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Unformatted text preview: HISTORY ON THE LINE Beyond the Archive of Silence: Narratives of Violence of the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh by Yasmin Saikia In 1971 two wars broke out in East Pakistan. One was a civil war fought between West and East Pakistan, and the other an international war fought between West Pakistan and India. In the wars ethnicity colluded with national interests and state politics, and the armies of West Pakistan and India became involved in violence, mainly targeted against the civilian population of East Pakistan, particularly women. Both the Pakistan and Indian armies were occupying forces and were assisted in their activities by local supporters. The Bihari community (Muslim Urdu speakers and recent migrants to East Pakistan from India after the partition in 1947) supported the West Pakistan army in the hope of saving a united Pakistan. A sizeable number of Bengalis, members of the Muslim League, the political organiz- ation that had conceived and created Pakistan, also supported the West Pakistan army. The Indian army, by and large, was supported by the nationalist Bengalis of East Pakistan, both Muslims and Hindus. With the help of the Indian government, the Bengalis created a local militia called the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army). The combined forces of the Indian army and Mukti Bahini defeated the West Pakistan army and forced them to surrender. At the end of the civil war the Pakistan government lost legit- imacy in its eastern province; the international war resulted in the parti- tioning of Pakistan and creation of an independent nation-state of Bangladesh. The two wars of 1971 are generally referred to by a single name: the Liberation War of Bangladesh. The current historiography on the Liberation War is focused solely on the investigation and discussion of conflicts between the armies and militias of West Pakistan, East Pakistan, and India, and the external contexts of battles between the different ethnic groups of Bengalis, Biharis, and Pakistanis. 1 The inner conflicts within the communities that led to rampant violence against women in the wars are overlooked and womens voices are actively silenced. As a result womens experiences and memories of the war are rendered invisible in the official history of 1971. To overcome the silences concerning gendered violence and to document a peoples history of 1971, I have undertaken to reconstruct through oral history, fieldwork, and archival research the experiences of survivors men and women in History Workshop Journal Issue 58 History Workshop Journal 2004 276 History Workshop Journal Fig. 1. Protest poster showing family brutalized and killed in 1971. Fig. 2. Salina Parveen, journalist, abducted and killed in 1971....
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This note was uploaded on 03/31/2008 for the course HIST 136 taught by Professor Saiki during the Spring '08 term at UNC.
- Spring '08
- Civil War