Nationalist histories of liberation or independence are often accounts of heroic resistance and victory. But what is the relationship between nationalism and violence? Is it possible to move beyond demarcated histories of nations and states in South Asia and reconsider a peopleâ€™s narrative of 1971?
Based on several oral accounts, this book traces the multiple experiences of Bangladeshi women in the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh, where it is remembered as the War of Liberation. The voices in this book are new and original. Survivors tell their stories, revealing the power of speaking of what is deemed unspeakable.
Women talk of rape and torture on a mass scale, of the loss of status and citizenship, and of â€˜war babiesâ€™ born after 1971. They also speak of their role as agents of change, as social workers, care givers and wartime fighters. From them we learn first-hand of the horrors of violence, and of the unfinished business of the Partition of 1947 that surfaced, once again, in 1971.
In addition, a few men recollect their wartime brutality as well as their post-war efforts to regain a sense of humanity, to reconcile and heal unresolved traumas.
This book sheds new light on the relationship between nation, history and gender in postcolonial South Asia, by not only interrogating the making of a new nation, but simultaneously posing a challenge to post-1971 historiography in Bangladesh, highlighting the many â€˜absencesâ€™ in the official and unofficial histories offered so far.