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Naeem Mohaiemen

Things We Did While Waiting for the Fence

Boundaries Undermined: The Ruins of Progress on the India-Bangladesh Border by Delwar Hussain (London: Hurst), 2013; pp 187

Another Reckoning



Flying Blind: Waiting for a Real Reckoning on 1971

Forty years after 1971, the Bangladesh liberation war remains a frozen object, not yet fully open to heterodox narratives. Historians need to unpack the complex and contradictory matrix that gave rise to Bengali nationalism, and the mixture of racism and hysteria that spurred the Pakistan Army on to a path of atrocities. This is essential for Bangladesh to decipher its post-liberation trajectory, and for Pakistan to excavate the roots of its current crises. Among several new books on the war is Sarmila Bose's Dead Reckoning, carrying a bizarre and shrill agenda of absolving Pakistan of allegations of a genocide. What we are left waiting for is a deep investigation into 1971- about the nature of violence, crisis bargaining, unintended consequences, and history's orphans. People's actions during war are always a combination of contradiction, heroism and failure of nerve; they are a fundamental aspect of being human. Bangladesh is still waiting for that human history of 1971.

'Genocide', Not 'Civil War'

In the January 26 issue you published my essay on ‘Accelerated Media and 1971’. Unfortunately, at some point in your editing process, the title of my essay was changed to ‘Accelerated Media and the 1971 Civil War in Bangladesh’. This was done without my knowledge and unfortunately has resulted in controversy among Bengali blogger circles, especially among the secular left.

Accelerated Media and the 1971 Genocide in Bangladesh

It was at the time of the 1971 war in Bangladesh that television began to change the "rules" of conflict journalism - a complex situation, with multiple causes and linkages to colonial structures was flattened into a "good versus evil" narrative. The genocide was a marker of the trend in TV coverage of conflict zones, the first victim being the news cycle - the focus is always on the "hot news", which becomes "cold" very quickly, shifting the spotlight on to the next "hot spot".