Class, Clientelism and Communal Politics in Bangladesh

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Class, Clientelism and Communal Politics in Bangladesh

Tulika (Delhi)
  • Department Of Economics


Clientelism for Terry Byres 2.doc I would like to thank Terry Byres for his comments on an earlier draft. 1 CLASS, CLIENTELISM AND COMMUNAL POLITICS IN CONTEMPORARY BANGLADESH Mushtaq H. Khan1 Department of Economics, SOAS, University of London. (published in Panikkar, K.N., Byres, T.J. and Patnaik, U. eds. The Making of History: Essays Presented to Irfan Habib. New Delhi: Tulika 2000.) There have been dramatic swings in the fortunes of communal politics in Bangladesh. In the 1940s the swing of a large part of the Bengali Muslim middle classes and rich peasants to the Pakistan movement played a critical role in the creation of Pakistan. Shortly afterwards, the equally dramatic swing of a large part of these same classes away from their commitment to an Islamic identity led eventually to the breakup of Pakistan in 1971. Thus recent Bangladeshi history provides examples of the victory of both “communalism” and “secularism” in quick succession. Given this history, it is surprising that Bangladesh's attempts to define itself as a nation has not played a much greater role in the analysis of nationalism in the Indian subcontinent. At the very least the Bangladesh debacle should have led to fundamental questions being raised about the validity of the two-nation theory in what remained of Pakistan. But not only has the Pakistani version of the two-nation theory survived, new attempts have been made in India to define nationhood in religious terms. The re-writing of history that this has involved has been strongly contested by progressive Indian 2 historians, including amongst others, Irfan Habib (for instance see Habib 1999). Despite these challenges, one reason why many in India passively acquiesced with the Hindutva experiment may be that it was seen as a route through which national unity could be achieved in a country whose internal divisions seemed to

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