Pakistan As A Peasant Utopia
The Communalization Of Class Politics In East Bengal, 1920-1947
"During a substantial stay in some East Bengal villages in the summer of 1971, when East Pakistan was in the traumatic process of being transformed into Bangladesh, it first dawned upon me that peasants were not stupid, devoid of political consciousness. Discussions with different types of peasants revealed that at least the upper echelons were aware of the implications of the liberation struggle for Bangladesh and the superpower involvement in it. Richard Nixon and Indira Gandhi were familiar names. Ordinary peasants often quoted the Bengali news readers and commentators of the BBC world service and the Voice of America. Well-to-do peasants who owned transistor radio sets regularly tuned into the British, American and Indian radio stations. Many inquisitive and worried peasants asked me (then a fresh graduate from Dhaka University) how their cherished Sonar Bangla (golden Bengal) would improve their socio-economic conditions. Many peasants also took part in the liberation struggle as members of the Mukti Bahini or freedom fighters. Almost everyone, with a few exceptions who collaborated with the Pakistan armed forces, was a keen supporter of Bangladesh. After the emergence of Bangladesh, things did not change to the expectations of the masses, but rather deteriorated so much that Henry Kissinger is said to have coined the phrase ''bottomless basket"" as a denotation for Bangladesh, because of the rampant corruption of a big section of the Bengali bourgeoisie at that time. I was provoked to write the history of the peasants' glorious role in the Liberation Struggle which was being overshadowed by claims and counter-claims of heroism and sacrifice by members of the privileged, parasitical urban elites. This work may be regarded as a prelude to the history of the freedom struggle that eventually led to the creation of Bangladesh. This is an attempt to shed light on the peasant politics, almost synonymous with Muslim politics in the region, during the significant period between 1920 and 194 7 when East Bengal was going through the political process that culminated in the creation of East Pakistan in 194 7."