice-Marshall (retd) A.K. Khandaker and several others (including sector commanders Major-General (retd) K.M. Shafiullah, Major-General. (retd) C.R. Dutta, Major-General. (retd) Rafiqul Islam, Lieutenant-Colonel (retd) Abu Osman Chowdhury and former army chief and chief coordinator of SCF Lieutenant-General. (retd) Harun-arRashid among others) met with some representatives of the Islamic elite (including Maulana Abdur Rahim, Maulana Mizanur Rahman, Principal of Baridhara Madrasa Maulana Abdul Alim Faridi, Khatib of Rajbari Mosque Mufti Ainul Islam). Although a positive occurrence, it is important to note that such discussions have still been taking place solely between men, similar to what took place

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in post-Partition and post-Liberation negotiations. If any justice-seeking movement is to be successful, these discussions must include women’s movements as well as minority-rights groups, especially those representing the Hindu community, the Bihari community and indigenous groups. Given that justice cannot be compartmentalized and measured, a holistic approach is required in which various communities feel that they have equal access. For its part, Pakistan is watching these recent moves in Bangladesh cautiously. The Bangladesh government has raised the question of individual and collective accountability of the Pakistani state in both formal and informal meetings; and has stated that it is imperative for Pakistan to apologize for the genocide/mass atrocities that took place in 1971, to share assets and also to repatriate the Biharis who remain in camps in Bangladesh. Abdul Basit, the spokesperson of the Foreign Office, stated in mid-May 2009, ‘As far as Pakistan is concerned, this matter stands resolved under the April 9, 1974, tripartite agreement’ (Dawn, 14 May 2009). Yet under that agreement, Pakistan acknowledged its ‘regrets’ but offered no formal apology. During a visit to Bangladesh in 2002, former President Pervez Musharraf likewise expressed ‘regrets’ over the 1971 ‘excesses’. In addition, some civil-society groups in Pakistan, especially human-rights and women’s-rights activists, have on various occasions offered public apologies. The fact remains, however, that Pakistan refuses to offer a formal apology, even as a symbolic gesture. For Pakistan today, this is seen as a distraction creeping up from its past, at a time when it is facing massive internal problems and at times appears to be on the verge of state ‘failure’. It could be argued, however, that the Pakistani political and military elite’s continued denials of grave injustice committed against its own citizens in the ‘recent past’ entrenched deep injustice as a legacy that is now intrinsic in its political culture. This is reflected in Balochistan and Sindh, in widespread militarization of the society, and in gradual extremism that generated a devastating impact on the everyday lives of the ordinary people of Pakistan. While the trauma of 1971 evokes profound emotions, Bangladesh must also be sensitive to this internal turmoil, especially of the traumatic experiences of ordinary citizens and the currently displaced population in Pakistan. Demonizing ‘Pakistan’ is unlikely to further Bangladesh’s demands, and Pakistan’s official position must be considered separately from public opinion. As such, establishing a civil-society network that reaches across the bitter historical divide, coupled with promoting strategic dialogues about how to meaningfully deal with the past, constitutes one crucial step towards reconciliation and healing for both sides.

A deliberate trial Of course, there are some serious challenges ahead, some of which are briefly noted here along with opportunities for future reconciliation. First, the Bangladesh government and the civil society must respond to the domestic opposition that argues that the justice-seeking movement and official actions are counter-productive, especially claims that these are political stunts to shift attention from important issues such

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as the economic slump, price hikes and other issues. Second, the time gap between when the war crimes took place and the proposed establishment of a civil and temporary tribunal has given the defendants time to destroy crucial evidence. Third, on a related point, some of the most daunting challenges are logistical. If the war-crimes trial is to succeed, a commission of enquiry must first be formed, which must gather evidence, and identify and recommend the arrest of some of the most senior and infamous war criminals. The proposed commission must consider the possibilities of a truth-and-reconciliation commission, which could allow not only Bangladeshi citizens (within and outside Bangladesh) but also both Indian and Pakistani citizens (and others) who have direct experiences of the 1971 war to provide testimonies and crucial evidence. The experiences of other states dealing with war crimes have demonstrated that, without a simultaneous reconciliation mechanism, a war-crimes trial in Bangladesh in itself would not be effective. Finally, the finances of the proposed trial must be sorted out. The media has reported that, following the demands of the Law Ministry, the Bangladesh Cabinet has approved 10 crore taka (approximately US$ 1.5 million) for the trial, a budget that will not satisfactorily compensate the costs relating even to the domestic judicial process. It is also not clear whether this budget includes funding for detention facilities and logistics, investigations, translations or defence counsel. While the proposed trial is still a domestic process, if in future this is extended to the legal responsibilities of Pakistani citizens, Bangladesh would need to demonstrate that it is a fair and just process.9 While the Bangladesh government expressed its ability to initiate the trials through the 1973 Act, the process must be acceptable to the international community. Internationally, some hybrid mechanisms have been tried in recent years in East Timor, Cambodia and Sierra Leone. However, all of these proved to be hugely expensive. The budget for East Timor’s hybrid process was US$ 6.3 million, with US$ 6 million of that allotted to the prosecution unit and the remainder almost entirely to salaries for international judges (Katzenstein, 2003). The cost of the Cambodian tribunal (the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, ECCC) was originally US$ 53 million for three years, and it expanded to US$ 170 million for five years.10 The original budget for the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s (SCSL) was estimated at US$ 22 million for its first year of operation, compared to the ICTY and ICTR whose annual budgets each exceed US$ 90 million (Scharf, 2000).11 Now, the SCSL’s bill for 2008–10 is USD$ 68.4 million, and it has recently turned to the US and countries in the Middle East for the US$ 30 million not yet secured.12 Considering the financial costs involved, the Bangladeshi government appears to have made a wise decision to proceed through a domestic process. At the same time, however, the country’s domestic justice mechanism is relatively weak, and corruption is a serious concern. Networking with various international and regional counterparts to share knowledge and develop skills for the justice mechanisms would thus be a useful strategy. Either way, rushing into a war-crimes trial would not be prudent prior to the reports and recommendations of the proposed enquiry commission and a detailed

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consideration of the finances. The current political environment in favour of a trial may not reoccur; and if the trial does not succeed, there could be a significant ‘justice fatigue’, which would obstruct any possible future process. On the other hand, further delays would mean that more of the perpetrators would be removed from the scene by natural death. It is important to ensure that the ordinary people who experienced violence during the war have meaningful access, and are encouraged to participate in both the proposed commissions and the trial. If these justice processes are considered to be elite or middle-class-based initiatives, then the potential impact of the trial would be seriously undermined and its legitimacy challenged and the people would feel cut off from the entire initiative. Ultimately, the success of the proposed trial of war criminals would be measured by its ability to create a legacy for future generations, not only in Bangladesh but for the global justice agenda.

6

Partnership with transnational networks for gender-sensitive justice mechanism

When I was telling these two [Birangona] that three Korean women had asked for apologies from Japan, we were all thinking, ‘Our poor country! We can’t even ask for justice!’ Maleka Khan, D’Costa Personal Conversation, 2001

This final chapter begins with a puzzle: why, after over a decade of transnational feminist theorizing and activism on and in post-conflict situations, and of feminists mobilizing around women’s experiences in war zones, including mass rapes, is there today no feminist action around the Birangona in Bangladesh? Why is the issue of war rape during 1971 still relegated largely to a statistic in more general works on war rape? What is it about Bangladesh – and, more particularly, about the women’s movement in Bangladesh – that could explain the continued silence about the events of 1971? Finally, how might transnational feminist learning and networks contribute to breaking this silence? Once my fieldwork was completed, I found myself asking why Bangladesh as a nation, after emerging from such a terrible war, demonstrated no consistent interest in digging into the details of its own emergence into nationhood. For many, it should be understood, the act of remembering private pain and suffering can be described as one of political resistance. The importance of documenting women’s memories in constructing official history is to help to provide a comprehensive and gender-sensitive national narrative. In this chapter, I examine what the Bangladesh feminist movement can learn from other international and regional feminist movements around the world, in order to respond more effectively in terms of achieving women’s rights. I also examine how understanding the experience of women in post-1971 Bangladesh can help to design more responsible and responsive methods of addressing the needs of women in conflict zones, in Bangladesh and beyond. Both locally and globally, women’s movements fall into three general categories. First are women’s-rights activist groups, which raise women’s issues at national and international policy levels; second are research and advocacy organizations, which develop and promote public awareness; and third are non-governmental bodies, which mobilize women at the very local level, allowing them to participate

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in networking. Each of these streams is also engaged in shared dialogues, and may interchange roles for various purposes. This chapter begins with an examination of the Bangladesh women’s movement, which requires revisiting the Indian women’s movement. It then moves to how transnational feminist networking can contribute to the women’s movement in Bangladesh. Finally, it concludes with a re-visioning of strategies for ‘breaking the silence’ in Bangladesh; and in turn contributing Bangladeshi experiences to the growing realm of transnational women’s peacebuilding, thus allowing the Bangladesh experience to contribute to feminist knowledge around women and war. I also explore possible strategies for transformative feminist politics around 1971, including a tribunal. I argue that a woman-friendly tribunal, which documents events and invites testimony from witnesses, would provide a platform for women who wish to speak about their experiences. Such a tribunal could become a stage not only for ending the silence but also for applying pressure to governments, and could eventually create additional possibilities for disclosure in the future. Women’s movements elsewhere in South Asia influenced the Bangladeshi women’s movement in a number of ways. The similarities of women’s movements in the Indian subcontinent derive from the fact that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have a shared colonial past that utilized the situation of women for the existence of the nation-state, as I have sought to demonstrate. Regional workshops, conferences and academic exchanges between activists and scholars regarding women’s rights have contributed to the growth of a shared and coherent women’s movement in the subcontinent. Based on common cultural and traditional backgrounds, and on the shared history of nation-building in different states, these movements have exchanged ideas, formulated strategies and developed new ways of addressing the historical abuse of women and of seeking restitution in the present. This shared regional dialogue also gained significantly from a number of exchanges in international feminist spheres. Transnational feminist dialogues have developed insight and strategies at regional, local and national levels to promote women’s human rights. A relevant example here is the feminist networking that led to the Yugoslav and Rwandan war-crimes trials, where rape was prosecuted as a war crime. (One of the most notable achievements of the Hague Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was identifying and stigmatizing rape as a war crime rather than as a spoil of war. For instance, rape had not featured in any of the indictments of Nazi war criminals. Article 27 of the Geneva Convention IV formally outlawed the rape of civilians, but it was signally omitted from the ‘grave breaches’ regime in Article 147. The tribunals also encouraged local initiatives, which have mainly been adopted by women’s organizations.) At the local level, the Bangladeshi feminist movement may gain insight from the strategies used to establish and maintain these tribunals, and formulate its own tribunal within the boundaries of international and national laws. In this chapter, I ask whether it is possible to redress the gross human-rights violations that occurred in 1971 through such a mechanism. In the first part of the chapter, I briefly trace the South Asian movement, the Bangladeshi movement and the transnational movement, separately and together.

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All three were influenced by past alienation of scholarly endeavours from activism, religious and class-related conflicts. However, a transnational approach taken by feminists worldwide has significantly reduced the challenges faced at both local and global levels. In the second part of this chapter, I investigate what the Bangladeshi feminist movement can learn from the transnational movement. In this context, I observe the social reform of, and resistance to, the international women’s movement that originates within the nation-state. This discussion is set in the context of arguments in favour of establishing a woman-friendly tribunal in Bangladesh, especially to provide a platform for women who were raped and abused during 1971 to tell their stories and possibly seek redress for their suffering. Given the complex political scenario in Bangladesh and within the Indian subcontinent, a hybrid tribunal would be a strategic bargaining mechanism. I suggest that the Bangladeshi justice movement, and in particular the feminist movement, should be more attentive to the transnational networking surrounding tribunals organized elsewhere. Finally, I take the achievement of the transnational feminist movements to the next level of integration and networking, which in turn would encourage participants of women’s movements both locally and globally to address socio-political biases in gender relations. Importantly, this chapter shows that, for Bangladeshis, 1971 does not exist merely in the past, nor even within a particular timeframe. The ‘excesses’,1 in the form of genocide (Chowdhury, 2002), committed by the Pakistan Army remain very real in the Bangladeshi psyche. Furthermore, the absence of any expression of regret from the perpetrators and the denial of justice to the victims have together deepened the scars of 1971, and have had implications for the ways in which the Bangladeshi national identity has been constructed. The unresolved nature of these hurts means that the past continues to haunt the present.

Women’s movements, regional and national As demonstrated multiple times throughout this book, women’s bodies are charged with metaphorical meanings profoundly rooted in a social and cultural structure that is outside the physical control of individual women. In times of conflict and violence, women’s bodies often become the carriers of violent messages between different ethnic or other groups. The symbolism of female bodies being used to signal disorder in the imagined social and civil life has received increased scholarly attention since the Balkan wars of the 1990s (Stiglmayer, 1994). Paola Melchiori suggests that this reproduces women’s original role, ‘a general exchange coin’ that is the concealed basis of a social bond’ (Melchiori, 1997: 7). Once interest in the symbolism of women’s bodies was renewed, feminist scholars in various regions started to recast questions in relation to historical conflicts. While this book looks at the centrality of women in the nationalist project in Bangladesh, one of my major concerns was how states in general have responded to the ‘uses’ and ‘experiences’ of ‘their’ women, often by using the violence that women have suffered as part of the symbolic construction of the nation. In Chapter 2, I mentioned that social workers involved in rehabilitating

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women abducted during the Partition riots in India were deeply divided about how to help these women without violating their rights. However, there is no evidence to suggest that any organized or strategic women’s movement emphasized women’s rights as human rights at the time. Similarly, the Bangladeshi women’s movement did not organize protests or any other form of demonstration to demand justice for the Birangona women. The charity-focused approach of social workers and the state apparatus did not leave any space for the women to voice their protests if they were unwilling to go ahead with the state’s prescribed policies. This approach made it imperative to be ‘indebted’ to the state for what it was doing for the women, and not to raise questions or challenge the policies being carried out. Women were cast as victims and, therefore, deserving of the state’s assistance. As noted elsewhere in this chapter, the state did not think far ahead about women’s futures. Patriarchal and traditional beliefs were played out in the decisions made in relation to the official women’s rehabilitation project. As such, the primary goal of this project was not emancipative, but rather to blend women back into the traditional gender roles they had previously performed as housewives, mothers or daughters. To ensure the success of the project in terms of the state’s purpose, the silence of the women was imperative. This silence also guaranteed that the state’s rehabilitation programme would remain unchallenged and, because of this, the women were denied any right to justice. This silence also ensured that the mainly elite narrative construction of the past gained official acknowledgment. Although the policymakers felt that silence about the incidence of war rape was necessary to erase the stigma suffered by the women, ironically this silence reinforced that stigma. However, today the Bangladeshi women’s movement could work to create public awareness of this issue, and could demand justice and reparations for the women, particularly if it followed the approach used by the global women’s movements. In so doing, the Bangladeshi movement could also provide a way for Bangladeshi society to deal with a past that strongly affects both its present and future. It could also provide a useful understanding about how to revise the ways in which assistance is delivered to the women and their families. Without an important revision of the policy model designed to help these women, after all, there will be no permanent solution. This is not to suggest that it would be possible for the women to return to the lives they lived nearly 40 years ago, before experiencing the pain and trauma of the Liberation War. While social workers tried their best to ‘rehabilitate’ the women so they could resume their pre-war lives, they ended up creating an uneasy and brittle peace for these women in their private lives. In turn, this has led to the public silence surrounding the violence they had suffered. As such, I suggest that a link between women’s movement in Bangladesh and transnational networks would be productive. The aim of such a connection would be to design, and gain support for, a fact-finding project to document and produce a report comprising the narratives of gendered experiences in 1971. This project could act as the first stepping-stone along the path of reconstructing history and addressing multiple truths, in order to clear the way for justice.

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First, I want to focus briefly on past initiatives taken by feminist activist groups in Bangladesh. Both structural factors and strategic choices have shaped the outcomes of particular policies followed by such groups within the country. Despite holding fragmented and dispersed views, Bangladeshi women’s organizations have successfully raised numerous feminist issues. The space of social activism is occupied by activists who are well versed in the social and political movements of South Asia, especially of India. As political activists, Bengali women contributed to the anti-colonial nationalist struggle for the independence of the subcontinent. This experience of social and political activism continued to shape the character of the Bangladeshi feminist movement after 1971, which was also influenced by its own local historical struggle against patriarchy, religion, traditional practices and poverty. It is therefore necessary to begin by looking at the South Asian women’s movement, and pay special attention to the Indian women’s movement. Women’s movements in South Asia have a centuries-old history of resistance to colonialism and patriarchy. Feminist solidarity is rather fragile in the region due to the fact that opportunities to meet are often hard to come by, and it is not easy to gather the resources required for regional meetings (Menon-Sen, 2002: 132). Despite these barriers, over the past decade South Asian women’s groups have held several region-wide dialogues affirming their commonalties. One outcome of these is the South Asian Feminist Declaration, an expression of personal and political commitment to a broad-based South Asian Feminist Platform (Menon-Sen, 2002, 133). Feminist exchanges between South Asian feminists have also created several coalitions, including the South Asian Network of Gender Activists and Trainers (SANGAT), which comprises activists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In 2001, SANGAT organized a workshop for various movements, to give them a platform to make their demands for reforms in issues such as sustainable agriculture, right to information and self-government, and for protests against the displacement of communities by the construction of large dams. One notable exploration of the evolution of women’s movements in the subcontinent is Radha Kumar’s The History of Doing: An Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800–1990, which traces the construction of women’s activism in various campaigns and struggles. Kumar argues that while the earlier reform discourse in India had rationalized the family, the later discourse of nationalism created the archetypal mother figure. Women became socially useful for the nationalist movement, which saw the symbolic use of ‘mother’ as a rallying device – from the feminist assertions of women’s power as ‘mothers of the nation’, to the Gandhian celebration of the spirit of endurance and suffering embodied in the mother (Kumar, 1993: 2). In pre-Partition India, Kumar notes, the nationalist-feminist movement raised the issue of rape mainly to indicate the ‘excesses’ committed by the British state as a foreigner and colonizer. In post-Partition India, the left and far right raised the issue of rape to indicate the ‘excesses’ committed by the state and the ruling class (Kumar, 1993: 128). Meanwhile, Indian feminist campaigns against rape during the last two decades have focused on custodial and mass rape due to the scale and frequency of rape by police personnel in India. Kumar writes that the categorization

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of different forms of rape is unique in the Indian context, which includes such groupings as ‘landlord rape’ and ‘police rape’. There is also a category of rape by those who are in authority – that is, men who exercise the power they have within the workplace in order to rape women employees or juniors; as well as ‘caste rape’, in which caste hierarchy is exercised (Kumar, 1993: 128). However, these categories of rape are by no means unique to India, and can be used to describe rape in Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well. In India, rape is an uncomfortable issue for women’s groups affiliated with different political parties. For example, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) tends to see rape as an instrument of class oppression, rather than as an act of violence against women (Kalpagam, 2000: 3–4). Kumar notes that the feminist discussion of rape as an expression of class- and gender-based power was shouldered aside by the patriarchal view of rape as a violation of honour and the need to ensure the protection of women (Kumar, 1993: 142). Despite their record of mobilizing against rape and domestic violence, the progressive women’s movements in India have been unable to anticipate and counter either the incitement to or the acts of communal violence. Although communal violence of a gendered nature played a central role in the formation of the Indian nation, I noted earlier that feminists such as Veena Das, Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon initiated discussions of nation, violence and sexuality only during the mid-1990s. In reconstructing the gendered history of the Partition of India and Pakistan, Butalia (1995a, 1995b) and Menon and Bhasin (1996, 1998) discussed the symbolic use of violence suffered by women in the construction of the nation-state. This approach emerged mainly from discussions of the scholar-activist circle in India, which subsequently spread to Bangladesh and Pakistan. Inspired by the scholar-activist feminist contribution of these dialogues, Ain-O-Shalish Kendra, the Bangladeshi human-rights organization, took the initiative to document women’s testimonies from the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, as noted elsewhere in this book. This proved to be a first step towards examining the gendered construction of the Bangladeshi national identity. Meanwhile, elsewhere in South Asia women’s movements were from the mid-1990s being constrained by right-wing politics. For example, in India, the establishment of a Hindu nationalist government based on the outcome of a fractured mandate after the general elections of 1998 indicated a powerful and growing right-wing Hindu influence. This posed a significant challenge to the Left and progressive movements in India. Women’s movements in India and South Asia generally have had to rethink and redefine their demands and critiques of the structure of identity politics, secularism and practices of democracy. In so doing, the concept of a postcolonial nation-state was critically addressed from a feminist standpoint (Chatterjee, 1993). The South Asian progressive women’s movement rarely used the symbol of motherhood as a rallying device during the 1990s; and gender-based structures of oppression with regard to rights, education, social reform and division of labour replaced the roles of mother and wife. Today, the working woman and her rights, roles and contributions in society dominate the centre stage of the South Asian women’s movements.

