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Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War Asia Bangladesh Sarmila Bose Columbia University Press


10th January 2013 History Books 0 Comments

History emerges only slowly from the passion-filled context of contemporary events. Sarmila Bose’s book sets Bangladesh’s struggle for liberation at the start of this long passage.

(David Washbrook, Trinity College, Cambridge )

The ‘Events in Pakistan, 1971,’ as the International Commission of Jurists called its report on the subject, have been an enduring source of agonized contestation in South Asia for forty years. Subject to endless mythmaking and exaggerations in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and their diasporas, all too rarely have these events been considered with the nonpartisan care they deserve. Sarmila Bose’s stunning Dead Reckoning is the first book-length study to meticulously reconstruct the violence based on actual evidence. By showing how the terror of rape and massacre cut across many more cleavages of East Pakistani society than Pakistani and Bengali nationalists like to admit, her book is at once a correction of the record and a tribute to the virtues of humanistic scholarship. Written with courage and searing honesty, it will reset the terms of debate regarding this dark chapter in the region’s history.

(A. Dirk Moses, European University Institute, Florence, and the University of Sydney )

Combining rigorous scholarship and a passionate interest in setting the record straight, Dead Reckoning is the finest study yet of the social, cultural, and political meaning of the 1971 East Pakistan/Bangladesh war. Sarmila Bose writes in the service of the truth. We are in her debt.

(Stephen Cohen, author of The Idea of Pakistan )

I have felt the need for a dispassionate account of the Bangladesh war ever since witnessing that triumph of faith over fact, the Mujibnagar independence ceremony. No one can take on that challenge better than Sarmila Bose, whose courage, disregard for orthodoxy, and meticulous research makes her the enfant terrible of Indian historians.

(Sunanda K. Datta-Ray, columnist and author of Waiting for America: India and the United States in the New Millennium )

Sarmila Bose’s powerful and poignant retelling of the birth of Bangladesh exposes the wounds of civil war and international conflict in a way that has not been done before. This is history as told by participants at the grass roots and it dispels many myths that have been fed by faulty memories of the so-called elites in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Her book should help the people of both countries accept the facts of that tragic and bloody separation of 1971 and to take responsibility for the war that stained the verdant Bengali countryside red.

(Shuja Nawaz, Director, South Asia Center, The Atlantic Council in Washington DC and author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within )

Bose has written a book that should provoke both fresh research and fresh thinking about a fateful turning point in the history of the subcontinent.

(Martin Woollacott Guardian )

Sarmila Bose is senior research fellow in the politics of South Asia at the University of Oxford. She earned her degrees at Bryn Mawr College and at Harvard University and combined her academic and media work while serving as a political journalist in India.

The 1971 Bangladesh war mired Pakistan in a brutal struggle within its own borders and against neighboring India. Backed by the Soviet Union and the United States, the players in the conflict fought over the territories of East Pakistan, which then seceded to become Bangladesh.

Through a detailed investigation of representative events on the ground, this remarkable history contextualizes the war while vividly theorizing on the nature of the conflict. As with most wars, the narrative of 1971 has largely been written by the victors. Partisan mythologies imprison the remaining actors. This book sets out to rectify this bias, reconstructing events through extensive interviews conducted over a period of four years in Bangladesh and Pakistan. It features published and unpublished recollections, sampling from official documents, tapes, photographs, video documentaries, and reports issued by the foreign media. Many interviewees speak about their experiences for the first time, introducing new, critical perspective strands into an otherwise poorly represented history. Their “contesting” memories diverge from dominant narratives in crucial ways, showing how the war’s reverberations continue to play out within the region.

(7/1/2011)

History emerges only slowly from the passion-filled context of contemporary events. Sarmila Bose’s book sets Bangladesh’s struggle for liberation at the start of this long passage.

The ‘Events in Pakistan, 1971,’ as the International Commission of Jurists called its report on the subject, have been an enduring source of agonized contestation in South Asia for forty years. Subject to endless mythmaking and exaggerations in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and their diasporas, all too rarely have these events been considered with the nonpartisan care they deserve. Sarmila Bose’s stunning Dead Reckoning is the first book-length study to meticulously reconstruct the violence based on actual evidence. By showing how the terror of rape and massacre cut across many more cleavages of East Pakistani society than Pakistani and Bengali nationalists like to admit, her book is at once a correction of the record and a tribute to the virtues of humanistic scholarship. Written with courage and searing honesty, it will reset the terms of debate regarding this dark chapter in the region’s history.

