On the 50th anniversary, the big question everyone is asking: Have we achieved our dreams? Have we got what we fought for? Is this what we wanted to see when we wanted an independent Bangladesh in 1971? And so on and so forth...
These are genuine questions which deserve attention and should be answered. However, it's not just the content of the question that matters but who is asking these questions also does. This applies not just to the present but also the past as well. What sort of questions does it presuppose? What were the expectations? Did anyone ask these questions in 1971 as well? What is or are the identities of the question? To whom are they being asked?
They remain as valid as they were in 1971
Nationalist vs Statist view of history
The statist view of history is different from the nationalist view of the same. Nationalism draws its identity marker from ethno-cultural roots which may also have additional inputs of territory which can lead to cohesive historical struggles. This is usually cited in the case of Bengal. The lamentations for the divided Bengal are common though the historical questions that led to it are often cast aside. However, it promotes the concept of Us and Them as well. Undivided Bengal has become in cultural linguistics, a source of the unreached dream. But it's located psychologically in many minds including in the significant portion of the nationalist imagination.
The Statist view of history is different because it looks upon states as the ultimate functional reality not the imagined nationhood that is realized through its formation. As the Statist imagination is culturally free because of its obvious functional reality, it's largely about performing socio-economic tasks more efficiently than the pre-state phase before. Thus its more free from cultural nuances because people come together to struggle for a state due to concrete reasons of socio-economics rather than fulfilling cultural realizations and common bonds of blood and belief.
Is it the counter equivalent of the Nation-State? If the nation part is the signifier/ identifier as in a common parlance, what would be the identifier of the nature of this state?. It's a question not asked enough. Perhaps it's here, in the less questioned answer lies what could be the answer to the puzzling questions of whom and why we fought in 1971.
The historical identity of Bangladesh
The majority population of Bangladeshi are Bengal-Muslim going by the two state identities they carry that presumably birthed states. Before 1947 they were dominantly tagged as followers of Muslim nationalism in India and after 1947 they reportedly began to warm to the idea of Bengali nationalism. It's this transition if one will, from one identity to another dominant that should raise questions about the absolute validity of the Nation-state. But why did the switch occur and if so are these "nation' identities transient? In that case the so-called non-refutable identity question itself may face interrogation.
If (East) Pakistanis were part of a single Muslim nation, why did they rebel at breakfast turning against the Pakistan state as soon as it came into being? Why did the very party which fought for Pakistan in less than 2 years become Awami Muslim League , the biggest counter of the Pakistan state stewarded by the same party. So where exactly then did this Nation lie? Who was part of it?
As history shows, Pakistan was a Nation-state perhaps but with the "Nation" missing. It was a very poor example of a state also as it lasted less than 25 years. If nation states are a realization of destiny, it was certainly a short term one.
If Bangladeshis have been produced by "Bengali Nationalism", some other questions come up. If Bengali ethno-centricity is an identity, why would Indian Bengalis corresponding to West Bengal refuse to form the only historical opportunity to form an independent state in 1947? There are many reasons cited for the failure of United Bengal and United Pakistan but the fact remains both failed.as an argument for a nation-state. Both appear quite inadequate having failed the test of coming together to form a state and then preserving it.
Yet in the end it's Bangladesh which still stands after 50 years and is still here. What then is it if it's a very questionable nation state? The answer may lie in the very questions we ask which are based on historical experiences and expectations.
People of Bangladesh -erstwhile East Pakistan and East Bengal- had a common history which made them seek a state where they would be free of socio-economic distress. What motivated them to see it was the same distress and it's not socio-cultural realization that worked to push them to state seeking. If that is so, given the past experience as a failed aspirant state seeker (United Bengal) member and a failed false state citizen(Pakistan) , few other options are left except to argue that a state are functional constructions that satisfy public demands.
That is why there are issues of considerable resentment as to the functioning of the state. It's about the experiences as a state that makes people angry, not as members of a nation, cultural or religious or language based community.
And that is built on the concrete realizations of history. It's a historical-state.
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