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Ratna Kapur and Brenda Cossman (1995) have discussed the process of engendering community and communalizing gender through discursive strategies in the field of law. They observe that there exists a contest over meaning and the struggle to redefine the concepts of secularism and equality. With regard to India, they suggest that by opting for a definition of secularism that sanctions equal treatment of all religions, rather than the separation of religion from politics, members of right-wing Hindu movements have been able to cast their argument for a Hindu state within the discourse of secularism. This Hindu nation-state would allow for equal treatment for all of its citizens, yet would maintain Hinduism as the dominant religion, establishing norms against which others would be judged. In India, tension remains between secularism and Hindu dominance, which is impossible to reconcile and which will adversely affect women’s rights. Similarly, in Bangladesh tension between secularism and Muslim identity seriously affects women’s interests. While discussing the gender dynamics of nationalism, Valentine Moghadam has observed that movements for national liberation were rarely extended to the autonomy and liberation of women (Moghadam, 1994b: 2). The policies for the recovery of kidnapped women in following Partition in 1947, and the abortion and adoption programmes in Bangladesh after 1971, both occurred irrespective of women’s wishes or consent. As such, these are both examples of the ways in which women’s rights are often subsumed and subordinated to a national ‘right’. Generally, women’s liberation has been regarded as unfavourable to the identity and existence of the national group. Representations of the suffering of women living in traditional societies such South Asia (including Afghanistan) and Iraq now appear on the front pages of American and European newspapers whenever religious, communal and ethnic violence erupts. However, less written about has been the ways in which nationalism and the discourses of the nation and its citizenry control, and are violent towards, women’s bodies and their sexuality. To return directly to the Bangladesh experience, during 1971 many Muslim Bengali women participated as activists in their country’s national movement, many taking to the streets in active resistance. Their unique cultural identity became their symbol, and the use of the phrase ‘Muslim Bengali woman’ had a new political rather than religious connotation. These liberating actions served several purposes. They demonstrated to the Pakistani rulers that Bengali culture was uniquely different from West Pakistani traditions; that Bengalis shared similar cultural values irrespective of whether they were Hindu or Muslim; and that Bengali women were more liberated than West Pakistani women. The political activism of Muslim Bengali women played a crucial role in achieving independence for Bangladesh. However, after their country was born, these women were encouraged to go back to their traditional roles as wives, mothers and daughters, and generally as protected beings. Moreover, the national movement was not concerned with women’s actual emancipation, and thus the Liberation War failed to achieve freedom for all its citizens. By using the situation of women, the national ‘liberation’ rhetoric served to consolidate emotion in order to create an active struggle against the Pakistan Army. But in reality, women were still seen as

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belonging in the private sphere, the result of a complex construction of traditional, religious and cultural values. In subsequent years, this has been confronted. In particular, the acceptance of Bengali women as cherished and protected mothers, wives or daughters was challenged by the increased awareness that women are subordinated in the hierarchical gender relations in Bangladesh, which denies them access both to social power and to autonomy over their own lives. Traditionally, the honour of the family is linked to the virtue of its women, and men are responsible for protecting this honour (Kabeer, 1988: 100). The experience of 1971, however, helped women to raise their concern about their subordination. Indeed, the norm of female seclusion and the perception of the ‘safety’ of the private sphere was shattered by the 1971 war, when women could not be protected by their men against aggression and were then abandoned (Jahan, 1995a: 102). Since the Liberation War, Bangladesh has been ruled by a Bengali ruling class comprising an unstable class alliance of an underdeveloped bourgeoisie, the military and the bureaucracy (Kabeer, 1988: 99). During regime changes, meanwhile, several factors have remained consistent: increased impoverishment and social differentiation, and a steady rise in aid dependency. Yet at the same time, increased violence against women in both the public and private spheres has helped to develop a greater awareness of the position of women in Bangladesh. This awareness has also been informed by developed communication with other states and increased participation in transnational feminist programmes. This has including attendance at international conferences, workshops and dialogues, and a significant interest worldwide in addressing gender inequality. Roushan Jahan writes: If a movement is defined as ‘an organized attempt by group/s to bring about either partial or total change in society through collective mobilization based on an ideology,’ then a women’s movement certainly exists in Bangladesh. A broad definition would include all the organized activities that question the legitimacy of the basic tenets of Bangladeshi social structure that support male domination and female subordination: that protest the values, customs, practices, laws and institutions designed to impose, maintain, and perpetuate patriarchal attitudes and existing gender relations in the family, community, workplace, society, and the state; and that engage in collective action to change societal values an attitudes to realise a gender-just society. (Jahan, 1995: 87–88) This definition emphasizes an awareness of the systematic gendered inequality in Bangladesh, as well as a need to work towards social transformation for gender justice. Bangladesh is a resource-limited, overpopulated and dependent capitalist country that has a deeply embedded conservative and traditional patriarchal social structure. Gender, class and location determine almost every opportunity in Bangladesh, even today. There remains a glaring disparity between rich and poor, men and women, urban and rural inhabitants.

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To make matters more difficult, family law in Bangladesh is largely governed by religion, and is discriminatory. Accordingly, men control women’s bodies, their sexuality and their inheritance; men are also able to practice polygamy, exercise guardianship over female dependants, or divorce their wives. In addition, lower nutritional status, inadequate access to health facilities, lower literacy rates and insignificant political representation in Parliament and local government bodies create an unbearable situation for many women, forcing many to struggle for the bare necessities of everyday life. The negotiated survival techniques that women devise are not only a compromise with the state and community, but also with their own families. Admittedly, the traditional construction of the male role as protector of the women of the household has been compromised due to increased poverty and the need to generate income for the survival of the family. However, this compromise has not significantly changed a woman’s status within her family or community. Women are still expected to respect purdah, or seclusion, as much as possible. Ironically, the Liberation War did much to break down the concept of purdah. During both the anti-colonial movement against the British and the Bangladesh national liberation movement, Muslim Bengali women appeared in public and participated in protests, demonstrations and other forms of political campaigning for the freedom of their land. Indeed, their appearance became an important symbol of Bengali women’s visibility in national movements. During Bangladesh’s national movement for independence, women organized and participated in protests against the repressive measures taken by the military regime of Pakistan. Between 1966 and 1970, the military regime detained numerous political activists and leaders without trial. Eventually, a group of young women activists, most of whom were associated with leftist organizations, approached the Awami League, the strongest political party in East Pakistan and, with the help of political leaders, formed a joint women’s action committee. Their focus was organizing protests by the wives and mothers of political prisoners for their release (Jahan, 1995: 93). This eventually led to the formation of the Mahila Parishad (Women’s Caucus), now the largest and most important women’s organization in Bangladesh. Both during the liberation struggle in 1971 and in the aftermath of the creation of Bangladesh, women activists enthusiastically expressed their solidarity in the construction of the new nation-state. However, as Jahan observes, despite their significant role in the war, the new government soon marginalized women. She notes: Interestingly, the nascent women’s movement did not work actively to mobilise support for these rape victims either. In reflecting on the reasons for this, women leaders offer a variety of perspectives. Many groups and individuals were still hesitant to challenge the society’s strong patriarchal traditions and feared that doing so would invite backlash that could hurt the victims more. The groups were very new, with limited scope and membership, and as such still quite vulnerable. Even some organizations such as Mahila Parishad that later vocally and successfully challenged the government’s stand on

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During this time, the state adopted a growth-oriented policy approach, emphasizing agriculture, which was too macro and often ineffectual. Economic survival strategies during the 1970s contributed to the growth of prostitution and the trafficking of women and children. Somewhat ironically, the 1970s also saw the government begin to pay attention to gender issues, albeit in a relatively unhealthy way. The population policy at the time targeted women for contraception even while ignoring their health needs; in the long run, this focus ended up creating new abuse of women’s health rights. Today, Bangladesh remains one of the few countries in the world where women have a lower life expectancy than men (D’Costa, 2001: 247). Meanwhile, the United Nations declaration of 1975 as International Women’s Year, and the subsequent Decade for Women (1975–85), did influence successive Bangladeshi governments to focus on promoting gender equity and changing discriminatory policies; but the military coup in 1975 returned the country to authoritarian rule, which adversely affected all citizens’ rights. A decade later, as discussed in Chapter 3, the lifting of the ban on religious extremist groups during the 1980s allowed the religious right to challenge the women’s progressive movement. The impetus that this created among several sections of society, however, allowed some good to come of this move. Cautioned by the drastic curtailment of women’s rights in Iran and Pakistan that accompanied the rise of Islamist political power (Jahan, 1995: 98), the Bangladesh women’s movement sought to build public opinion in support of secular politics. Interestingly, in order to serve the interests of their development policies, successive governments encouraged dialogue and the sharing of views and information with women’s groups in other countries. Thus, despite the changing political situation in Bangladesh, this facilitated dialogues among women in the country; in turn, this enabled them to create partnerships with women’s organizations overseas in order to address specific issues, especially development and women’s empowerment. While the overall development of women’s status is essential for gender equity, the issue of violence against women had been addressed by women’s organizations in much more strategic ways. For example, Ain-O-Shalish Kendra, Odhikar, Shaishob and Shakti publicized Bangladeshi cases of dowry-related family violence and murder, acid-throwing and rape (inclusive of rape in police custody and rape of adolescents), creating a public outcry from late 1990s. The history and activism of these groups, coupled with the contemporary politics of Bangladeshi nationhood within which a vibrant feminist movement thrived, saw these organizations adopt agendas that addressed violence against women, patriarchal dominance, common class problems, labour exploitation and unequal economic arrangements within specific national contexts. At the same time, however, the socio-political mobilization of women’s movements is riddled with contradiction. Nonetheless, the activism of non-state actors organized into local networks has had a positive impact in agenda-setting, framing and spreading norms in Bangladesh – and, crucially, in changing state practices.

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Transnational networking The networking and interaction of non-state actors are becoming increasingly visible in international politics. According to Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, a transnational advocacy network “includes those actors working internationally on an issue, who are bound together by shared values, a common discourse, and dense exchanges of information and services” (Keck and Sikkink, 1999: 89). Motivated by values rather than material concerns or professional norms, Keck and Sikkink continue, transnational networks fall outside the accustomed categories of accepted political actors. Transnational networking does not conform to a model of cooperation based on functional contracts among states, such as trade or worldwide telecommunications networks. These groups cross national boundaries and recognize the importance of non-state actors who operate transnationally (Burgerman, 1998). They do not exclude the state, but hold the states accountable in cases of human-rights abuses. When non-state actors succeed, they are an important part of the explanation for change in world politics. Such transnational networks have several important features. First, by building new links among actors in civil societies, international organizations and states, such networks multiply the opportunities for dialogue and information exchange. Second, these networks are able to engage non-traditional international actors to mobilize information in a strategic way, which helps to bring new issues to the forefront of international discussion and persuade governments to act on issues. Third, transnational networks frame issues in ways that can make them more comprehensible and acceptable to target audiences, to attract attention and encourage action, and to fit more easily into certain institutional venues. Fourth, these networks stress advocacy that is organized to promote causes and principled ideas and norms. They often involve individuals advocating policy changes that cannot be linked directly to their own interests (Keck and Sikkink, 1999: 91). Global feminism can be seen as such a network. As Moghadam writes: Global feminism is predicated upon the notion that notwithstanding cultural, class, and ideological differences among the women of the world, there is a commonality in the forms of women’s disadvantage and in the forms of women’s organisations worldwide. (Moghadam, 1997: 64) Women’s organizations are increasingly networking and coordinating their responses, participating in dialogues and intellectual exchanges to form alliances of cooperation and mutual support. These collaborations are helping to create a shared vocabulary with which to articulate and address women’s suffering worldwide, initiating and using the internationalization of discourses of equity, empowerment, autonomy, democratization, participation and human rights. In particular, transnational networking has emerged as a strategic choice of global feminist activism as a rational response in the era of globalization, when targeting the state alone is often not enough. Pertinent examples of transnational and global partnerships include feminist networks such as Women Living Under Muslim

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Laws (WLMUL), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Women in Development Europe (WIDE), the Sisterhood is Global Institute (SIGI), Women, Law and Development International (WLDI), the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFE) and the Asia-Pacific Research and Resource Organisation for Women (ARROW). Tensions between women’s political activism and feminist scholarship have lessened with increased reciprocation in the domain of transnational networking between scholars, activists, policymakers and donors (Ackerly, 2001). In spite of these positive steps, resistance to feminist projects is apparent throughout the world. This is particularly so in non-Western countries, where the development of feminist practice and theory is constrained by a contradictory mix of pre-capitalist relations, nationalist movements, religion, continuing Western domination, capitalist relations under conditions of globalization and increasing inequality. Women’s activism and transnational coalitions increased with a worldwide rise of intolerance, violence and suffering of marginalized groups. At the same time, genocidal conflicts in Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo have put civilian security on the front page of the newspapers, with such conflicts rekindling interest in, and recasting, questions of resistance. Against the backdrop of such events, women’s activism around the world has increased dramatically. In particular, the UN’s Fourth Conference on Women, in Beijing in 1995, fuelled the need to share stories, compare organizational forms and exchange thoughts (Melichori, 1997). In relation to the Rio, Vienna, Cairo, Copenhagen and Beijing conferences, Melchiori summarizes some of the fundamental issues that have been raised, as encapsulated below: • • • •

From the ‘women’s question’ to the women’s view of the world, as suggested by women in Rio; The notion of rights, which emerged in Vienna from discussion of the inviolability of the female body; The meaning of self-determination in relation to the body management and to reproductive technologies, as emerged at the Cairo Conference; and The relationship between women’s movements (in the Global North and South), and civil-society movements regarding development models, as emerged in Copenhagen and again in Beijing. (Melchiori, 1997: 6).

Beyond these headline meetings, the 1990s saw a proliferation of workshops and conferences about women in and following conflict. In 1997, for instance, US feminists organized the conference ‘Frontline Feminisms: Women, War, and Resistance’, from which essays, reports, interventions, images and testimonies of women from many countries were drawn together to address complex communication gaps in US feminism (Waller and Rycenga, 2000: xvi) and how to build transnational feminist links. The conference organizers claimed that despite the participation of unprecedented numbers of women at the Beijing Conference two years earlier, transnational women’s movements had not been well documented in scholarly work (ibid.: xiv). They envisioned conversations among feminists that cut

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across national boundaries and raised several crucial questions: How to abrogate state-imposed family roles? Is it possible for women to sue for reparations for the multiple burdens of violence sustained at the hands of occupying forces and their own patriarchal communities? What prevents rural women from organizing internationally? (ibid.: xviii). These and related questions are particularly in the context of Bangladesh’s women’s movement, and the systematic addressing of these questions could significantly improve the situation of Bangladeshi women. Another notable example of transnational dialogue was the International Conference ‘Women, Peace Building and Constitution Making’, held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in May 2002. Organized by the International Center for Ethnic Studies, the conference brought together women activists from conflict areas such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Afghanistan, the Middle East, East Timor, Colombia, Guatemala, Northern Ireland and the South Asian countries.2 Academics and specialists who researched the theme of women and peace made this conference a platform for sharing experiences and strategies among women across borders. Such transnational dialogues have proven to be effective tools for forming strong coalitions of feminist scholars and activists across religious, ethnic and political divides. These coalitions are often able to assess the impact of armed conflict on women, work towards building peace in local communities, contribute to the overall knowledge about gendered approaches to peace-building, and provide information about local initiatives to develop a comparative analysis of feminist strategies. These conversations contribute to an exploration of the practical needs and strategic interests fundamental to women’s survival in post-conflict situations. The critical neglect of their needs in the rehabilitation and reconstruction process in the aftermath of conflict is a reflection of discrimination faced by women in every aspect of their daily lives. With these examples in mind, I propose that Bangladesh’s women’s movements use the objectives of such transnational movements and coalitions to seek redress for the women who have suffered due to 1971-related violence. This would not be about relating ‘sob stories’ about women’s victimization during and after the conflict; it would be about self-assertion rather than self-abnegation. The strategies, activities and thoughts developed for this type of movement and networking are not passive or self-sacrificing. Instead, such dialogues would need to aim to move beyond spinning theories of abstract relationships between women and war – to lead to a place of lived and revisited reality that grows, changes and transforms within a multifaceted society. To illustrate what could prove useful for the women’s movements of Bangladesh, let us look briefly at some examples of strategies against violence that have resulted from successful transnational networking and dialogues. While the Vienna Tribunal of 1993 addressed five thematic issues (see below), the Tokyo Tribunal of 2000 focused on rape as a war crime, and served as a platform to address Japanese crimes against women during World War II. Both tribunals, however, demonstrate that wherever it occurs, war has a severe and dramatic impact on women’s issues. Two recent examples of people’s tribunals that received comparatively little media

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attention – the Korean People’s Tribunal and the East Timorese Tribunal – are significant examples of transnational networking. In June 1993, a Global Tribunal on Violations of Women’s Human Rights was held in Vienna, organized by a feminist coalition called the Global Campaign for Women’s Human Rights. This process addressed five interconnected themes: human-rights abuse in the family, war crimes against women, violations of women’s bodily integrity, socio-economic violations of women’s human rights, and gender-based political persecution and discrimination (Bunch and Reilly, 1994: 13–14). The Centre for Women’s Global Leadership launched the campaign with the cooperation of a host of international groups – including the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council, Austrian Women’s Human Rights Working Group, Feminist International Radio Endeavour (FIRE), Human Rights Watch Women’s Project, International Women’s Tribune Centre, ISIS International, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), and Women Living Under Muslim Laws International Solidarity Network (Bunch and Reilly, 1994: iii). In this undertaking, the coalition clearly benefited from the collaboration of strong feminist groups from around the world working for women’s human rights. This coalition demonstrated both how traditionally accepted human-rights abuses specifically targeted women, and how many other violations against women remained invisible within prevailing approaches to human rights. The Vienna Tribunal sought to pose key challenges to the United Nations, national governments, and the international human-rights community in several areas. In particular, it sought to: • • • • • • •

