ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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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.

Thanks to all those from whom I received comments on various research questions: Jyoti Rahman, Saadia Toor, Udayan Chattopadhyay, Nayanika Mookherjee, Shabnam Nadiya, Afsan Chowdhury, Rehman Sobhan, David Ludden, Hameeda Hossain, David Bergman, Annu Jalais, and Syed Yousuf.

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