Combining rigorous scholarship and a passionate interest in setting the record straight, Dead Reckoning is the finest study yet of the social, cultural, and political meaning of the 1971 East Pakistan/Bangladesh war. Sarmila Bose writes in the service of the truth. We are in her debt.

I have felt the need for a dispassionate account of the Bangladesh war ever since witnessing that triumph of faith over fact, the Mujibnagar independence ceremony. No one can take on that challenge better than Sarmila Bose, whose courage, disregard for orthodoxy, and meticulous research makes her the enfant terrible of Indian historians.

Sarmila Bose’s powerful and poignant retelling of the birth of Bangladesh exposes the wounds of civil war and international conflict in a way that has not been done before. This is history as told by participants at the grass roots and it dispels many myths that have been fed by faulty memories of the so-called elites in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Her book should help the people of both countries accept the facts of that tragic and bloody separation of 1971 and to take responsibility for the war that stained the verdant Bengali countryside red.

Bose has written a book that should provoke both fresh research and fresh thinking about a fateful turning point in the history of the subcontinent.

Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War (Columbia/Hurst)

Pakistan: Beyond the “Crisis State”

Pakistan is an excellent book, one that brings out some very important points about the surprising stability of the country beneath the alarmism of the daily headlines, forming a useful antidote to the general perception about Pakistan in the West.

(Anatol Lieven, King’s College, London )

Written by the country’s top intellectuals, this book provides extraordinary insight into today’s Pakistan.

(Mohammed Yaqub, former governor, State Bank of Pakistan )

This timely study looks beyond the headlines of terrorism and natural disaster that dominate western perceptions of Pakistan. The contributors argue that contemporary security challenges and longer term demographic pressures and energy shortages can be overcome if Pakistan possesses the political will to undergo wide-ranging institutional, educational, and structural economic reform. The themes of governance and the interconnectedness of domestic politics and international relations run throughout the volume. Historical analysis and policy prescriptions of a high order are combined in a text that should be required reading for those not only concerned with contemporary South Asia but also global security concerns.

(Ian Talbot, author, Pakistan: A Modern History )

Far removed from the reductive and excessively alarmist rhetoric pervading foreign policy discourse, Pakistan: Beyond the “Crisis State” offers a sober and comprehensive appraisal of the problems plaguing the Islamic republic. What sets this book apart from others on Pakistan is its detailed account of the country’s intractable crises, accompanied by lucid, compelling, and empirically supported policy recommendations that, in a time of tremendous uncertainty, may illuminate a pathway to hope.

(Malou Innocent, Cato Institute )

A compelling book that examines Pakistan’s challenges and offers a way out.

(Najam Sethi, editor in chief, Pakistan’s Friday Times )

This collection of essays edited by Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to Britain and America, is timely and different: a look at Pakistan by seasoned, hard-nosed Pakistanis who know the troubled nation from the inside, toil to set it right

(The Economist )

Bringing together an extraordinary array of experts, including renowned Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani American sociologist and historian Ayesha Jalal, and Zahid Hussain, author of several books on Islamic militancy in Pakistan, Pakistan: Beyond the “Crisis State” takes unique stock of the Islamic republic’s fundamental strengths and weaknesses.

Presenting a picture of the nation as understood by its people, this anthology assesses the political, economic, social, and foreign policies of an embattled government and its institutional challenges. Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic studies at American University, and Munir Akram, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United Nations, provide critical perspectives on Pakistan’s future. Additional essays capture the complex interplay between domestic and external pressures, such as the variety of powers that continue to manipulate the country’s behavior and outcomes. The contributors gathered here ultimately conclude that Pakistan is capable of transitioning into a stable modern Muslim state, though bold reforms are necessary. Offering a detailed and balanced agenda for such reform, Pakistan takes a bold step in reeling the country back from the brink of crisis.

Pakistan: Beyond the “Crisis State” (Columbia/Hurst)










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