Demonstrate obstacles to women’s enjoyment of human rights that stem from the distinction between public and private, especially around violence against women; Expose the often ignored violations of female human rights in war and conflict situations; Reassert that women’s human rights are indivisible and universal, and highlight the ways in which some claims to cultural and religious rights impede the universality of human rights with respect to women; Illustrate the gender-specific dimensions of already recognized international human-rights violations; Underscore the implications for women of the secondary status of social, economic and cultural rights relative to political and civil rights; Evaluate the effectiveness of human-rights instruments, procedures, bodies and agencies, including non-governmental human-rights organizations, in protecting and advocating the human rights of women; and Show that violations of women’s human rights occur in both industrialized and ‘less developed’ countries. (Bunch and Reilly, 1994: 10–13)

In December 2000, the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery was convened through the efforts of non-governmental

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organizations throughout Asia, to ensure some form of accountability for the crimes committed against the aging former ‘comfort women’. The People’s Tribunal was originally proposed by the Violence Against Women in War Network-Japan (VAWW-NET Japan) at the Asian Women’s Solidarity Conference in Seoul in 1998, with the intention of responding to survivors’ calls for justice and the punishment of those responsible for the crimes perpetrated against them (Puja, 2001: 616). This was brought into existence by an International Organising Committee (IOC), comprising representatives from Japan, the Philippines and South Korea. Legal prosecutors led the interdisciplinary teams from East Timor, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, North and South Korea (jointly), China, the Philippines and Taiwan. The People’s Tribunal aimed to create public awareness of the horror of the Japanese military’s institutionalization of rape, sexual slavery, trafficking, torture and other forms of sexual violence inflicted on an estimated minimum 200,000 girls and women. By the early 1990s, some of the Asian women had begun to break almost five decades of painful silence, to demand an apology and compensation for the atrocities they, and others, suffered as sexual slaves of the Japanese military during the conflicts of the 1930s and 1940s in the Asia-Pacific region. Based on the assumption that sexual violence against women is epidemic and that its frequency and brutality intensifies in times of war, the proceedings of the Tokyo Tribunal demonstrated the institutionalization of sexual slavery of girls and women as an integral part of Japanese military campaigns before and during World War II. The tribunal also noted that significant progress had been made towards recognizing and prosecuting crimes of sexual violence in the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Over 75 survivors were present at the tribunal’s proceedings, seeking justice not only for themselves but also for an indeterminable number of girls and women who had not survived or who continued to live in silence. After a year, the tribunal reconvened to release its full judgment at The Hague.3 Critically, the courageous revelations of the survivors encouraged many more survivors throughout the Asia-Pacific region to speak out. I want to briefly relate some of the important sections of the summary tribunal’s report that are directly relevant to the case of Bangladesh. The report stressed the importance of speaking out by survivors and the accountability of perpetrators, in addition to offering a glimpse of women’s struggle in the aftermath of the war. The report stated: The courage of these survivors has inspired victims of other, more recent sexual atrocities to speak out. Human rights advocates and scholars worldwide have mobilised to seek justice. In this way, these women have contributed to the emergence of a larger movement for women’s human rights to be respected, to end impunity for such crimes and to repudiate the notion that sexual abuse of women is an inevitable consequence of war and conquest. … This Tribunal was established out of the conviction that these failures must not be allowed to silence the voices of the survivors, nor obscure accountability for such crimes against humanity.

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Gender justice and transnational networks … A constant theme throughout the testimony was that the pain of women who were the victims of sexual violence was exacerbated by their rejection on returning to their own communities. They were forced to suffer in shame and silence as a consequence of sexist attitudes that saw them as responsible for their own tragedies. The findings of the Tribunal will contribute to the appropriate attribution of responsibility and assist in changing the worldwide pattern of sexual stereotyping that continues to be pervasive today.4

In July 2001, international grassroots groups held a People’s War Crimes Tribunal in New York against US military wartime massacres in Korea. This tribunal was co-organized by the Korea Truth Commission (KTC), the International Action Center (IAC) and the Veterans for Peace (VFP), and was the result of a people’s investigation into the role of the US-led military in massacres of civilians during the Korean War. Investigators for the Ttribunal travelled to South Korea several times, visiting massacre sites, interviewing survivors and viewing evidence that refuted the US official contention that the number of Korean civilians killed by US-led troops during the war had been exaggerated, and that any killings were due not to commanders’ orders but rather to the panic and inexperience of the troops. The investigation teams also attended demonstrations protesting the continued division of the Korea Peninsula, as well as the continued presence of 37,000 US troops – soldiers who are alleged to have committed more than 100,000 crimes against civilians since 1953. For the tribunal, participants included those from North and South Korea as well as overseas Korean communities, and were joined by other progressive and anti-war activists throughout the US. Also present were representatives from 15 other countries that had participated in the war.5 A more recent and ongoing example of transnational networking is the Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor (APCET). One of its current campaigns is the creation of an international people’s tribunal ‘to seek justice for East Timorese victims of human rights violations from the invasion in 1975 up to the post-referendum terror in 1999’.6 This tribunal would be similar in design to the Tokyo proceedings on the comfort women, with the objective being to deliver ‘symbolic’ justice to East Timorese victims and their families. In July 2002, APCET organized an all-women solidarity visit to the refugee camps in West Timor, with participation from representatives from APCET partner organizations in Australia, the Philippines, Malaysia, East Timor and Indonesia. Over the next three years, APCET aims to seek justice for the East Timorese people by pursuing people-to-people partnerships inside East Timor. APCET, meanwhile, continues to network with the civil society, focusing its partnerships with NGOs and grassroots communities.7 Such international instances have had a significant impact in Bangladesh, as well. These examples of transnational networking towards creating successful tribunals rekindled the hope for Bangladeshi women activists that they could still demand justice for the atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army and its collaborators in 1971. Women’s activities and strategies could thus add to the impact of the presence of women in the nation-state’s history-making.

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Towards a gender-sensitive justice mechanism Given the examples outlined above, does transnational networking about violence against women in war support models or strategies for breaking the silence in Bangladesh? And if it does, what kind of coalition could prove useful for creating a gender sensitive tribunal and truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) through international lobbying, support and dialogue? Three key conditions would facilitate transnational feminist activism and networking to bring about effective changes in the behaviour of the Bangladeshi state, such as reflection on and careful response to the gendered violence of 1971. First, the political context would need to be permissive, so that the government would not vehemently oppose international networking and human-rights efforts to help find comprehensive information about violence committed against women in 1971. Second, a significant element in Bangladesh’s ruling coalition would need to cooperate, even at the cost of political party affiliation, and to be more committed towards the issues of peace and justice. Third, local human-rights groups (including women’s groups and others with broader target populations) would need to be organized, have their own networks, and be capable of forming links with their international colleagues. Although Bangladeshi human-rights groups share a strong solidarity, the political situation in the country at the moment does not meet the first two conditions fully, while the condition is better than what was under the previous regimes. It does not seem likely that any future Bangladesh regime would risk losing face by supporting such transnational networking; nor is it likely that political leaders with vested interests in maintaining silence about the atrocities of 1971 would endorse such networking. The state might also resist supporting transnational feminist networking that demands the unveiling of the truth: to do so would be tantamount to opening Pandora’s Box, in terms of the additional demands that would almost certainly arise. As such, under these conditions, would it even be possible to coordinate a transnational networking surrounding women’s experiences of 1971? If so, how could such a transnational network work towards such normative change? The transnational networking that developed from an excavation project conducted by a non-governmental group in Bangladesh offers a good example of this dilemma. On 27 July 1999, construction workers rebuilding a mosque in Mirpur, in Dhaka, discovered a mass grave from the 1971 genocide. The Liberation War Museum(LWM) subsequently undertook an extensive excavation project to exhume the bodies, requesting international observers to visit the site to verify its authenticity and challenge the denial of genocide propagated by successive Pakistani governments.8 The LWM’s activism in unveiling the truth received a positive though cautious response from the Bangladeshi state, as well. As a result, starting on 12 August 1999, the Bangladesh Army assisted with the excavation work for a short period. The LWM selected ten sites for excavation, and worked with the International Physicians for Human Rights, who suggested proper scientific and technical methods for excavation and exhumation (LWM, 2000: 249–51).

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Akku Chowdhury, the director of the LWM, stated: With the discovery of the mass grave, it is important to explore the various mechanism of legal and social redress. To improve the psychological and emotional support system for the family long affected by the loss of their dear and near ones and then non-action by any group to address the issue of finding the truth. (LWM, 2000: 251) This situation illustrates that human-rights organizations, working in parallel with a ruling regime – and sometimes with conflicting interests – can indeed make a difference. With the help of transnational feminist networking, the women’s movement in Bangladesh could form a similar movement to deal with issue-specific political matters. International and regional women’s organizations, international and national NGOs, and private agencies and foundations with gender equity as their primary goal could all connect with each other by using shared values, a common discourse and a firm exchange of information and services (Burgerman, 1998: 908). The formation of such a transnational network would be timely, and would help to build political capital for women’s movements within Bangladesh. Such networking would have several immediate benefits: • •





First, activists within Bangladesh are vulnerable to political shifts, with successive regimes compromising their work. Engaging with international colleagues could provide them some protection from the state to pursue their projects. Second, in the immediate aftermath of the war and during the following decade, a number of international aid organizations (e.g., the International Rescue Committee, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees) worked in Bangladesh and amassed invaluable archival records. Yet the country’s poverty subsequently affected the women’s movement in such a way that none of the women’s organizations had sufficient funds to enable their members to travel internationally and research in the archives of these organizations. A transnational network could therefore lead to an internationally coordinated fact-finding mission to uncover the narratives of Birangona women from 1971, and to track down documents detailing the state’s policies. In turn, this could reveal wider truths about the number of women who were sexually abused during the war. Third, additional resources (e.g. the expertise and skills of women activists worldwide) could assist with training and workshops at the national level. In turn, using these networks to communicate could provide Bangladeshi activists with an international audience that is not necessarily tied to nationalistic conditions, thereby increasing their visibility and reasserting the importance of the project. Finally, this network could hold governments accountable for not addressing the needs of victims. It could strengthen the demands for truth and justice, and demonstrate to the victims that they are no longer suffering their trauma alone.

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How can transnational networking assist the Bangladeshi women’s movement, to benefit and enrich transnational activism? This question will be addressed in the following pages, by specifically suggesting the creation of a TRC and a tribunal that would reopen the question of responsibility for rape and sexual abuse committed in 1971 by the Pakistan Army. These mechanisms would be able to pursue justice for the survivors and preserve their dignity by giving primary importance to their narratives. By networking with feminists worldwide, Bangladeshi human-rights activists would have the opportunity to establish a TRC that could also provide the foundation of a gender sensitive enquiry commission and a tribunal that could recommence documentation of the gendered pattern of violence in 1971. Moreover, such mechanisms could enable women’s organizations and other rights groups to pressure the Bangladeshi state to engage in debate about a nationalist and gendered construction of the nation-state. Justice and peace are intrinsically linked in post-conflict reconstruction. Bangladesh’s failure to negotiate a peace settlement with Pakistan in the aftermath of the war meant that Bangladeshi victims and survivors were denied justice. The ‘peace’ settlements between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, suggesting that they rarely included women’s experiences. This exclusion of women’s stories meant that, ultimately, peace in Bangladeshi society was unachievable. The state’s attempts to reconcile its contradictory approach to peace and justice were futile, resulting in the micro-narratives of women and subalterns being further excluded from the nationalist construction of Bangladesh’s history. Clearly many Bangladeshis remain dissatisfied with the ways in which subsequent governments have handled peace and justice following 1971. Although its citizens were political victims of the Pakistani regime, they received no recognition or compensation, even after Bangladesh’s transition to an independent nation-state in 1971. Peace has remained as brittle as ever, and justice as elusive. In his definition of political victims, Rajeev Bhargava points out that: Political victims are those who are threatened, coerced or killed because of their attempt to define and shape the character of their own society, and to determine the course of what it might become in the future. When political victims suffer violence, they are not merely harmed physically … the act of violence transmits an unambiguous, unequivocal message, that their views on the common good – on matters of public significance – do not count, that their side of the argument has no worth and will not be heard, that they will not be recognised as participants in any debate, and, finally, that to negotiate or even reach a compromise with them, is worthless. (Bhargava, 2000: 47) When excluded from the political domain in such a way, victims can be thought of as politically ‘dead’, because they are forced to remain politically silenced. Exclusions from political life often lead to severe social and economic disadvantages. East Pakistani citizens who opposed the authoritarian regime of Islamabad were victims of both politics and structurally generated social justice. The political

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victims were further victimized in the newly independent state, and also when Bangladesh granted the general amnesty (see Chapter 4). To work together with the survivors of the 1971 violent is important for the future prevention of such gendered violence. The survivors need to tell their stories of victimization, and relate their versions of the events. However, there are different kinds of silence surrounding women’s experiences of the war. While many women are silenced, some also choose silence. Therefore, activists in the Bangladeshi women’s movement first need to ascertain which women want to tell their stories. Thereafter, they can design a process and forum to enable both the documentation of women’s stories and the provision of broader ‘truths’ and choices for women who wish to testify. Thus far, this book has demonstrated how the construction of the official history in Bangladesh has marginalized women’s narratives. A true and honest account of the history of conflict would thus prevent this history from being lost or misconstructed. It would also allow Bangladeshi society to learn from its past in order to prevent a repetition of such violence in the future. As witnessed in other contexts, the testimonies documented in these types of tribunals demonstrate patterns of violence and reveal hidden histories. Most importantly, tribunals effectively ‘unsilence’ a topic that may have previously been discussed only in hushed tones, and is often out of bounds for inclusion in school textbooks as official history. In this way, the report of such a tribunal would reclaim a country’s history, recasting questions about the past denial of human rights, and opening the history ledger for public scrutiny. Among the central tenets of a tribunal in Bangladesh would, of course, be to challenge the accuracy of historical accounts and to make the stories of the victims visible. Nonetheless, accuracy of information might not be the proper description in the case of Bangladesh; after all, anything to come out of the tribunal might only confirm widely held beliefs about what happened in 1971 and about who was responsible. As with the members of other victimized communities, Bangladeshis in general are quite clear about the kinds of atrocities committed and the identities of the perpetrators. Thus, the importance of a tribunal in the case of Bangladesh would be more about publicly sharing and communicating the experience of women survivors. While discussing the Balkan trials, Geoffrey Robertson reminds us, ‘the systematic rape of an estimated 200,000 Bengali women by Pakistani soldiers in 1971 went entirely unpunished’ (Robertson, 2000: 306). It is crucial that there is public acknowledgement of the grave injustices committed in the past, so that the perpetrators of these acts are made to take full responsibility for them (Bhargava, 2000: 50). Importantly, the tribunal would also need to include human-rights activists throughout the subcontinent. Without the support of Pakistan and India, after all, it would not be possible to unearth the truth of 1971, let alone recognize it. Indeed, investigating all three sides of the 1971 war is critical in this process. Women’s movements within India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and the international network could build a coalition to create awareness, demand for a women’s tribunal, and help to make it successful. Similar to the Japanese feminists who assisted in the

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People’s Tribunal, Pakistani feminists would be important colleagues in this tribunal. In addition, an important incipient step in this regard may be to think about a truth commission to document and publish a report of the Partition riots of 1947.9 Indian feminists have already demanded a truth commission to explore past riots (including those of 1947), a demand that is vigorously renewed every time the Hindu–Muslim identity is challenged. During the course of the tribunal and TRC processes, there would be several large hurdles to overcome. First and foremost, we must acknowledge that it would not be easy for the victims to publicize their trauma. After the war, an extremely small number of Bangladeshi women came forward to share their rape experiences. However, women with whom I spoke for this project revealed that a large number of women came to the rehabilitation centres established countrywide for medical treatment or other assistance. Meanwhile, for those who did remain silent, it is not clear what percentage chose to do so due to Bangladesh’s strong patriarchal culture, and what percentage was silenced by political and state oppression. This reluctance to discuss the trauma surrounding rape should not be surprising. Wherever they live in the world, neither raped women nor their families generally want to discuss rape experiences. In the first place, it is simply very difficult for women to speak about their own experiences of rape. For example, a disproportionate number of the women who told their stories to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission hardly talked about themselves at all, but rather focused on their husbands, sons and other men in their lives (Bhargava, 2000: 55). Second, the men of the women’s community often feel powerless over the fact that they were unable to protect their women. In her study of survivors of riots following Indira Gandhi’s assassination,10 for instance, Veena Das explains the sense of impotence generated by the men’s inability to take revenge, which in turn created shame and humiliation for the Sikh community (Das, 1990a: 384–388). There are additional obstacles to the creation of a Bangladeshi justice mechanism, as well. No official consensus currently exists between Bangladesh and Pakistan about the 1971 war. As a first step, the tribunal would naturally need to document past atrocities, but this itself presents difficulties: a people’s tribunal formed in 1999 as an expression of solidarity among members of Bangladesh’s cultural elite failed miserably because of conflicting interests. Among these conflicting interests was the fear that Bengali collaborators now in powerful positions in the government (including as ministers), in the bureaucracy and in the elite class would interfere with the functioning of the tribunal, and that people would be too afraid to come before it to tell their stories. Indeed, the complicated political situation in Bangladesh, where supporters of the Pakistani military regime of 1971 populate the government, the bureaucracy and the military, means that it would be a challenge to establish a mechanism that would consider genocide and war crimes of 1971. Another complexity is that of privacy for the rape survivors who do come forward. As mentioned above, women in Bangladesh who had previously agreed to discuss their experiences before the courts received no protection from the media. As it turned out, the women were unable to speak, but publication of photographs

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of them made it impossible for them to return to their previous lives. To ensure that the insensitivity with which these women were treated does not occur again, a tribunal that is woman-friendly would need to be established. Without a guarantee of confidentiality, other survivors will not come forward, but a woman-friendly tribunal might provide them with a forum in which they can speak out in the way they prefer and with which they are comfortable. Finally, strict new guidelines to control the activities of NGOs came into effect in Bangladesh in 2004 (D’Costa, 2007). Under these new guidelines, NGOs have restricted roles in political activities, and there was a curtailment of their ability to receive foreign funds, with a requirement that they first receive government approval to do so. The official rationale for these rules is that NGOs are ‘meant only for development work’ (Daily Star, 23 September 2002) implying development is apolitical. In light of these problems, a major strategic concern for the women’s movement in Bangladesh will be resisting attempts to define feminist organizing as antithetical to nationalism and a coherent national identity. Feminist constructions of national identities must deal with multiple versions of history, where the dominant and marginalized versions overlay each other. Interventions by women’s groups in national debates could expose the distorted history of nationalism in Bangladesh, and allow for the re-imagination of a national narrative that is more genuinely inclusive. At the same time, though, caution is required such that the state does not interpret these moves as attempts to undermine its legitimacy. A low-profile women’s tribunal might not be apolitical; but if it is a popular choice, the government would not stop it. In addition, one possible approach to getting women to feel comfortable opening up about their experiences could be by offering confidentiality to victims who did not want their names publicized. Furthermore, international women activists could help to document the testimonies given before a Bangladesh tribunal. After all, most of these women are particularly wary of the women activists in their local area, with whom they may share public and even private social spaces. Despite these and other cautionary steps, however, it should be noted that testimonies still might not be representative of the total number of rapes committed during 1971. Nonetheless, the tribunal and the TRC would serve several purposes. To sum up, its base motives must be: • •



To provide a platform for women to share their experiences. To recast questions about state responsibility and accountability. Although many Bangladeshis believe that in 1971 senior army officers used rape and sexual violence in a pre-planned and organized manner, in order to terrorize the population of East Pakistan, successive Pakistani governments have denied this. An investigation into this matter may lead to the Pakistani state acknowledging the truth of this, and supplying a long overdue apology to the rape survivors and their families. To demonstrate the failure of the Bangladeshi state to act in the best interests of its citizens after the war. Because of the tribunal’s neutrality and commitment

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to women’s human rights, Bangladeshis themselves will also be required to remember the retaliatory sexual violence committed against non-Bengalis after the war. This neutral documentation is essential for any future reconciliation and healing to enable a peaceful co-existence, both locally and regionally. To remove the shrouds of silence and hidden history, and help to rewrite the textbooks in order to present an accurate and comprehensive gender-sensitive version of history, which will be reflected in the future policies, educational material and reparations made to assist the survivors.

