ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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End of the Postcolonial State

Much of the scholarship on Bangladesh’s founding places it within a narrative of repetition. It either repeats the partitions of 1905 or 1947 or the creation of India and Pakistan as postcolonial states. This paper argues instead for the novelty of Bangladesh’s creation against the postcolonial state, suggesting that it opened up a new history at the global level in which decolonisation was replaced by civil war as the founding narrative for new states.


One of the most significant global events in the second half of the 20th century, the violent founding of Bangladesh in 1971, has nevertheless received little scholarly attention. What exists of it has been dominated by the international community’s vocabulary of genocide and crimes against humanity that found one of its earliest causes in the 1971 war (Saikia 2011; Mookherjee 2015). Within its own neighbourhood, however, the creation of Bangladesh has been seen as a historical repetition. It is sometimes said to repeat the partition of India in 1947 by dividing Pakistan to belatedly confirm the victory of secular over religious nationalism. But the war can also be understood as repeating the first partition of Bengal in 1905, with the region’s eastern part finally achieving its independence in 1971.

The logic of repetition to which the erstwhile East Pakistan is subjected, occurs within the context of Pakistan’s own history as well. Having been founded to prevent India’s Muslims from being reduced to a national minority, Pakistan was faced, after independence, with the problem of ensuring that the Bengali majority of its eastern wing did not turn the west’s population into another minority. The ‘‘one-unit’’ policy adopted by the state, which amalgamated all of West Pakistan’s provinces into a single unit so as to balance East Pakistan’s numerical dominance also appeared to repeat the Muslim League’s colonial policy of claiming parity between Hindus and Muslims in ­India. The spectre of the minority that Pakistan was meant to exorcise, therefore, continued to haunt it after independence.

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Updated On : 30th Oct, 2021
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