|State Against the Nation
The Decline of the Muslim League in Pre-independence Bangladesh, 1947-54
ISBN 984 70220 0039 4 2009 276p 215x136mm HB Tk.560.00 US$30.00
This book looks at the career of the Muslim League in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) from 15 August 1947, the day it assumed political power from the Raj, to the election of 8 March 1954, when it was massively defeated by a newly-formed United Front.
Exploring the decline of the popularity of the League is one Objective of the book. In the process, it also seeks to explain the nature of ‘politics’ in East Pakistan. In particular, the emergence of a state bureaucracy with paternalistic and undemocratic tendencies is documented and analysed. This is shown to be a lasting legacy of the British Raj and of the Muslim League politics in East Pakistan. The process through which the bureaucracy grew stronger by the day also entitled the growing alienation from the people of both the government and the League. Explaining this alienation is another concern of the book.
The themes are highlighted in a series of chapters devoted to specific and important issues that the League government had to deal with during its stay in power: politics of food procurement and distribution, abolition of zamindari and other exploitative feudal relationships, the problem of managing water resources in a flood-prone country, and finally, the relationship between the people and the regulative institutes of the state such as the police and its auxiliaries. An examination of these issues usefully complements what students of East Pakistan have (rather selectively) emphasised so far: the Language movement of the 1950s, the crisis of federalism and problems of two economy. An argument is eventually built up on the nature of the state and ‘nationhood’ in East Pakistan. The preponderance of the bureaucracy in the colonial style of governance, the peculiar history of Muslim nationalism in East Pakistan, the lack, in the League’s history of a tradition of anti-imperialist struggle and ideology, and finally, the weak nature of the ML’s organization and mass bone, are all seen as factors that contributed significantly to disrupt the process of nation-building and to the growing ‘undemocracy’ in East Pakistan.
Ahmed Kamal has been teaching History at the University of Dhaka since 1972. He obtained his Ph D from the Australian National University, Canberra. He was a visiting scholar at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies from 1977-1979. He spent a year in the Yale University, USA, as Post-doctoral Fellow in the Agrarian Studies Program. He was also a Visiting Fellow in the University of Michigan, and Arbor, USA and York University, Toronto, Canada. He has publishes articles in academic journals an edited volumes and contributed research papers in many international seminars. He has also published Kaler Kallol, Itihash, Unnayon o Rajniti a collection of Bengali essays. Currently Professor Kamal is Chairman of the Department of History and also Director of the Centre for Advanced Research in Arts and Social Sciences, University of Dhaka.