In this chapter, I have explained the type of power, strategy and resources the Bangladesh women’s movement might adopt to bring attention to the rapes and sexual abuses of 1971. Through a transnational feminist campaign, a Bangladesh tribunal and TRC would be critical tools for providing fuller accounts of the past, and might be able to establish greater accountability among former elites than may be realistically possible by prosecution. It would also help to acknowledge victims and perpetrators of abuse on all sides of the conflict. There is potent inspiration elsewhere for such a process. The first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY), Antonio Cassesse, emphasized the role of the judicial process in countering the concept of collective responsibility: ‘Far from being a vehicle of revenge’, he clarified, ‘the ICTY is an instrument for reconciliation … If responsibility for the appalling crimes perpetrated in the former Yugoslavia is not attributed to individuals, then whole ethnic and religious groups will be held accountable for these crimes and branded as criminal’ (cited in Akhavan, 1998: 766). Indeed, the history of the Balkan region demonstrates that clinging to the concept of collective responsibility creates hatred and resentment, which could incite future violence and crime. This is comparable to the situation of the Indian subcontinent as a whole. In my introductory chapter, I discussed how history and historical resentment relates the present-day violence in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Gujarat riots in early 2002 are the most recent vivid reminders of the subcontinent’s uncomfortable compromise with the past.11 This chapter’s concern has been the relationship between nationalism and images of women present in women’s programmes and movements in regional and international arenas. It also investigated how we can seek solutions that involve learning from the past, which still influences both the present and the future. Any effective approach for state policies must begin in the lived realities of women’s existences, negotiations and struggles. By focusing on how women came to experience and play a part in national power politics, we are able to revisit the diverse areas of women’s political activities, which not only means opposition but also include negotiation. Women’s engagement with the state has not only signified struggle, but also strategic bargaining in places where their public and private spheres intersected. In the final analysis, women’s experiences need to become more visible through both national and transnational effort, in such a way that their interests are sustained in ways that are more politically effective.

Conclusion

This book has been concerned with the ways in which the figure of the ‘national woman’ is defined through nationalism, and the repercussions of this process on actual women. I have suggested that the histories of Partition and Bangladesh are both linked closely with the identity of the nation-state, which in turn is strongly embedded in the discourse of nationalism. In this context, certain narratives have been privileged and valorized, while others have been suppressed. Meanwhile, scant attention has been paid to the memories and pain of subaltern groups, especially women, whose stories have been considered by many to be marginal, existing only at the edges of history. As such, memories of rape and sexual abuse have been remarkably silent and silenced in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, culturally mediated and even censored. I have discussed the use of women’s bodies as weapons against their own communities during both Partition and the events surrounding Bangladesh’s Liberation War. By delineating the historical path of this usage, I explained that men and women were assigned fundamentally different symbolic places in subcontinental societies, and I discussed the role of the state in constructing national identities. In their symbolic locations, however, women often had dual roles. Yet despite the fact that men often used women’s bodies as a medium by which to concretize the pact of violence, women were not, of course, simply things to be looted and plundered. They were also subjects who retained memories of rape and depredation. During the Liberation War, the female body became a sign and a symbol through which men communicated with each other. This communication occurred within the boundaries of a nationalist rationale that legitimized violence against women. The acceptance of the violence inscribed on women’s bodies within the moral structure of national identity meant that the history of the new nation-state of Bangladesh was constructed by excluding the narratives of women’s experiences. By extension, rape and sexual abuse were considered as much a part of nationalistic war and communal violence as was arson, looting or killing. As such, official stories completely ignored women’s experiences during the Partition riots and Liberation War. I have suggested that sexual and reproductive violence against women should not be understood as ‘spoils’ or a by-product of war, but rather must be discussed within the context of nationalism and the construction of the nation-state. It was in that process, after all, that the formal and informal policies

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of the Bangladeshi state to re-assimilate women into their communities were built on the silence of women. I have also discussed the issue of the state’s exclusive control of women’s sexuality and reproduction as part of the ‘code of honour’ that ensured that the nation-state was not ‘polluted’ by children conceived out of war rape. What happens when women are raped and made pregnant by ‘other’ men, subsequently giving birth to the ‘wrong’ children? The events of both Partition and the War of Liberation answered this question, to the profound detriment of their surrounding societies. Throughout the book I observed that the control of women’s bodies is central to all nationalist projects. Nationalism is a much theorized concept; but by discussing the contributions of leading scholars of nationalism, I have demonstrated just how much of the extant literature excluded women. Over the last two decades, however, feminist scholars of International Relations – for example, Cynthia Enloe, Ann Tickner, Deniz Kandiyoti, George L. Mosse, Jindy Pettman and Nira Yuval-Davis – have extensively addressed this exclusion. They have argued that women were used as signifiers of ethnic and religious communities in the creation of the nation-state or the nationbuilding project. Building on this literature, I illustrated that it is important for regional scholars to continue this discussion with their international colleagues. Chapter 1 also addressed the ‘woman question’ in the context of nationalism in South Asia. I argued that the colonial and nationalist male elites encountered each other through the language of nationalism, with both utilizing the rhetoric of protecting women’s interests. The debate about the Indian tradition of sati, or widow-immolation, is a potent example of this. Pioneering scholars of South Asia such as Partha Chatterjee and Kumari Jayawerdena have likewise offered critical insights into the limits to women’s empowerment, not only due to the priority of nationalist issues but because of the specific and symbolic role assigned to women in the nationalist project. These analyses led to my observation that the construction of the nation-state has oftentimes both appropriated and excluded women in order to fit the characteristics of ‘pure’ identity. The female body thus becomes the subjugated territory across which national and community boundaries are marked. In Bangladesh as in Pakistan and India, the state addressed the social and political symbolism of women raped and/or impregnated by the ‘Other’ by granting ambivalent status to them, rather than regarding such abuse as a gross human-rights violation against some of its citizens. These states addressed crimes committed against women during the communal riots and the Liberation War by insisting that the women be re-assimilated into society; yet by not acknowledging the women’s suffering or allowing them to choose how exactly they returned their lives to normality, such official actions effectively silenced women’s voices. As a manifestation of their own nationalist agendas, these states took control over women’s lives, either by forcing them to return to their original homes (e.g. the recovery operations conducted by India and Pakistan following Partition) or by paying men a reward to marry Birangona women in the aftermath of the Bangladesh Liberation War. Along the same lines, the states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh took complete control of women’s reproductive rights in order to guarantee the nation-state’s

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‘purity’, without giving any priority whatsoever to what the women themselves wanted. The resulting exclusivist history ensured that these nation-states were also able to control the public remembering and forgetting of their citizens, and others who live within the borders of the state. This underlines the intimate connection between nationalism and history. Through careful erasure and compromised documentation of history, the elites (who are also mostly male) decided what space women should occupy in the history of their countries. Women, already traumatized by the violence inflicted on their bodies, thus suffered another violation of their rights by their own state. Official policies that, for instance, forced women to have abortions or to give up children who were the product of war rape were designed to erase the memories inscribed on the bodies of the women, and to rewrite the story of the nation-state’s birth. It is significant that the nations of the subcontinent have never come together to acknowledge the constitutive place of gendered violence in their creation. Rather India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have gone their separate ways, and have continued to live according to deep divisions – between rich and poor, men and women, Hindu and Muslim, Punjabi and Bengali, and so on. A division less remarked on also exists: the subcontinent is a region of those who remember and those who forget. Women who survived the violence of Partition and the Liberation War, along with their families and children conceived by war rape, have more or less been erased from the national narrative. To the extent that their collective story is told, this is done from the perspective of the elite. The victims, meanwhile, have not been permitted a role in the historical memorialization of the creation of their nation-states. This is the original exclusion, of course, but from which so many others flow. In terms of the histories of their nations, these victims have remained in a traditional and cultural closet. Instead of history, they have memory – that is, lived experience – and an unofficial, handed-down past.

Privileging elites For future peace and stability, it is important that Bangladeshi society remembers the past with reason and courage. Uncovering the truth from the shroud of an erroneous national consciousness is the prerequisite for national reconciliation. The wounds will only begin to heal when the victims are able to tell their stories. Over the last decade, the focus in writing historical material has shifted from detailing the history of the perpetrators of war to revealing the history of the victims of war. There has also been a significant shift in the definition of the victim as the object of, as well as the witness to, violence. In line with this transformation in writing history, the case-study chapters of this book demonstrate how the state often exercised its paternal and patriarchal functions to appropriate its citizens’ right to speak, in order to create an acceptable national story. I also explained how personal memories were suppressed, and how the national narrative constructed the identity of the nation-state. I linked two of the most important events in the history of the subcontinent – Partition and the Liberation War, which created the three subcontinental states – to demonstrate

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that the failure of these states to address women’s experiences during the process of nation-creation eventually created even more gender inequalities in the post-conflict societies. As has been detailed above, the actions of the respective states towards women abducted during the Partition riots and, later, of the Birangona women in Bangladesh can be thought of the actions of a parent. In establishing this power dynamic, the state chose to give cultural and professional elites – such as social workers, doctors and government officials – a privileged role and voice in the creation of the national narrative. The state organized and consecrated its own creation by allowing the voices of the elites to be heard while ignoring and hiding the women’s narratives. Veena Das writes: The conceptual structures of our disciplines – social science, jurisprudence, medicine – lead to a professional transformation of suffering which robs the victim of her voice and distances us from the immediacy of her experience. (Das, 1995: 175) Chapters 2 and 4 detail the ‘recovery’ operations conducted by India and Pakistan after Partition, and the rehabilitation programme of Bangladesh after the Liberation War. Chapter 2 highlights the impact made by the studies conducted by Ritu Menon, Kamla Bhasin and Urvashi Butalia, whose research made women visible in the narratives of Partition. These feminist scholars challenged the gross statistical generalization of women included in the Partition narrative, in order to provide important insights into the lived experience of women in the gender politics of Partition. Building on their analysis of a nationalist obsession that manifested itself in the recovery operation of the abducted women, I explored in my field research the narratives of women in the Liberation War. As with women caught up in the Partition violence, there has been a gross generalization about the rape victims of the Liberation struggle. In the process of granting women’s stories the privilege of being used as primary resources, it is to be hoped that we can reclaim the experiences of women who have been silenced in official historiography and scholarship, and broaden our understanding of the politics of constructing national identity in the first place. A striking similarity between the Partition and Liberation cases is the fact that, in both events, we see women social workers speaking on behalf of both the women’s movement and the surviving victims. Their voices gained such authority because the state and various professionals claimed to know best how women would or should choose. It is thus highly ironic that the authority of women social workers ultimately contributed to the silencing of the victims’ voices. By applying a doctrine of ‘best interest’ (Das, 1995: 73), women’s voices were silenced by an abstract concern for justice and vague notions about punishing the perpetrators – but also, and most importantly, to protect the honour of the nation-state itself. The victims, meanwhile, were placed in a very difficult position, in which they were obliged to live with the reality of their past in a way that continually contradicted their ability to live in the present. During my attempts to contact Birangona women, the

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strongest resistance I faced was from women social workers who refused to help me. This refusal and the resistance I encountered in the field again established the authority of social workers over the choices given to the victims themselves. During my research, medical staff and social workers emphasized that Birangona women were given the voluntary choice of either having abortions or giving up their babies for adoption. I argue that these ‘choices’ were not voluntary, but rather arose from the burden placed upon the women not only by the men of ‘other’ communities but also by their own community and state. A collective censorship assured that the state would remain unchallenged, and that the women would become the forgotten survivors of the national story. It is true that the victims negotiated the violent politics that surrounded the war and the riots; but so too were they forced to deal with such fraught politics in their everyday lives. Women were united by virtue of being women living in an oppressive patriarchal structure, one that sanctioned the use of tradition and religious orthodoxy to add more shackles. Readers may ask why I have not looked at religion more in depth. Bangladesh’s location has made it resistant to the ‘divine, theocratic, centralist establishment-based’ version of Islam (Kabeer, 1988: 96) practised in the Middle East and in Pakistan. Therefore, Islam was tempered as a social force by the cultural context into which it was introduced, as ingrained tension existed about the nature of Bengali and Bangladeshi identity and what is to be considered Islamic. As a result, I felt, it was not enough to look solely at Islam and its practice within Bangladesh; after all, the subordination of Bengali women pre-dates Islam, and exists in Hindu-majority India as well. Still, the role of religion in women’s oppression and women’s liberation in this context is not to be ignored. Religious rhetoric supported nationalism in the case of Partition, which created two homelands. The West Pakistani regime also used religious rhetoric in 1971 to question the kind of Islam practised by Bengali Muslims. In both cases, this rhetoric significantly influenced women’s lives because it justified structural sexism. However, by critically analyzing nationalism through the lens of gender and not by religion, I feel we are able to arrive at a more comprehensive picture of both discrimination against women and their vulnerability within society. As could be seen in the case-study chapters, the nation-state has always presented serious intellectual and strategic challenges for women. In addition, this study also shows that, while the state, professionals and women’s movements have taken up the cause of women’s representation as part of the generalized nation-state identity to which they subscribe, this discourse is not unified. As such, contradictions exist within different factions within the state, creating the possibility of new negotiations and struggles for the women’s movement in Bangladesh in order to seek the truth.

Collective remembering Over the last four years of deep involvement in this project, I have become depressed about the gloomy picture that the study seemed to be presenting. Today, while it is clear that questions are being asked, what remains in dispute is exactly

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how to respond to them. A number of distinct challenges have clearly emerged from the key questions, influenced in particular by changing research agendas as well as by political transformations. How, for instance, can women who lead relatively advantaged lives help women who have lived for decades with the ramifications of Partition and the Liberation War? Furthermore, could a positive collective response to mass violence help to redress trauma suffered by individuals, and help to overcome the inadequate national response to genocide, torture and mass rape in Bangladesh? As indicated throughout this book, the national story of Bangladesh is rife with complicated emotional layers of contradictory loyalties. Rather than share and remember the injustice, victims are exhorted to remain silent and suppress their feelings of hatred. If the wounds and communities of the victims who survived are to be healed, it is critical to remember properly exactly what took place. Sheldon Wolin points out that while societies remember heroic acts, they suppress memories of collective injustice (Wolin, 1989). On the other hand, the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes thought that collective forgetting was a necessary act – that the suppression of memories of past wrongs was essential, and that the incorporation of social amnesia into the foundation of the society was necessary (i.e. the dehistoricization of human beings). Rajeev Bhargava, on the other hand, argued that dehistoricization is not possible. He gives the example of Muslims invading India during the twelfth century, which even now for many Hindus means a stereotyped assumption of Muslims as invaders who may kill, destroy or convert them (Bhargava, 2000: 53). Finally, Michael Ignatieff reminds us that a large number of nationalist agendas are specifically about settling old scores (Ignatieff, 1993). In another part of the world, the case of the Japanese ‘comfort women’ emphasizes the importance of personal narratives for networks in diverse cultural settings, even where such testimonies are considered profoundly shameful. During World War II many women and girls in countries which were under Japanese Imperial control were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military. ‘Comfort women’ is an euphemism to describe the role of those women which later became a powerful symbolic usage for gender justice. They were usually kept in the military brothels. There still exists a considerable debate about numbers. But it is estimated that almost 200,000 women served as ‘comfort women’ (Hicks, 1995). George Hicks states: All the research, rhetoric and war memoirs were as nothing until the women were prepared to come forward and speak out against their exploitation … It was not until the comfort women rose to cry out, that research and activists could turn the subject into an issue. (Hicks, 1994: 22, 278) Naturally, violence against women is a common concern for many women’s organizations throughout the world. Today, this shared concern could assist in the creation of international understanding and collaboration in addressing this issue. As noted in the last chapter of this book, networks are difficult to organize transnationally (Keck and Sikkink, 1994: 200), but the shared normative basis

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that international human-rights organizations and activists provide would make them globally effective, and would provide important strategic choices in the redressing of violence against women. Within an effective transnational feminist network, I believe that the Bangladesh women’s movement could amplify voices, motivate action, and seek truth and justice. In this way could we address the subsequent exploitation of women who suffered during and after the creation of their homeland.

Appendix 1 Interview with Respondent M (January 2000, India)

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It was a big drama. There were two hundred women waiting for us. Mother Teresa went there at the beginning of January or December. It was the new Bangladesh government who invited us there. She didn’t find any girls there. She had seen only their hair, petticoat and some other things. Their hair was cut because they were afraid that they’d commit suicide. They did brutal things and kept the girls naked. Many were half naked. We haven’t seen them in this state. Therefore, we can’t make any comments. When I went there on 21 January 1972, I started this temporary house. Why were you chosen? Did it have to do anything with your Bengali ethnicity? I mean, we were not chosen as such. But we were sent because of our experience. Hossain Ali, the Pakistani High Commissioner in Calcutta – when the Bangladesh came to be on December 16, 1971, it was him who declared that he accepted Bangladesh. After this, Hossain Ali came and visited Mother. Then went to Shishu Bhaban. And then I was in charge of Shishu Bhaban. He asked Mother, ‘May I take this sister with me?’ … To tell you the truth I’ve not been to Bangladesh from 1950 till 1972. That means for 22 years! And I have not spoken any Bengali till them. I did not complete my study in Bengali as well. I lost complete contact with Bengali! Was it difficult for you to communicate in Bengali? At the beginning, yes, it was. I’d quickly switch to English. Then I went to visit Mujib.1 Mujib was a great friend of mine. He mentioned that ‘whatever help you need, ask the ministers, they’d give’. I used helicopters to go to Comilla and other places. Only to collect the war babies? Also to do the relief work. And he is the one who introduced me to the ministers there. My Bengali was so bad that I always used half Bengali and half English. Mujib used to say, ‘Bangladesher meye, Bangla kotha bolo’ (Bangladesh’s girl, speak in Bengali) … But Mujib was a great friend. I could go to any Ministry without pass and ask for help whatever I needed. Most of the things were sent from here. Only thing was

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Appendix 1: Interview with Respondent M that I needed protection for the sisters. We were foreigners but we did not look foreigners over there.2 Had it been unsafe for the sisters otherwise? Yes. And also when I went there, no other nuns were working out, in slums and villages. They were all working in schools and hospitals. And they worked in their own convents. When I went there, I started to work anywhere, with my sisters. We never went less than three to do relief work. And Mizanur Rahman3 used to say, ‘You young girls are going out in the world. Who’d take care of you if anything happens to you?’ So, I told him, ‘That’s the only thing I ask you. To give us protection.’ As a foreigner and a visitor we might be protected from any hooligans or people who went to cause problems. It was our work and I had no fear. I had very young sisters with me. One was a Bengali and the others were from Kerala. So they all had to learn Bengali and do the work. We had so much cooperation from the government! So there was no objection. So also, when we took the children in, the government didn’t give us any trouble. When we started sending the children abroad, they gave us passports for the children. But they did not know even how the adoption was supposed to be going. I was doing adoption all the time in India. So, I had a lot of idea how to do the adoption work. When I went there in the offices to arrange for the children, I had to help them to prepare certificates so they could leave the country. And based on that they got the passport to go, as not in adoptions. For Muslims and Christians, they do not go for adoption, but for foster care. In India, however, Hindus can adopt Hindu babies. At that time, in Bangladesh, there were no laws for adoption for the Muslims. At least I don’t thing so … we were the first one to do the adoption, and the children had no religion so to speak. And in Bangladesh no one was going to adopt them. Therefore, the government gave us the permission and they gave us the passports. Even ten days old babies went to Canada. The only thing is that I had to get a photo, a passport, and book their flight. They needed to reach the country of destination and from there straight to the hospital. Many were put in the incubators. I was there in Bangladesh for two years and eight months and worked in the adoption project … What happened to the women who gave away their babies? Do you remember them? Most of the babies came from the nursing homes. Midwives, ayas (child-carers) brought the babies. Do you remember any of the nursing homes? No, no! They did not want us to know. We didn’t ask about which women were having the abortion or anything else. So, we were receiving the babies and we just accepted. But afterwards, when we were getting the women I didn’t think they were molested by the Pakistani army …

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I know one case, whose father was an engineer. The whole family was killed. They were half buried in the sand. After the Pakistani army moved away, she gained consciousness. Her story has been written in the Bangladeshi newspapers but of course under a different name. She didn’t want to have an abortion. But otherwise, I think everyone went for abortion. Nobody wanted Pakistani babies. Nobody! Neither the parents, nor the government and nor the women … In the course of time, we were getting pregnant women, but we didn’t know who they were violated by: the Pakistan aArmy or by local men. We always had pregnant girls there. Babies, who the Pakistan Army fathered, were all aborted in different clinics. Otherwise parents couldn’t take the women home. And they wouldn’t tell anyone if their daughters were raped. When they realized that their daughters were pregnant they quickly got the babies aborted. It was all done in secrecy. You mentioned that many of the children went to Canada … Most were sent to Canada. Some of the babies were sent to France and Sweden as well. Have you met any of the Canadian sisters who were working here? No. There were many others who started working in Bangladesh. But actually we were the first ones to begin work over there. You vaguely mentioned a prison yesterday where women were kept. Can you tell me more about that? No, no! Was that in Dhaka? Yes, in Dhaka Cantonment. They were locked up in the Cantonment. Mother went to see the place. They took her to see the place. But not even one girl was there to be seen at that time. We went with lots of publicity that we were going to work with the girls who had been violated by the Pakistani army. But when we arrived we found almost no one. They were all gone. But we did find lots of babies. Many of the children were given up for adoption. We also did a lot of relief work. Those were related to women? No, in general for everyone. We also did some rehabilitation work for women on the other side of the Buriganga.4 All were Hindu women. No men, no grownup boys. The army killed all the men. They had a big hole where they buried all the men. And also the grown-up boys. Women were left alone. We started a program for helping the women. I gave each women 5 rupee to do some small business. They made a little extra. Afterwards they continued to work with that small savings. Then we gave them goose, ducklings, chicks and goats. For the next three years we helped them to stand on their own feet. That is how Jagoroni5 came into being. It was the ‘Widows’ Program’. For Muslims it was difficult to understand us. They asked, ‘How can you not get married? You are violating God’s command.’ Slowly, they

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Appendix 1: Interview with Respondent M also started to understand is through our work. People were a bit fearful at the beginning. The Corr,6 Fr. Timm and Fr. Labe had helped us. Have you ever worked in any other war-torn country? I myself did not. But others did. Was the experience any different than Bangladesh? No. For us, it was nothing new. How many of you were there? Six of us were working in Bangladesh. Rob Chowdhury, the coordinator for rehabilitation work had assisted us. Was the number of war babies more in Dhaka? And also the number of abortions? Yes. It still remains as a scar in my heart. The government allowed this on a mass scale. They didn’t want any Pak child. Either they were to be aborted or to get out of the country as soon as possible. We had incubators and we were prepared to take the premature babies. Have you requested the women not to abort the children? Yes. We also asked the nursing homes, ‘When the babies are born, please do not throw them to the dustbin. Bring them to us if they are alive.’ But they didn’t care. They were interested in the mothers only. Babies were thrown into the dustbins … you see for any war when they lose the land they want to leave the issue behind. That is why the Bangladesh government wanted to get rid of the children. Did the women speak about the actual rape? No. And we also didn’t ask them. There was a wound. We tried to rehabilitate them, tried to accept the situation they were in. And we never asked them to write their names, neither their addresses. Stigma would remain if people knew. Ok. I am tired. God bless you. Thank you very much for your time.

Appendix 2 Interview with Dr Geoffrey Davis Conducted by Bina D’Costa, The Australian National University 1 June 2002

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I am talking to Dr. Geoffrey Davis, who was in Bangladesh after the war. I am passing it on to him. Yes, I am Dr Geoffrey Davis, Medical Graduate from Sydney, NSW. I was in Bangladesh after the war, about March, for six months. And I was under the auspices of International Planned Parenthood and UNFPA and the WHO. No body wanted to claim me really because of what I was doing there. Eventually they did. What were you doing there? Well, I was trying to save of what have survived of the children born during the time that the West Pak army had Bengali women incarcerated in their commissariats. And all of the ones who had not come to term, our brief was to endeavor them to abort them so that they didn’t bear children as diseased and undernourished as was the case. And that we succeeded in doing. The UNFPA or somebody in Geneva had announced that there were about one million pregnant women being released and that seems to have been round about right. The numbers of everything in Bangladesh were huge of course but by the time we got there a lot of them had been killed or they have been repatriated to their families. That horrified everybody. We had to do something. And try to sort it out. There was one other guy from England. I’ve lost track of him since. It was grotesque. Where in Dhaka did you have your clinic? In Dhanmondi. I worked there. I also worked in most of the other town in what was left of hospitals. What I was doing mainly … the numbers were so huge … I set out to train people in those towns to do what I was doing and as soon as they got the hang of it, I will move on to the next place. For the purpose of the record will you please specify what exactly were you doing over there? The women’s rehabilitation organization had just been formed before I was there and Justice Sobhan was in charge of that. They were

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what they had to do was impregnate as many Bengali women as they could. That was the theory behind it. Why did they have to impregnate the women? Did they tell you? Yes, so there would be a whole generation of children in East Pakistan that would be born with the blood from the West. That’s what they said. Pakistan still says that the numbers had been grossly exaggerated and they didn’t rape that many women. Do you think that’s true? No, no they did. Probably the numbers are very conservative compared with what they did. The description of how they captured towns were very interesting. They’d keep the infantry back and put artillery ahead and they would shell the hospitals and the schools. And that caused absolute chaos in the town. And then the infantry would go in and begin to segregate the women. Anybody with grey hair didn’t get involved. Apart from little children, all the ones who were sexually matured would be segregated while the rest of the infantry tied … the rest of the town (which would involve shooting everybody who was involved with the East Pakistani government or the Awami League. And then the women would be put in the compound under guard and made available to the troops. It was most hideous. I know of no precedent anywhere in the world ever. None the less that’s how it had happened. Have you visited any rape camps yourself during your time in Bangladesh? Rape camps had been disbanded and the Rehabilitation Organization was endeavouring to get the women back to their village or town. But what was happening in a lot of instances was that they’d get a wife back to the husband and he would kill her. Because she had been defiled. And in some cases they didn’t want to know about what happened. And there were bodies in Jamuna right up to the distant parts of the country. And it was that what got people excited in Europe in what was going on. Did you volunteer to go? Yes, I did. Do you remember if you any of the women or the children received any counselling? Counselling, yes with the rehabilitation organization. There were women to talk to them. I don’t think it helped them. Because they were all malnourished, had horrible deficiency diseases and they all had venereal diseases of one kind or another. It was pretty dreadful. The country had very little resources and medicines, facilities to deal with this problem. And those were kept for the war veterans, etc. There was not much left for the women. We had to bring our own stuff in. Do you remember the percentage? For example, class wise, religion wise how many women you saw? It was right across the classes. I don’t recall Hindu women because I

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Appendix 2: Interview with Dr Geoffrey Davis couldn’t recognize unless they were wearing bindis. We didn’t care what they were, we had to get them out of the trouble. In general of course the rich ones were able to leave the country as soon as there was an armistice and go to Calcutta to get abortion and they did that. And that’s what excited Mother Teresa. She got into the international press about that. You mentioned that you saw the women who wanted to get abortion in the first place. I just want to come back to that point again. Was did the women give their consent to the involved doctors, nurses or social workers about terminating their pregnancies? Oh, Yes. Did they have to sign a paper? I think they had to sign a document of consent. I am not sure though. The government indirectly organized that. It was organized largely by the Rehabilitation Organization. And the women who were helping with that. No body got near the clinic who haven’t agreed to have an abortion, that’s for sure. So, that was not an issue. So you were involved in both the abortion programme and the adoption? Yes. But in only in adoption programme in handing them over to ISS. Any little ones, even up to toddlers. That was all a bit much. But the numbers involved having abortion, and newborns were huge. The compound where the women had been kept during the war must have been enormous. But they all had been disbanded by the time I got there. What about outside of Dhaka city? The areas where you had been. Were there abortion clinics or something? No, hospitals. And the Rehabilitation organization. I can’t remember what it was called! The Bangladesh National Women’s Rehabilitation Organization or something like that. That was operating in most of the large centres. And the numbers being done prior to me going there was negligible because no body wanted to most of the medical staff in the hospital thought it was illegal. It was, but I had a letter from the Secretary of the State Rob Chowdhury as of now that anything I wanted to do was perfectly legal and they are to give me all assistance. I can’t find the letter now. It is probably somewhere … Lot of papers from Bangladesh … I thought it was important since I was never going to see anything like that ever again as long as I lived. So, I better keep those. It was very hard, horrific at that time. Have you ever spoken to the men and women or the people at the Clinic about their experience about the war? To the women about rape camps in particular? Yes, we use to hear about it all the time. Some of the stories they told us were appalling. Being raped again and again and again. By large Pathan soldiers. You couldn’t believe that anybody would do that. All the rich and pretty ones were kept for the officers and all the other

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ones were distributed among the other ranks. And they had it really rough. They didn’t get enough to eat. When they got sick, they got no treatment. Lot of them died in those camps. There was an air of disbelief about the whole thing. That no body could credit that it really happened! But the evidence clearly showed that it did happen. Yes, I see what you mean. Because you know I myself over the last four years have tried to locate the women. The numbers were huge and one might expect to find a lot of them. But I myself could only find a very limited number of women. Yes, there had been lot of denial. And they just block it out. That happens. Was it different at that time? Did anyone talk? No, no body wanted to talk about it. You could ask questions and get an answer. Quite often it would be that they couldn’t remember. And the men didn’t want to talk about it at all! Because these women had been defiled. And women’s status in Bangladesh was pretty low anyway. If they had been defiled they had no status at all. They might as well be dead. And men killed them. I couldn’t believe it. That is so alien to a western society. It’s so alien. You couldn’t obviously speak Bengali. Was it difficult to communicate? No, I had an interpreter. A man. They got fairly organized very quickly. The provided me with a Land Rover and a driver, a field officer who was also my interpreter. The driver was Mumtaz. But I can’t remember the FO’s name. A government official. An amazing number of them speak English. I didn’t have any difficulty that I faced in Tunisia. All the women agreed to abortion or adoption? No one wanted to keep their children? Well … a few of them did. Do you know what happened to them? I have no idea. ISS was there to get as many babies as they could. Because there were less and less babies available for adoption in America and Western Europe and they wanted to get as many babies as they could get. ISS? It’s based in Washington DC. A major organization involved for the adoption. What happened to the mothers? After abortion they stayed for a little while and then went off to the accommodation provided by the Relief and Rehabilitation Centre. They could stay there for as long as they liked. And went into training programmes. I saw a few of those. People making clothes on a promotional basis. In Dhaka, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Noakhali. You know the rape was very highly organized. In Rawalpindi and Islamabad. And Tikka Khan was behind it. The really disgraceful thing

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Appendix 3 The International Crimes (Tribunals) ACT, 1973 (ACT No. XIX of 1973)

An Act to provide for the detention, prosecution and punishment of persons for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law WHEREAS it is expedient to provide for the detention, prosecution and punishment of persons for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law, and for matters connected therewith; It is hereby enacted as follows: Short title, extent and commencement 1. (1) This Act may be called the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973. (2) It extends to the whole of Bangladesh. (3) It shall come into force at once. Definitions 2. In this Act, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context,(a) “auxiliary forces” includes forces placed under the control of the Armed Forces for operational, administrative, static and other purposes; (b) “Government” means the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; (c) “Republic” means the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; (d) “service law” means the Army Act, 1952 (XXXIX of 1952), the Air Force Act, 1953 (VI of 1953), or the Navy Ordinance, 1961 (XXXV of 1961), and includes the rules and regulations made under any of them; (e) “territory of Bangladesh” means the territory of the Republic as defined in article 2 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; (f) “Tribunal” means a Tribunal set up under this Act. Jurisdiction of Tribunal and crimes 3. (1) A Tribunal shall have the power to try and punish any person irrespective of his nationality who, being a member of any armed, defence or auxiliary forces

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commits or has committed, in the territory of Bangladesh, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, any of the following crimes. (2) The following acts or any of them are crimes within the jurisdiction of a Tribunal for which there shall be individual responsibility, namely:(a) Crimes against Humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, abduction, confinement, torture, rape or other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population or persecutions on political, racial, ethnic or religious grounds, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated; (b) Crimes against Peace: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (c) Genocide: meaning and including any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, religious or political group, such as: (i) killing members of the group; (ii) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (iii) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (iv) imposing measures intended to prevent Births within the group; (v) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group; (d) War Crimes: namely, violation of laws or customs of war which include but are not limited to murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose of civilian population in the territory of Bangladesh; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages and detenues, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity; (e) violation of any humanitarian rules applicable in armed conflicts laid down in the Geneva Conventions of 1949; (f) any other crimes under international law; (g) attempt, abetment or conspiracy to commit any such crimes; (h) complicity in or failure to prevent commission of any such crimes. Liability for Crimes 4. (1) When any crime as specified in section 3 is committed by several persons, each of such person is liable for that crime in the same manner as if it were done by him alone. (2) Any commander or superior officer who orders, permits, acquiesces or participates in the commission of any of the crimes specified in section 3 or is connected with any plans and activities involving the commission of such crimes or who fails or omits to discharge his duty to maintain discipline, or to control or supervise the actions of the persons under his command or his subordinates, whereby such persons or subordinates or any of them commit any such crimes, or who fails to take necessary measures to prevent the commission of such crimes, is guilty of such crimes.

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Official position, etc not to free an accused from responsibility for any crime 5. (1) The official position, at any time, of an accused shall not be considered freeing him from responsibility or mitigating punishment. (2) The fact that the accused acted pursuant to his domestic law or to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility, but may be considered in mitigation of punishment if the Tribunal deems that justice so requires. Tribunal 6. (1) For the purpose of section 3, the Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, set up one or more Tribunals, each consisting of a Chairman and not less than two and not more than four other members. (2) Any person who is or is qualified to be a Judge of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh or has been a Judge of any High Court or Supreme Court which at any time was in existence in the territory of Bangladesh or who is qualified to be a member of General Court Martial under any service law of Bangladesh may be appointed as a Chairman or member of a Tribunal. (3) The permanent seat of a Tribunal shall be in Dacca: Provided that a Tribunal may hold its sittings at such other place or places as it deems fit. (4) If any member of a Tribunal dies or is, due to illness or any other reason, unable to continue to perform his functions, the Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, declare the office of such member to be vacant and appoint thereto another person qualified to hold the office. (5) If, in the course of a trial, any one of the members of a Tribunal is, for any reason, unable to attend any sitting thereof, the trial may continue before the other members. (6) A Tribunal shall not, merely by reason of any change in its membership or the absence of any member thereof from any sitting, be bound to recall and re-hear any witness who has already given any evidence and may act on the evidence already given or produced before it. (7) If, upon any matter requiring the decision of a Tribunal, there is a difference of opinion among its members, the opinion of the majority shall prevail and the decision of the Tribunal shall be expressed in terms of the views of the majority. (8) Neither the constitution of a Tribunal nor the appointment of its Chairman or members shall be challenged by the prosecution or by the accused persons or their counsel. Prosecutors 7. (1) The Government may appoint one or more persons to conduct the prosecution before a Tribunal on such terms and conditions as may be determined by the Government; and every such person shall be deemed to be a Prosecutor for the purposes of this Act.

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(2) The Government may designate one of such persons as the Chief Prosecutor. Investigation 8. (1) The Government may establish an Agency for the purposes of investigation into crimes specified in section 3; and any officer belonging to the Agency shall have the right to assist the prosecution during the trial. (2) Any person appointed as a Prosecutor is competent to act as an Investigation Officer and the provisions relating to investigation shall apply to such Prosecutor. (3) Any Investigation Officer making an investigation under this Act may, by order in writing, require the attendance before himself of any person who appears to be acquainted with the circumstances of the case; and such person shall attend as so required. (4) Any Investigation Officer making an investigation under this Act may examine orally any person who appears to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case. (5) Such person shall be bound to answer all questions put to him by an Investigation Officer and shall not be excused from answering any question on the ground that the answer to such question will criminate, or may tend directly or indirectly to criminate, such person: Provided that no such answer, which a person shall be compelled to give, shall subject him to any arrest or prosecution, or be proved against him in any criminal proceeding. (6) The Investigation Officer may reduce into writing any statement made to him in the course of examination under this section. (7) Any person who fails to appear before an Investigation Officer for the purpose of examination or refuses to answer the questions put to him by such Investigation Officer shall be punished with simple imprisonment which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to Taka two thousand, or with both. (8) Any Magistrate of the first class may take cognizance of an offence punishable under sub-section (7) upon a complaint in writing by an Investigation Officer. (9) Any investigation done into the crimes specified in section 3 shall be deemed to have been done under the provisions of this Act. Commencement of the Proceedings 9. (1) The proceedings before a Tribunal shall commence upon the submission by the Chief Prosecutor, or a Prosecutor authorised by the Chief Prosecutor in this behalf, of formal charges of crimes alleged to have been committed by each of the accused persons. (2) The Tribunal shall thereafter fix a date for the trial of such accused person.

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(3) The Chief Prosecutor shall, at least three weeks before the commencement of the trial, furnish to the Tribunal a list of witnesses intended to be produced along with the recorded statement of such witnesses or copies thereof and copies of documents which the prosecution intends to rely upon in support of such charges. (4) The submission of a list of witnesses and documents under sub-section (3) shall not preclude the prosecution from calling, with the permission of the Tribunal, additional witnesses or tendering any further evidence at any stage of the trial: Provided that notice shall be given to the defence of the additional witnesses intended to be called or additional evidence sought to be tendered by the prosecution. (5) A list of witnesses for the defence, if any, along with the documents or copies thereof, which the defence intends to rely upon, shall be furnished to the Tribunal and the prosecution at the time of the commencement of the trial. Procedure of trial 10. (1) The following procedure shall be followed at a trial before a Tribunal, namely:(a) the charge shall be read out; (b) the Tribunal shall ask each accused person whether he pleads guilty or not-guilty; (c) if the accused person pleads guilty, the Tribunal shall record the plea, and may, in its discretion, convict him thereon; (d) the prosecution shall make an opening statement; (e) the witnesses for the prosecution shall be examined, the defence may cross-examine such witnesses and the prosecution may re-examine them; (f) the witnesses for the defence, if any, shall be examined, the prosecution may cross-examine such witnesses and the defence may re-examine them; (g) the Tribunal may, in its discretion, permit the party which calls a witness to put any question to him which might be put in cross-examination by the adverse party; (h) the Tribunal may, in order to discover or obtain proof of relevant facts, ask any witness any question it pleases, in any form and at any time about any fact; and may order production of any document or thing or summon any witness, and neither the prosecution nor the defence shall be entitled either to make any objection to any such question or order or, without the leave of the Tribunal, to cross-examine any witness upon any answer given in reply to any such question; (i) the prosecution shall first sum up its case, and thereafter the defence shall sum up its case: Provided that if any witness is examined by the defence, the prosecution shall have the right to sum up its case after the defence has done so;

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Appendix 3: The International Crimes (Tribunals) ACT, 1973 (j) the Tribunal shall deliver its judgement and pronounce its verdict. (2) All proceedings before the Tribunal shall be in English. (3) Any accused person or witness who is unable to express himself in, or does not understand, English may be provided the assistance of an interpreter. (4) The proceedings of the Tribunal shall be in public: Provided that the Tribunal may, if it thinks fit, take proceedings in camera. (5) No oath shall be administered to any accused person.

Powers of Tribunal 11. (1) A Tribunal shall have power(a) to summon witnesses to the trial and to require their attendance and testimony and to put questions to them; (b) to administer oaths to witnesses; (c) to require the production of document and other evidentiary material; (d) to appoint persons for carrying out any task designated by the Tribunal. (2) For the purpose of enabling any accused person to explain any circumstances appearing in the evidence against him, a Tribunal may, at any stage of the trial without previously warning the accused person, put such questions to him as the Tribunal considers necessary: Provided that the accused person shall not render himself liable to punishment by refusing to answer such questions or by giving false answers to them; but the Tribunal may draw such inference from such refusal or answers as it thinks just; (3) A Tribunal shall(a) confine the trial to an expeditious hearing of the issues raised by the charges; (b) take measures to prevent any action which may cause unreasonable delay, and rule out irrelevant issues and statements. (4) A Tribunal may punish any person, who obstructs or abuses its process or disobeys any of its orders or directions, or does anything which tends to prejudice the case of a party before it, or tends to bring it or any of its members into hatred or contempt, or does anything which constitutes contempt of the Tribunal, with simple imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to Taka five thousand, or with both. (5) Any member of a Tribunal shall have power to direct, or issue a warrant for, the arrest of, and to commit to custody, and to authorise the continued detention in custody of, any person charged with any crime specified in section 3. (6) The Chairman of a Tribunal may make such administrative arrangements as he considers necessary for the performance of the functions of the Tribunal under this Act.

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Provision for defence counsel 12. Where an accused person is not represented by counsel, the Tribunal may, at any stage of the case, direct that a counsel shall be engaged at the expense of the Government to defend the accused person and may also determine the fees to be paid to such counsel. Restriction of adjournment 13. No trial before a Tribunal shall be adjourned for any purpose unless the Tribunal is of the opinion that the adjournment is in the interest of justice. Statement or confession of accused persons 14. (1) Any Magistrate of the first class may record any statement or confession made to him by an accused person at any time in the course of investigation or at any time before the commencement of the trial. (2) The Magistrate shall, before recording any such confession, explain to the accused person making it that he is not bound to make a confession and that if he does so it may be used as evidence against him and no Magistrate shall record any such confession unless, upon questioning the accused making it, he has reason to believe that it was made voluntarily. Pardon of an approver 15. (1) At any stage of the trial, a Tribunal may with a view to obtaining the evidence of any person supposed to have been directly or indirectly concerned in, or privy to, any of the crimes specified in section 3, tender a pardon to such person on condition of his making a full and true disclosure of the whole of the circumstances within his knowledge relative to the crime and to every other person concerned, whether as principal or abettor, in the commission thereof. (2) Every person accepting the tender under this section shall be examined as a witness in the trial. (3) Such person shall be detained in custody until the termination of the trial. Charge, etc: 16. (1) Every charge against an accused person shall state(a) the name and particulars of the accused person; (b) the crime of which the accused person is charged; (c) such particulars of the alleged crime as are reasonably sufficient to give the accused person notice of the matter with which he is charged. (2) A copy of the formal charge and a copy of each of the documents lodged with the formal charge shall be furnished to the accused person at a reasonable time before the trial; and in case of any difficulty in furnishing copies of the documents, reasonable opportunity for inspection shall be given to the accused person in such manner as the Tribunal may decide.

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Right of accused person during trial 17. (1) During trial of an accused person he shall have the right to give any explanation relevant to the charge made against him. (2) An accused person shall have the right to conduct his own defence before the Tribunal or to have the assistance of counsel. (3) An accused person shall have the right to present evidence at the trial in support of his defence, and to cross-examine any witness called by the prosecution. No excuse from answering any question 18. A witness shall not be excused from answering any question put to him on the ground that the answer to such question will criminate or may tend directly or indirectly to criminate such witness, or that it will expose or tend directly or indirectly to expose such witness to a penalty or forfeiture of any kind: Provided that no such answer which a witness shall be compelled to give shall subject him to any arrest or prosecution or be proved against him in any criminal proceeding, except a prosecution for giving false evidence. Rules of evidence 19. (1) A Tribunal shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence; and it shall adopt and apply to the greatest possible extent expeditious and non-technical procedure, and may admit any evidence, including reports and photographs published in newspapers, periodicals and magazines, films and tape-recordings and other materials as may be tendered before it, which it deems to have probative value. (2) A Tribunal may receive in evidence any statement recorded by a Magistrate or an Investigation Officer being a statement made by any person who, at the time of the trial, is dead or whose attendance cannot be procured without an amount of delay or expense which the Tribunal considers unreasonable. (3) A Tribunal shall not require proof of facts of common knowledge but shall take judicial notice thereof. (4) A Tribunal shall take judicial notice of official governmental documents and reports of the United Nations and its subsidiary agencies or other international bodies including non-governmental organisations. Judgement and sentence 20. (1) The Judgement of a Tribunal as to the guilt or the innocence of any accused person shall give the reasons on which it is based: Provided that each member of the Tribunal shall be competent to deliver a judgement of his own. (2) Upon conviction of an accused person, the Tribunal shall award sentence of death or such other punishment proportionate to the gravity of the crime as appears to the Tribunal to be just and proper. (3) The sentence awarded under this Act shall be carried out in accordance with the orders of the Government.

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Right of appeal 21. A person convicted of any crime specified in section 3 and sentenced by a Tribunal shall have the right of appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh against such conviction and sentence: Provided that such appeal may be preferred within sixty days of the date of order of conviction and sentence. Rules of procedure 22. Subject to the provision of this Act, a Tribunal may regulate its own procedure. Certain laws not to apply 23. The provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 (V of 1898), and the Evidence Act, 1872 (I of 1872), shall not apply in any proceedings under this Act. Bar of Jurisdiction 24. No order, judgement or sentence of a Tribunal shall be called in question in any manner whatsoever in or before any Court or other authority in any legal proceedings whatsoever except in the manner provided in section 21. Indemnity 25. No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the Government or any person for anything, in good faith, done or purporting to have been done under this Act. Provisions of the Act over-riding all other laws 26. The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law for the time being in force. http://bdlaws.gov.bd/print_sections_all.php?id=435, last accessed 20 March, 2010 Copyright® 2008, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs

Glossary

Ain law Birangona rape survivors of 1971 war Bhasha andolon Language Movement Dalal collaborators Dhorshon rape Gono Adalot people’s court Jotdar the owner of a proprietary agricultural farm ‘Joy Bangla’ ‘Victory to Bengal’ Matree Bhasha mother’s language or mother tongue Mitra Bahini Joint India-Bangladesh Command formed in 1971 Muktibahini liberation army which fought in 1971 Muktijodhya freedom fighter Mujib Bahini guerrilla force of the liberation struggle loyal to Sheikh Mujib-ur Rahman Mussolman Muslim Rakhi bahini special force created by the Awami League government in 1972 Razakaar special auxiliary force created by the Pakistani Army consisting of members of the Bengali, Bihari and other communities loyal to Pakistan. Saree/sari attire worn by Bengali women Shanti Committee Peace Committee Shamprodayikota communalism Shonkskriti culture Ulema Islamic scholars Zamindar landlord

Notes

Introduction 1 In her analysis on extreme social, economic and political stress in the Mozambican conflict, Ruth Jacobson provides an excellent portrayal how young men and boys become victims of violence. She articulates that the process of gender mobility – i.e., young men able to leave conflict areas more easily – leaves women to be responsible for more tasks and vulnerable to a higher degree of danger (Jacobson, 1999). 2 Parpart and Marchand also suggested that the sterotype of women as ‘victims’ and men as ‘perpetrators’ misrepresent the complexities of political violence (Marchand and Parpart, 1995). 3 For details, see the documents provided by the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI), available at http://www.un.org/ womenwatch/osagi/wps. 4 For details, see Hamber et al., 2006, and Higate and Henry, 2004. 5 Jenkins and Plowden (2006) use ‘nationbuilding’ to denote what most would term ‘statebuilding’: situations in which there is an underlying conviction that international help is essential. These include development activities more generally but also processes ‘to reconstruct a society badly damaged by internal conflict’. They do observe that other uses of the term ‘nationbuilding’ suggest that ‘nation’ means ‘democratic nation’ and that the task is seen as inextricably linked with democracy-building. They are clearly referring here to the discourse among US scholars and the terminology of the Bush administration. See Dobbin’s et al., 2003 or the use of the term by the Bush administration in the context of Iraq. 6 See Dobbins, et al., 2003: xv. This usage would not conceive of nationbuilding as distinct from peacebuilding or statebuilding. 7 The OECD-DAC 2008 statebuilding findings take care to distinguish nationbuilding from statebuilding. While it acknowledges the two processes may be mutually enforcing, nationbuilding is seen as ‘the process of building a sense of common national identity’ and is not a process over which states have a monopoly (since rebel movement are often engaged in attempted nationbuilding). 8 Such as mothers, daughters and so on. Women’s images are also critical to the nationalist agenda. For example, while satidaho (widow burning) and child marraiages were considered barbaric by the colonial ruler – hence meaning that women needed saving by the British Raj – the Indian state used women’s emancipation as equal citizens to justify national movements. This has an uncanny resemblance, of course, with Bush policies in Afghanistan in terms of saving innocent women and children who were being exploited by the Taliban. 9 There were important efforts to include Pakistani scholarship in the discussion of both 1947 and 1971. Menon and Bhasin suggest that their oral-history project

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originally also included Pakistan; however, that part of their project was not followed through. Similarly, some scholars and practitioners who have focused on the 1971 conflict (including myself) met in Islamabad in 2007 to initiate a dialogue. At that meeting, there were considerable differences of opinion in terms of terminology and methodology. For example, for the counterparts representing Pakistan, the term ‘genocide’ was not an acceptable common ground by which to examine the killings that occurred in East Pakistan/Bangladesh in 1971. I will come back to this project in Chapter 6. 10 Leonard (1984: 180–7) characterizes social marginality as ‘being outside the mainstream of productive activity and/or social reproductive activity’. According to him, there are two kinds of marginality. One group is voluntarily marginal, such as communes or artists. The second group experiences ‘involuntary subordinate marginality’. He emphasizes the direct material experiences involved in this kind of marginality, such as poverty and the absence of wage labour. In this chapter, I refer to what Leonard calls ‘involuntary marginality’. 11 It should be noted that the 1947 Partition was the second time Bengal had been divided from India. The first instance occurred in 1905, but was later reversed. Jaya Chatterjee’s excellent book Bengal Divided provides a detailed analysis of the Partition of Bengal and the communal politics. 12 For an excellent account of the ideological context of marginality, see Leonard, 1984: 187–201. 1 The politics of nationalism and nationbuilding 1 In their book Nationalism and Politics: The Political Behavior of Nation States, Martha L. Cottam and Richard W. Cottam address the systematic patterns of political behaviours produced by nationalism. 2 Chatterjee (1990) and Mosse (1985b) have included gender analysis in their work. Also, subaltern and postcolonial writers have discussed nation and nationalism as a gendered project. However, Yuval-Davis points out that their work is more problematic, since they equate powerlessness with femininity (Yuval-Davis, 2001: 122). 3 For example, Spivak elaborates gender both as a specific domain and as a general category of experience within the body politic (Spivak, 1988a, 1988b). 4 While I admit that this is a huge claim, and one which will be vigorously contested by Bangladeshi scholars, I argue that all minority communities in Bangladesh not only have to co-exist but also ‘amalgamate’ into this Muslim nationhood in order to survive. This argument will be followed in the chapter on 1971. 5 For both Hegel (1956) and Marx (1972), the colonized places were outside the realm of history. 6 The tension between modernists such as Ishwarchandra Vidyasagor, who initiated widow remarriage, and traditionalists such as Bankim Chandra, who resisted reforms, shows that indigenous elites also had diverse views about the ‘woman question’. 7 For a minority woman, the majority’s religion can also influence her life, e.g., Hindus and Christians in Bangladesh. 8 Mohajir is a term that has been part of Pakistan’s political vocabulary. However, after the Partition the definition narrowed to incorporate Urdu-speaking Pakistanis, which excluded other ethnic groups uprooted by Partition as well (Ansari, 1998: 91). 9 An Indian documentary from 2003 by Supriyo Sen titled Way Back Home (‘Abar Ashibo Phirey’) traces the impact of Partition on migrants from East Bengal. However, nothing like this has been produced from Bangladesh. 10 The Awami League politics and mobilization in 1971 led the nation to form an independent state. However, after the assassination of Awami League leader and Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, the party was forced from power. The former prime minister’s daughter, Sheikh Hasina, eventually won the democratic election in

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1996. While the AL was defeated again in elections held on 1 October 2001, it returned to power in 2008. 2 1947: From partition to creation 1 Another source from Bangladesh suggests that, in East Bengal, the percentage of religious minorities was 29.7 per cent of the total population in 1947. Before 1971, it was 19.6 per cent; in the 1974 census it was 14.6 per cent; and in 1991 it was 11.7 per cent. 2 In Noakhali, a district in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), Muslim sailors returned from Calcutta carrying tales of atrocities committed against their brethren. On 10 October 1946, riots broke out. Enraged Noakhali Muslims ransacked Hindu homes, and scores of Hindu women were abducted and raped. Hundreds of kilometres away in Bihar, Hindus retaliated by attacking their Muslim neighbours, meting out atrocities with equal vengeance. Gandhi, horrified by the violence, set off in November on a one-man peace mission to these trouble-torn areas (Das, S., 1991). 3 I have extensively used SDPP documents, Khosla, Menon and Bhasin, Major and Butalia’s works to examine the gendered experiences of Partition. 4 I use this term here to describe the extraordinary violence that took place against women during Partition, a kind of communal violence that eventually becomes a graphic/ symbolic performance, as if played out in a theatre. The Rwandan genocide and sexual violence of 1994, which the Hutu community perpetrated against the Tutsis, bears an uncanny resemblance to the ritualized Partition violence. See also Paul Brass (1996) and Stanley Tambiah’s (1992) work on ritualized violence. 5 Butalia provides the most detailed accounts of the events, including interviews. 6 Some abducted women were also forced to marry their abductors and convert to their religion. This was one of the Indian state’s main concerns, and it occupied a major space in the parliamentary debates. It also underlined an important factor in India’s relations with Pakistan: in addition to the loss of territory, India was worried about the loss of Hindus to Islam. The Liberation War violence during 1971 shows that Pakistan was, likewise, worried about losing Muslims to the Hindu state. Abduction and conversion were thus a double blow for both states. I will explore this argument further in the next chapter. As I explained in the Introduction, it was difficult to find sufficient narratives on women’s experiences in Pakistan, or the political debates; I have instead referred to the Indian government discussions. 7 The Chandigarh Times, 12 September 2003, http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/ 20030912/cth1.htm 8 The Chandigarh Times, 12 September 2003. 9 Ultimately, the age breakdown of the women and girls recovered from both India and Pakistan was as follows (Menon and Bhasin, 1998: 70): Age set

In Pakistan (%)

In India (%)

>12 years 12–35 years 35–50 years 50 and above

45 44 6 5

35 59 4 2

10 On memories and silences focusing on Bangladesh, see Nayanika Mookherjee’s work (Mookherjee, 2006, 2007). 3 1971: Politics of silence, or refusal to remember? 1 For a detailed account, see Van Schendel (2009).

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2 Following the resignation of Ayub Khan, Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan became the third President of Pakistan and ruled from 1969 to 1971. 3 During the conflict, the regime of Indira Gandhi was Bangladesh’s most important ally. The regime perceived the Bangladesh national movement as a political opportunity, specifically in the context of the India–Pakistan rivalry. India also provided arms and ammunition, training and logistical support to the Muktibahini (Liberation Army), while Indian public opinion provided strong moral support for the military action. At least initially, the public in West Bengal and the Indian Northeast were sympathetic to the refugee in-flow in the country. 4 This report remained classified until 2000, when New Delhi leaked it to the media. Following this, Islamabad declassified the supplementary report in early 2001. The Pakistani government and various sectors, including the civil society, perceived this to be a political stunt by India to distract attention from its own security policies of that time. For details, see the October 2000 issue of the Pakistan Defence Journal, in which the editor, Ikram Sehgal, writes, ‘We have more things to worry about than trying to exorcise the faded ghosts of 1971.’ Quoting Kautiliya’s Arthashastra and Sun Tzu, he goes on to say, ‘the Report’s sudden appearance is clearly a well-timed Indian strategy’ and suggests that its release was motivated to target the Pakistan Army. ‘Leave the Army alone,’ he writes. ‘Better still, leave Pakistan alone!’ Available at http://www. defencejournal.com/2000/oct/publisher.htm. 5 However, Mascarenhas’s report of 2 May 1971 in the Sunday Times highlighted Bengalis killing a large number of Biharis. This attracted criticism over his credibility by Pakistani scholars such as Feroz Ahmed, who stated that Mascarenhas’s claim of 20,000–100,000 non-Bengalis having been killed was an exaggeration. For details, see Pakistan Forum, Vol. 1, No. 5, June–July 1971: 6. Mascarenhas himself was a senior Pakistani journalist invited by the Pakistani government in mid-April 1971 to tour Bangladesh, on the idea that he would confirm the official assessment that the situation had returned to normal. He was also the Pakistani correspondent of the London Sunday Times. He fled to London soon after his visit and published one of the most explosive reports on the crackdown, ‘Why the Refugees Fled’. The Sunday Times editorial, which introduced the piece, was called simply, ‘Genocide’ (Oldenburg, 1985: 729). 6 Note the use of the word ‘only’ which appears to be intended to play down the implications of the grave crimes committed during 1971. Even one enforced pregnancy is a serious crime. 7 This dam was constructed eventually after 1971, thereby contributing to an insurgency in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, where the Bangladeshi Army was equally brutal in responding. For details see Mohsin (1997) and Schendel (2009). 8 The issue of religion emerged again after 1975, following the assassination of Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. 9 The linguistic supremacy of Bengali over indigenous languages did, however, create tension following Bangladesh’s independence. This tension is shared across the border with the indigenous communities in the Indian Northeast, who perceive Bengali to be a language of the oppressors. 10 See also Mustafa Kamal Pasha and Ayesha Siddiqua on the myths of martial races. For details on East Pakistan’s role in the armed forces, see Chapter 7 of Rizvi (1981). 11 At this time, Bhutto, for his own self-interest, had partnered with the army, thus contributing to the entrenched politicization and opportunism of the Pakistani armed forces. Of course, this was to be the source of his own downfall only a few years later, following a coup by General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq that resulted in his political trial and death by hanging in 1979. 12 For an excellent account of humanitarian intervention during the 1971 war see Wheeler, 2000: 55–77. 13 In the previous chapter, I explained that Punjab was the other region – apart from Bengal – that was partitioned during 1947. The extreme violence of the Punjab Partition is the

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cause of the pathological hatred that Punjabis still feel towards Hindus in this region. During their interviews with me, many respondents in Bangladesh regarded ‘Punjabi’ and ‘Pakistani’ as synonymous. 14 While during the conflict, intellectuals were systematically targeted, tortured and killed, on 14 December, 1971, just two days before the ceasefire and surrender of the Pakistani forces, leading Bengali intellectuals were brutally executed. 15 The ‘repatriates’ were Pakistan-returned army officers. By 1981, all regular military units numbered 77,000, with freedom-fighter elements estimated to account for not more than 15 per cent of all personnel (Bertocci, 1982). 4 Gendered nationbuilding 1 Please note that I have also interviewed Halima Parveen, a freedom-fighter who was incarcerated in a camp during the conflict and raped. Parveen, prefers the title freedom fighter and not Birangona. Her family circumstances are ones of dire poverty, and she is willing to share her stories due to her negotiated survival strategy. 2 Part of this has been published in Ackerly, Stern and True volume on Feminist Methodologies in International Relations (2006). 3 I gratefully acknowledge Roger Kilham’s assistance in finding Dr Davis. 4 Ibrahim mentioned that this was one of the most painful experiences of her life. Marjina was forced to give up her son, and the baby was eventually adopted by a family in Sweden (D’Costa, interview, 1999). 5 No one was able to give me any information about the home. 6 Ershad was the military dictator who seized power in 1985. During his ascendancy Bangladesh was made into an Islamic state. To gain politically, he reinstated infamous Razakaars and collaborators in important government positions. He was finally ousted by a popular uprising in 1991. 7 The statement came in the wake of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Bangladesh. It began: ‘We the citizens of Pakistan welcome the statement of regret by President Pervez Musharraf in Bangladesh on the atrocities of 1971.’ The civil-society organizations hoped that it would be possible to build solidarity in future and move towards a peaceful South Asia where people could find solutions to poverty and social injustice through a healthy political process and an empowered civil society rather than military force. The statement was endorsed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the Democratic Commission for Human Development, the Pakistan Workers’ Federation, the Labour Party Pakistan, the Pak Christian National Party, the Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights, Action Aid Pakistan, South Asia Partnership Pakistan, Lawyers of Human Rights and Legal Aid, the Damaan Development Organization, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Badari (women’s awareness and crisis intervention), the Democratic Women’s Association, the Progressive Women’s Association of Badari and Sind NGO Forum. Other organizations and groups that endorsed the statement include the Working Women’s Organization, Inter-Press Communication-Karachi, the Sind Development Society-Hyderabad, Mengal Trust Aranji-Balochistan, the Gorakh Development Organization, the Abadgar Association, the Sungi Development Forum, Young Samaj Tanzeem, the Kachho Foundation, the Joho Organization for Rural Development and Natural Disaster, the Sind Graduate Association, the Association for Human and Education Development, the Centre for Legal Assistance and Settlement-Lahore, the Youth Commission for Human Rights, Insaan Foundation-Lahore and Kaccho Bachayo Tehrik (online at http://www. bangladesh-web.com/news/aug/03/n03082002.htm#A1). 5 Frozen in Time? War crimes, justice and political forgiveness 1 Press Release on Charles Taylor case, The Sierra Leone Court Monitoring Programme,

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2 3 4

5 6

7

8 9

10 11

12

Notes Freetown, July 3, 2007. http://www.slcmp.org/drwebsite/ … /Access_Denied_to_CT_ Trial_Final.pdf. For example, see Kuper, 1981; Totten, 2004; Rummel, 1998; Kiernan, 2007b; and the Journal of Genocide Research. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/good-news/un-provides-welcomesupport-bangladesh-war-crimes-investigations-20090407. Mujib was arrested on the night of 25 March 1971 when the Pakistan Army cracked down in Dacca. He was taken to West Pakistan and kept in detention; later, he was tried by a special military court and given a death sentence. However, before the sentence could be carried out, General Yahya Khan, Pakistan’s Chief Martial Law Administrator, was replaced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who released Mujib (Maniruzzaman, 1975). Available at http://www.free-press-release.com/news/200804/1207504048.html, last accessed 24 March 2010. The Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of Treaties of 1978 and the Vienna Convention on Succession of states in Respect to Property, Archives and Debts in 1983 suggest that there is strong legal basis for Bangladesh to claim financially from Pakistan. Syed Sirajul Islam argues that Bangladesh could demand in terms of: population – 56 percent of the total assets; wealth – 50 percent of the total assets; foreign currency reserve – 51 percent of the foreign exchange as East Pakistan contributed to the national reserves; proportion – 44 percent of the total wealth. Based on development efforts and investments, the Bangladesh Planning Commission estimates of 1974 states that Pakistan owes Tk 24.46 billion to Bangladesh. Cited in Singh, U. (2003) ‘Convergence and Divergence between Bangladesh and Pakistan’, in Nagendra, Kr. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, New Delhi: Anmol Publications Private, p. 81. Associated Press of Pakistan report ‘Pir Saihib of Sarsina Sharif’. Archival document. Also partially available online at, http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/ search?q=cache:gZNpOSko718 J:profile-bengal.com/mnnews/page159.html+Pir+Sah ib+of+Sarsina+Sharif&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au, last accessed 4 April, 2010. For account of victims see Bangladesh War Crimes File, a documentary by David Bergman, Channel 4, UK, 1995. There will probably never be ad hoc tribunals such as the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) or ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda), which proved to be hugely expensive. The ICC (International Criminal Court) will take over such processes, and similar to the ICTY and ICTR will try individuals, but not states. Tristan Abbey, ‘Paying for Three Tribunals: The Hague, Lebanon, and Cambodia’, Feb 27, 2009. Bellum: A Project of the Stanford Review. Last accessed 23 March 2010. See http://bellum.stanfordreview.org/?p=537. The UN tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda have together cost at least US$1.3 billion between 1996 and 2004, and more than $1 billion more is likely to be spent before proceedings are concluded. For details see, Peter Kammerer, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, 26 Sept. 2004 The Guardian Weekly, ‘Civil war crimes tribunal under threat as donations dry up’, London (UK), 25 Feb. 2009, p. 24.

6 Partnership with transnational networks for gender-sensitive justice mechanism 1 In Chapter 4, I mentioned that during his visit to Bangladesh, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf expressed his regret over the ‘excesses’ committed by the Pakistan Army during 1971. This created outrage among the people of Bangladesh. 2 See http://www.icescolombo.org/wpc2002/intro.htm. Last accessed 24 January 2005. 3 See http://www.iccwomen.org/tokyo/index.htm. Last accessed 24 January 2005. 4 See http://www1.jca.apc.prg/vaww-net-japan/e_new/judgement.html. Last accessed 24 January 2005.

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5 See http://www.korea-np.co.jp/pk/156th_issue/2001022401.htm. Last accessed 20 January 2005. 6 See http://www.asia-pacific-action-org/information/apcet.htm. Last accessed 20 March 2010. 7 See http://www.iidnet.org/adv/timor/overview.htm. Last accessed 20 March 2010. 8 The Muktijodhya Smriti Trust (MST) or the Freedom-Fighter Memory Trust inaugurated the Muktijudhyo Jadughor or the Liberation War Museum on 22 March 1996 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is a privately funded organization. 9 The most straightforward objective of a truth commission is sanctioned fact-finding that establishes an accurate history of a country’s past, clears up confusions, and lifts the lid of silence and denial from a painful period of history (Hayner, 2001: 24–5). Truth commissions as bodies are set up to investigate past history of human-rights violations in a particular country, which also involves investigating violations by the military, other government forces or by armed opposition forces (Hayner, 1994: 600). 10 In the second post-Emergency period of her prime ministership (1980–4), Indira Gandhi was preoccupied by efforts to resolve the political problems of Punjab. In her attempt to crush the secessionist movement of Sikh militants, she ordered an assault upon the holiest Sikh shrine in Amritsar, the Golden Temple. Although the Golden Temple was stripped clean of Sikh terrorists, it was damaged; furthermore, Mrs Gandhi earned the undying hatred of Sikhs, who bitterly resented the desacralization of their sacred space. In November of that year, Mrs Gandhi was assassinated at her residence by two of her own Sikh bodyguards, who claimed that they were avenging the insult heaped upon the Sikh nation. Immediately after her assassination, riots broke out in northern India, with the Sikh community being particularly targeted (see http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/ southasia/History/Independent/Indira.html). Last accessed 20 March 2010. 11 From 27 February 2002 Gujarat was convulsed with violence for over 40 days when the Sabarmati Express, a train running from Faizabad to Ahmedabad, was attacked and torched at Godhra, killing 58 Hindu activists. They were returning from Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, where they had supported a campaign to construct a temple to the Hindu god Ram on the site of a sixteenth-century mosque destroyed by Hindu militants in 1992. The 1992 riots raised the spectre of violence in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, three nation-states that share a common history. The backlash of 2002 resulted in a killing spree by Hindus that was aimed at the Muslim minority community in Gujarat. Nearly 850 persons were killed according to the official count; unofficial estimates were far higher. The brutalities – especially against women – were similar to those that occurred in previous riots in the subcontinent. Muslim girls and women were viciously raped before being mutilated and burned to death. The targeting of Muslim homes, establishments and sources of livelihood was precise, and bears evidence of premeditation (Human Rights Watch Report, May 2002, Vol. 14, No. 3, online at http://www.hrw. org/reports/2002/india/). Last accessed 21 March 2010. Appendix 1: Interview with Respondent M (January 2000, India) 1 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first Prime Minister of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh, who also was called at the time, the father of the nation. 2 Immediately after the war, there was total chaos in the country. The law and order situation was very bad. 3 Relief Minister, 1972. 4 A river next to Dhaka city. 5 A local handicraft and community shop run by the Missionaries of Charity sisters. 6 A relief and rehabilitation NGO of East Pakistan. Now the name has changed to Caritas.

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Index

abduction, abductions, abducted, see also ‘adoption’ and under ‘recovery operation’, 18, 21, 41, 44, 46–8, 54–5, 57–74, 102–4, 109, 111, 128, 139, 156, 164, 187, 202, 213 Abducted Persons Act, the, see also ‘abduction’, 66 abortion, 14, 70, 79, 112–15, 117, 124, 126, 134, 137, 139–41, 167, 186, 188, 192–4, 196, 198–200 activism, 7, 9, 10, 12, 88, 153–5, 161, 163, 165, 167, 170–2, 177, 179 adoption, Birangona 188; government programmes and the Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity, 117, 135; postbellum Bangladesh and policies of Bangladesh state, 70, 193, 196, 198–9; postbellum survival, 108 112 115; programmes, 14, 135, 137, 141, 167; and rape, 126, 135; international, 129, 134, 192; lack of consent, 140 advocacy, see also ‘networks’, ‘civil society’, 3, 6, 7, 10, 38, 42, 154–5, 161, 171 Agartala Conspiracy Case, the, 91 agency, 6, 9–10, 17, 19, 44, 64, 81, 140–1, 156 Agency, 59, 204 agenda-setting, 170 Ain-O-Shalish Kendra (ASK), 10, 113, 111, 119–20, 122–3, 126–30, 133–5, 153 Al-Badr, see also ‘collaborators’ and ‘Collaborators Act’, the, 97, 104, 148, 151, 153, 156–7 Al-Shams, see also ‘collaborators’ and ‘Collaborators Act’, 104, 148 amnesty, 19, 107, 122, 147, 151, 180, 215 Anderson, Benedict, 8, 26, 30–2 army, see also Razakaar; Rakhi Bahini; Mujib Bahini; Mitra Bahini; Muktijodhya (freedom fighter), ‘Army Act, 1952’, 201; Bangladeshi, 21, 148–50, 177, 214; Indian, 51, 52–5, 99, 124–5, 149, Muktibahini (Liberation Army), 95, 147, 214; ‘Muslim Army’, 138; Pakistani, viii, 3, 5, 19, 36, 41, 57, 76–82, 90, 92, 94–111, 119, 121–2, 12–19, 132, 134–9, 141, 147, 149–57, 167, 176, 179, 182, 192, 214–16 ASK, see Ain-O-Shalish Kendra

Awami League, the, 3, 21, 77–8, 88, 90–2, 95–6, 98, 106–8, 111, 147, 149, 152, 155, 169, 196, 197, 210 (glossary), 212 Balkan wars, the, 4, 163 Bangladesh, aid dependency, 106; ’s literary works, 43; Aswami League Government in, 3, 98; brittle peace/fragile state, 19; documented mass rapes, genocide and atrocities in, 5, 36, 76–9, 94, 95–6, 102–3, 119–21, 144, 166–7; exclusion of women’s voices, 34, 110–43, 185; feminist movement, 161–83; history, current situation, emergence, 1, 11, 18, 40, 43, 46, 75–6, 94, 109, 161, 191; independence war 1971, 2, 53, 76, 80, 93, 109, 110, 166; justice and war crimes, 20, 45, 66, 144–60; migration, 43; military relations with Pakistan, 97–100; minority communities, 2, 28, 103–4 (Bihari); naming conventions, 12; nationalist and paramilitary parties, 20; nationbuilding narrative of, 3, 4, 36, 38 42, 44, 81–3, 88, 110–43 (gendered), 184; marginalization, 10, 11; memory, 143, 189–90; narratives, 37, 71, 100 (micro-narratives); oral-history projects in, 10; Partition riots, 47–8; religion, politics and nationalism, 20, 27–8, 35, 39, 41 (patriarchalism), 70, 105–8, 111, 163, 188; riots, 74; silences in historiography and narrative, 22, 42, 80, 100, 108, 111–12, 184–6; stigma of rape in, 13, 14, 120; subordinate role of women in society, 81 War of Liberation, i, 2, 5, 13, 24, 38, 43, 75; Women’s Rehabilitation Programme, 104–5, 187 Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order, the, see also ‘collaboration’, 150 Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the (BNP), 21, 94, 98, 107–8, 149–50, 152, 156–7 Bangladeshi Army, the, see under ‘army’, 214 Begum, Maleka, (also Maleka Khan) 71, 122, 128, 129, 130, 135, 161 Beijing Conferences, the, (1995), 172

242

Index

Bengal, 37, 41, 42, 51–4, 75, 82, 88, 96, 101, 212, 214 Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali, 78, 92, 145, 146, 214, 216 Bihar, see also ‘Bihari’ and under ‘community’, 51, 53, 69, 84, 103, 213 Bihari, see also ‘Bihar’, 84, 100, 103–4, 128, 145, 149–50, 153, 158, 196, 210 (glossary), 214 Birangona, see also ‘rape’, ‘rape survivors’, ‘Gonoadalot’, viii (Figures); Ami Birangana Bolchi (‘I, the Birangona’), 123; etymology, 13, 120–1, 153; (and) justice, 164; micronarratives, 100, 104–6, 108–9, 115–17, 119, 178; and employment, 105, 131; political context and narrative silence, 35, 40, 80–1; 89, 100, 105, 108–9, 111–12, 115–17, 119, 123,125–9, 133, 140–2, 145, 151–3, 161, 164, 210 (glossary); rehabilitation program, 129; victimisation and agency, 18–20, 106, 121, 123–9, 141–2, 185, 187–8 BNP, see ‘Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the’ Boundary Commission, the 50 British, vi, 17–18, 29, 37, 46–9, 51, 53–5, 75, 101, 165, 169, 196, 211 British Raj, the, 46, 51, 53–4, 55, 59, 211 brittle peace, 2, 17, 19 (also ‘fragile state’), 60, 79, 145, 153, 164 Butalia, Urvashi, 5, 10, 18, 41, 43–4, 47–8, 51, 53, 56–7, 60, 65–7, 69–73, 141, 166, 187, 213 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the UN, (CEDAW), 157 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the, 7 Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), the, 28, 84 citizenship, 23, 25, 30, 66, 70 (contested notion of), 87 (and class); citizens: child, 137; gender, heroism and scrifice, 10, 23, 31, 34, 60; global, 17; governance and sovereignty, 2, 25–6, 32–4, 41, 46, 58, 167, 170; justice/ equality in, 18, 22, 30, 66, 67, 70, 167, 211; narrative silence and power of state, 2, 16, 23, 28–9, 158, 167, 179, 186; non-citizens, 2, of India, 69; rehabilitated, 62; reinvented/ contested national identity of, 80, 85, 108, 146, 159, 179; religion and, 26 security of, 46, 58; violations against, 182, 185; 215 civil society, see also ‘advocacy’ and ‘networks’, 24, 109, 143, 155, 158, 176, 214, 215 class, 10, 11, 15–17, 26, 29, 33, 37–9, 53, 60, 86–7, 89, 93, 105, 113, 126, 140, 160, 163, 165–6, 168, 170–1, 181, 197, 204, 206 collaboration, collaborators, see also Al-Badr, Al-Shams and Razakaar, 20, 81, 102, 109, 121, 128, 142, 148, 149–55, 122, 174,176, 181, 190, 210 (glossary), 215 colonial, colonization, see also ‘decolonization’, 4, 8, 16, 17–18, 22, 29, 37–9, 40–4, 46–8,

54–5, 60, 73, 75, 82, 86, 88, 90, 93, 98, 106, 162, 165, 169, 185, 211 communal riots, 8, 37, 38, 74, 101, 185 community, see also ‘ethnicity’, ‘ethnic community’, Bengali, 27, 103, 110, 137, 141; Bihari, 103–4, 150, 153, 158; donor, 19; engendering, 167; ethnic, 27–8; Hindu, 41, 53, 74, 100, 102, 137–9, 158; human, 12; honour, 56, 67; Hutu, 213; identity, 16, 27–8, 30, 36, 37, 38 (masculinity of), 41 (representation as mother figure), 60, 139, 140, 142; ‘imagined’ (see also Anderson), 3, 26, 65, 106; international, 6 (humanitarian), 8, 9, 25, 29, 77, 159, 174; national, 27, 28, 77, 168–9, 185 (boundaries), 188; political, 9, 23, 27–8, 30, 36; racial, 29; religious, 17, 27, 28, 40, 41, 45, 46, 47–8, 102, 119, 140; territorial, 29; Sikh, 58, 181, 217; 140–2, 150, 153, 158, 167, 174, 181, 185, 188, 213, 217; violence and enemy, 55–6; women’s security, 181 crimes against humanity, 79, 152, 153–4, 175, 201 critical, i, 2, 10, 20, 31, 34, 36, 43, 56, 66, 77, 81, 109, 125, 143, 173, 180, 183, 185, 189, 211 CRPF, see ‘Central Reserve Police Force’, 7 Dalal Aain, see also ‘collaboration’, 151 Davis, Geoffrey, vii, 24–5, 28,100, 104, 117, 120, 122, 134, 136, 139, 141, 185, 195–200, 212, 215 DAWN, see ‘Development Alternative for Women’s Network’ decolonization, see also ‘colonial’, 23 democracy, 107, 166, 211 democratization, 2, 16, 154–5, 171 Development Alternative for Women’s Network, the, 172 development, Women in Development (WID), Woman and Development (WAD), Gender and Development (GAD), Women in Development Europe (WIDE), 8, 13, 15–17 (GAD), 23, 27, 32, 81, 84, 89, 91, 105, 157, 170, 172, 182, 211, 216 diplomacy, 81, 112, 121, 145 dirty wars, 5, 7 discrimination, 2, 4, 9, 10, 173–4, 188 East Bengal, 12, 53, 81, 84, 97, 103, 138, 213 East Punjab, 52, 58–9, 63 East Timor, 159, 174–6 ECCC, see ‘Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the’ elite, see under ‘political’ emancipation, emancipative, 89, 106, 109, 164, 167, 211 empowerment, 10, 17, 22, 43, 115, 170–1, 185 ethnicity, ethnic, 4, 8, 10–13, 15–19, 25–32, 35, 37–9, 41–4, 75–6, 84, 86, 89, 99, 106–7,

Index 144, 163, 167, 173, 183, 185, 191, 202, 212; cleansing, see also ‘violence’, 13, 76; (ethnic) community, see also ‘ethnicity’ and under ‘community’, 27 exclusion, 2, 6, 10, 13, 19, 25, 29, 34, 37, 40, 43, 79, 83, 141, 144, 179, 185–6 Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the (ECCC), 159 Fanon, Frantz, 29 feminism, see also under ‘movement’, 14–16, 25, 31, 39, 171 (global), 172 feminist movement, see under ‘movement’ forced impregnation, 8, 23, 79, 100, 102, 103, 135, 137 Foucault, 27, 31 foundation theories, 24 framing, 6, 19, 43, 67, 154–5, 170 GAD (Gender and Development), see also under ‘development’, 15 Gandhi, Indira, 7, 97, 145, 149, 181, 214, 217; Mahatma, 61, 67, 165 (‘Gandhian’), 213; Vanita Ashram Camp (Jullundur), 62 Gender and Development (GAD), see under ‘development’ gender, gendered, i, vii, 2–11, 14–15, 17, 19, 20, 22–5, 29, 30–2, 34–42, 44–6, 48, 55, 57, 58, 60, 71, 74, 88–9, 107, 108, 112, 116, 117, 121, 139–41, 143, 153, 161, 163–8, 170, 173–4, 177–80, 183, 186–9, 211–13, 216; crime, 6; equality, 107; identities, 9, 14; politics, 15, 44, 187 Geneva Convention, the, 149, 162, 202 genocide, 4, 6, 12, 19, 76–7, 79–80, 100, 110, 144–6, 149–50, 154, 158, 163, 177, 181, 189, 201, 212, 213 Genocide Convention, the, 6 global, 7, 10–11, 14–15, 17, 145, 154, 160, 163–4, 171 globalization, 2, 16, 32, 171–2 globalized, 9, 23 Golam Azam, 151 Gonoadalot, Gono Adalot, see also ‘People’s Court’, 152, 194, 210 (glossary) Great Calcutta Killings, the, 53 great power, see also under ‘power’, 11 hegemonic, 2, 12, 41, 43 hegemony, 33, 40 Hindu, see also under ‘community’, and; namaaz (Muslim prayer); arti (Hindu dancing in front of the deity); zamindar (Hindu landlord); jotdar (proprietor of agricultural farm), children, infants, 68–71, 192–3; communal campaigns, 38; genocide, 77–8, 100, 102–3, 156; and independence war 1971, 86, 93–4; Kush, 83; language (Hindi), 85; minority community groups, 27, 100, 117, 144, 158, 212; national and religious identity, 17, 37–9,

243

41, 43–4, 52–3, 57 (forced conversion), 81–3, 93, 100–10, 117, 137–41, 166–7, 181, 186, 188, 189; population, 12, 95; Partitition, 17, 41, 48, 51–6, 60, 74, 75, 84, 137, 154; recoveries of: women, 66–7; refugees, 53, 58, 98, 139; women, 21, 55, 66; 88–9 (perceived as bearers of culture), 197, 212; 100–10, 156; victims of rape, 110–12, 122–3, 128, 156, 213, 217 Hinduism, 102, 137–8, 141, 167 Hindustan, 47 Hindutva, 88 historicist, 33 historiography, 5, 21–2, 36, 39, 47–8, 53, 55, 66, 69, 74, 77, 187 Hobbes, 24, 189 hybrid tribunal, 162–3 ICTR, see ‘International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’ ICTY, see ‘International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia’ identity, i, 1–6, 9, 11, 13–14, 16–19, 22–3, 25–31, 34–40, 44, 46–8, 65, 69–71, 75–6, 80, 84–9, 103, 105–6, 108, 112–13, 116–17, 119, 133, 137, 139–42, 144, 154, 156, 166–7, 181, 184–8, 211 ideology, 21, 23, 25, 30–3, 67, 139, 156, 168 imagined, 1, 8, 23–4, 26, 28, 31, 35, 37–8, 65, 70, 75, 106, 139, 141, 163 Indian Army, the, 54, 99, 104, 124–5, 149 Indian Constituent Assembly, the, 64 Indian National Congress, the, 47 Indira, see under ‘Gandhi’ injustice, 21, 79, 125, 158, 189, 215 insecurity, see also ‘security’, 96, 101 institution, 94, 102 intellectuals, 104, 109, 122, 157 intelligentsia, 32, 33, 87 international community, see ‘community’ International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, the, 150, 156, 201 International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the, 6, 159, 183, 216 International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’ (ICTR), the, 6, 159, 216 international law, see also under ‘law’, 6, 201, 202 Islam, 12, 35, 57, 70, 75, 86–9, 105–8, 119, 137, 154, 157, 188, 213, 216 Islamist, ii, 88, 110, 170 jotdar, see also under ‘Hindu’, 87, 210 (glossary) justice, vii, 3–6, 10, 14, 17–22, 45, 58, 66, 73, 76, 120, 122, 144–83, 187, 189–90, 203, 206, 215–16; movement, see under ‘movement’, -seeking movement, 45, 145, 154–8 Kashmir, 2, 11, 54, 62, 65–6, 99, 145, 146 Khosla, G. D., 47, 52, 55–8, 67, 213

244

Index

language, see also ‘Language Movement’, 11, 15–16, 26, 31–3, 43, 75, 80, 83, 85–6, 88–91, 94, 101, 106, 118, 121, 124, 127, 138, 152, 185, 210 (glossary), 214 Language Movement, the, 43, 75, 84–5, 87–9, 94, 106, 210 (glossary) law, 4–5, 52, 69, 73, 79, 81, 93, 108–9, 138, 150, 167, 169, 201–3, 209–10, 217 lens of identity, see also ‘identity’, 32 liberation, 35, 42–3, 81, 94, 96, 104, 107, 109, 122, 145, 148, 167, 169, 210 (glossary) Liberation War Museum (LWA), the, 43, 132, 133, 153, 177, 178, 216 local networks, see also ‘advocacy’ and ‘civil society’, 170 LWM, see ‘Liberation War Museum’ Lynch, (Private) Jessica, 7 Mahila Parishad, 169 marginalization, i, 10–11, 39, 44 marginalized, 2, 10–11, 14, 16, 21, 33, 73, 113, 114–15, 148, 169, 172, 180, 182 masculine, 1, 3, 5, 7–8, 25, 35, 41, 106, 115, 137 masculinity, 6, 15, 38, 137 mass killing, 13, 76, 100, 149, 151 mass rape, see under ‘rape’ memory, 18–19, 30, 36, 38–9, 41–2, 54, 71–4, 110, 115–16, 118, 186 MEO, see Military Evacuee Organization, the military elite, 106–7, 108, 110, 158 Military Evacuee Organization (MEO), the, 61 minorities, 4, 10, 13, 18, 21, 34, 53, 99, 101, 144, 213 Minority Rights Group, 53, 103 Mitrabahini (‘Joint Command’), 99 modern, i, 22–4, 26–8, 30–1, 40, 53, 71, 138 modernization, 17, 22, 140 Mountbatten, Lord Louis, 48–9, 51 movement, movements, anti-colonial, 8–9, 39–40, 42, 60, 86; autonomy, 97; cowslaughter, 37; (of) East Pakistan, 89–90 (‘six-point movement’), 91 (‘political movements of East Pakistan’); feminist, 121, 140, 161, 163, 165, 170; Indian freedom, 106; justice, see also under ‘justice’ (‘justice seeking movement’), 20, 154, 163; language, see ‘language’ and ‘Language Movement’; (of) the Muktibahini, 149; liberation struggle, muktijodhya (freedom fighters), 104; national/ nationalistic, 2–3, 9, 18, 21, 25–6, 30, 32–9, 40–3, 48, 75, 81–4, 88, 93, 96–8, 101–2, 109, 140, 144–5, 211, 214; (as) mass migration, 51–3; Nirmul (Elimination) Committee, 152; Non-Aligned, 107; non-co-operation, 93; Pakistan, 92; popular, 151; rebel, 211; secessionist, of Sikh militants, 217; South Asian, 162; (and) violence, 73; war-crimes, (see ‘justice-seeking’), 20, 154; women’s, 10, 14, 142, 157–8, 161–70, 172–3, 175, 178–80, 182–3, 187–8, 190

Mujib-ur Rahman (Bongo Bondhu, friend of Bengal), 13, 79, 81, 90, 117, 120, 122, 131, 133, 146–7, 212, 214, 217 Muslim, ii, 12, 17–18, 37–40, 42–4, 46–9, 51–61, 63–6, 68–9, 74–5, 84–7, 91, 98, 101–3, 106–9, 119, 128, 135, 137–41, 151, 154, 167, 169–71, 181, 186, 196, 210 (glossary), 212–13, 217 Muslim League, the, 47–9, 51–2, 87, 91, 107, 109, 151 narrative, 2, 3, 13, 17–22, 30, 37, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 74, 80–1, 100, 106, 109, 111–13, 115, 117, 119, 139, 141–4, 161, 164, 182, 186, 187 Nasreen, Taslima, 42, 109 national identity, 4, 8, 17–18, 22–3, 25, 27–9, 31–3, 35–7, 43, 46, 48, 54, 70, 86, 88–9, 108, 112, 119, 139–40, 163, 166, 182, 184 Nationalism, ii, 9, 25, 32, 185, 212 nationalist, 1–2, 9–10, 12, 17–20, 22–3, 25, 30–42, 53, 55, 75, 81, 88, 90, 97–101, 106–9, 112, 115, 137, 139–40, 144, 149, 155, 163, 165–6, 172, 179, 184–5, 187, 189, 211 nationbuilding, i, vii, 1–3, 5, 8–10, 13, 16, 20–46, 54, 64, 66–7, 71, 73–4, 81–3, 85, 88, 93, 110–43, 185, 211–12, 215 nation-state, nation-states, see also ‘nationbuilding’ and ‘national identity’, i, 2–3, 9, 11–13, 16, 17, 18, 22–3 (identity), 25–30, 32, 34–6, 39, 44, 46–7, 53–4, 65–7, 69–70, 73, 75, 79–81, 83, 88, 97, 110, 113, 115, 136, 141–2, 147, 162–3, 166–7, 169, 176, 179, 184–8, 217 networks, networking, see also ‘agenda setting’, ‘advocacy’, ‘civil society’, 10, 12, 29, 34, 42, 65, 72, 116, 153–4, 161–3, 171–4, 176–9, 189–90 Nirmul Committee, the, 118, 151 Nixon, Richard, 138, 146 Nixon Administration, the, 146 Noakhali riots, the, 54 Noakhali-Tippera riots, the, 53 norms, 5, 9, 11, 14–15, 34, 38, 40, 71–2, 74, 79, 112, 116, 119–20, 132, 135, 150, 167, 170–1 Northern, 9, 11–12, 15–16, 28, 173 Operation Blitz, 94 Operation Searchlight, 75, 94 Orient, the, 41 Orientalist, 16, 37 Pakistan, ii, viii, 2–5, 11–13, 17–22, 28, 33–9, 41–4, 46–58, 60–3, 65–6, 68–71, 73–112, 117, 119, 121–2, 125–8, 132, 134–5, 137–42, 144–58, 162–3, 165–7, 169–70, 176, 179–88, 193, 196, 197, 210 (glossary), 212–17 Pakistani Army, the, see also under ‘army’, 210 (glossary) partition, vii, 42, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 91, 102, 213

Index patriarchy, 9, 15, 24, 165 patriotism, 35, 119 peacebuilding, 8, 162, 211 peacekeeping, 7 People’s Court, the, see ‘Gonoadalot’ Pir Sahib, Sarsina Sharif, 155, 156 polis, the, see also ‘democracy’ and ‘democratization’, 23, political, community, see community; elite, see also ‘intellectuals’ and ‘civil society’, i, 3, 13, 22, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 44, 46, 61, 67, 73, 85, 89, 91, 93, 109, 150; identity, see also under ‘identity’, 23, 26, 29, 31, 40, 75; victims, 179 pollution, 140 postcolonial, 8, 9, 16, 17, 29, 30, 31, 38, 40, 47, 166, 212 postmodern, 15, 47 power, 2, 6, 9, 14–17, 20–1, 23, 25, 27, 29–39, 41, 53–4, 75, 83–4, 89–90, 92–4, 100, 105, 107–8, 119, 126, 137, 141, 147–51, 155, 165–6, 168, 170, 183, 187, 202, 206, 212–13, 215 power relations, 9, 14 powerless, 35, 53, 137, 142, 181 primordial, 11, 17, 22, 30, 31, 34 prison, 7, 193, 196 pro-Pakistani, 19, 80, 122 Punjab, ii, 41, 43, 47, 50–4, 62, 81, 102, 214, 217 Punjabi, 41, 52, 54–5, 87, 102, 139, 186, 215 purity, 1, 19, 23, 27, 38–9, 44, 57, 67–8, 70, 72, 112, 116, 135, 137, 140–1, 186 race, 11, 15, 21, 26, 29, 31, 38 racial community, see also under ‘community’, 29 Radcliffe, Cyril, 51, 52 Raj, see ‘British Raj, the’ Rakhi Bahini, the, see also under ‘army’, 147, 210 (glossary) rape, rapist, see also ‘rape survivors’, ‘Birangona’, ‘Gonoadalot’, 1, 4–10, 13–14, 19–21, 23, 35–6, 38, 41, 43–4, 55–8, 60, 62, 66, 77–81, 95, 100–37, 139, 140, 142, 144–5, 149–50, 153, 156–7, 161–5, 166, 169–70, 173, 175, 179–90, 193–4, 197–200, 202, 210 (glossary), 213, 217; mass, 5, 10, 14, 102–3, 161, 165, 189; survivors, 6, 9, 13–14, 19, 41, 105, 111, 112, 118, 120, 125, 127–8, 130, 181–2, 210 (glossary) Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), 51 Razakaar, see also under ‘army’, 97, 104, 111, 119, 121, 139, 148, 151, 153, 157, 210 (glossary) reconciliation, 3, 158–9, 177, 183, 186 recovery operation, 48, 61–4, 66, 72–3, 185, 187 recovery program, 62 refugee, viii, 12, 52, 59, 64, 96, 98, 119, 138, 139, 176, 214

245

rehabilitation program, 35–6, 120, 129, 130, 164, 187 religious community, see also under ‘community’, 28, 45 religious elite, see also under ‘political’, 19, 107, 155, 157 religious identity, see also under ‘identity’, 28, 37, 43, 47, 69–70, 75, 81, 86, 88 riots, 2, 5, 10, 18, 24, 36–8, 51–5, 63, 74, 101–2, 164, 181, 183–4, 187, 213, 217 RSS, see ‘Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’ Said, Edward, 16, 29, 31 Sarsina Sharif, see ‘Pir Sahib’ SCSL, see ‘Special Court for Sierra Leone, the’ Sector Commanders Forum, the (SCF), 155, 157 security, 3, 7, 8, 11, 55, 78, 88, 101, 145, 172, 214 Security Council, the, 7, 146 sexual violence, 3, 5, 6, 8–9, 19, 56, 58, 62, 67, 69, 72, 78–9, 95, 104, 110–13, 120, 134, 145, 157, 175–6, 182–3 Shanti (Peace) Committee, the, 149 Shils, Edward, 31, 34 Sierra Leone, 5, 159, 173, 215 silence, see also under ‘subaltern’ and ‘narrative’, vii, 2–3, 16, 18–19, 34–5, 42, 46–8, 52, 62, 66, 69, 72–3, 75–110, 112–13, 115–16, 118, 121–2, 125, 127–8, 143, 161–2, 164, 175–7, 180, 183, 185, 214, 217 social marginality, 11, 212 soft power, see also under ‘power’, 11 soldier, see also under ‘army’, 122, 125 South Asia, i, ii, iii, v, 1–2, 8–13, 17, 22, 26, 31, 36–42, 44, 46, 65, 72–3, 81, 83, 98, 100, 140–1, 162, 165–7, 173, 185, 215 South Asian movement, the, see also under ‘movement’, 162 Southern, 9, 15, 16 sovereign, 11–12, 25–6, 30, 33, 35, 75, 81, 88, 97, 106, 110, 144, 147 sovereignty, 25–6, 29, 81, 101, 146, 147 Special Court for Sierra Leone, the (SCSL), 159 state, i, 1–9, 11–14, 16–27, 30–7, 40–1, 43–8, 52, 54–5, 62, 64–71, 73, 75–83, 85–6, 89, 91, 93, 97–8, 102, 105–6, 107–9, 110, 112, 115–17, 119–21, 126, 129, 132, 134–7, 139–41, 143, 148, 153–4, 156, 158, 164–5, 167–71, 173, 177–88, 191, 207, 211–13, 215 statebuilding, see also ‘nationbuilding’, i, 2–3, 8–9, 16, 211 subaltern, see also under ‘silence’, 3, 17–18, 21, 34, 39, 47, 97, 100, 115, 145, 147, 184, 212 subcontinent, i, viii, 2–3, 8, 11–13, 17–20, 29, 36–7, 41–3, 46, 48–9, 51, 53–4, 60, 63–4, 74–5, 80–2, 85, 106, 113, 145, 147, 149, 154, 162–3, 165, 180, 183, 186–7, 217 systematic, 4, 8, 12, 21, 34, 43, 80, 144, 168, 173, 180, 212

246

Index

Tagore, Rabindranath, 43, 87, 106, 119 Taliban, the, 211 territorial community, see also under ‘community’ and ‘territory’, 29 territory, 11, 25–6, 29, 31, 37, 46, 53, 56, 61, 77, 81, 83, 97, 140, 185, 201–3, 213 terrorism, 4 Tokyo Tribunal, the, 173, 175 transnational, vii, 2, 4, 9–10, 16, 20, 161–83, 190, 216 transnational movements, 173 transnational networks, vii, 161–83, 216 TRC, see ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ Treaty of Westphalia, the, 22 Tripartite Agreement, the, 154 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), 177, 179, 181–3

violence, 1–10, 12–13, 18–21, 24–5, 27, 31, 34, 36, 38, 41, 43, 47–8, 51–8, 62, 66, 68–70, 72–4, 77, 79–80, 101–2, 115, 120–1, 144, 148, 152–4, 156, 160, 163–4, 166–7, 168, 170, 172–4, 177, 179–80, 183–4, 186–7, 189–90, 211, 213–14, 217

UN Decade for Women, 105 United Nations, the, 7, 14, 77, 144, 170, 174, 208 United Nations Security Council, the (UNSC), 7 UNSC Resolution 1325, 7 UNSC Resolution 1820, 7 UN Transition Assistance Group, the (UNTAG), 7 Urdu, 75, 84–7, 103, 119, 124, 145, 212

WAD (Women and Development), see also under ‘development’, 15 war babies, viii, 19–20, 70, 79, 115, 117, 133, 135–7, 191, 194 war crime, see also under ‘rape’ and ‘violence’, i, 3–4, 6, 14, 19–20, 77, 79, 100, 103, 115–116, 122, 145–148, 151, 153–157, 160, 163, 174–175, 202, 217 War Crimes Fact Finding Committee, the (WCFFC), 76, 154 West Bengal, 53, 84, 88, 98, 101–102, 215 West Punjab, 52, 57–8, 62, 65 whiteness, 29 WID (Women in Development), see also under ‘development’, 15 WIDE (Women in Development Europe), see also under ‘development’, 173 Women Living Under Muslim Law (WLUML), 175 World Bank, the, 77, 96, 139 World War II, 5–6, 23, 27, 48, 174, 176

Vienna Tribunal, the, 174

zamindar, 84, 87, 211 (glossary)

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