The New "Citizens": Minorities in Post-partition Bengal, 1947–65

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 10:00 AM
Scottsdale Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Haimanti Roy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Although the Partition of 1947 created the new sovereignties of India and Pakistan, citizenship within these nations, especially for minority Hindus and Muslims was not immanent. This paper focuses on the Bengal region to examine the interstices between citizenship based on residence and notions of “national” belonging among Hindu minorities in East Pakistan and Muslim minorities in West Bengal. The debates within India and Pakistan, on what constituted nations and moral citizens, tended to produce a linear equation between “natural” citizenship and the majority demographic calculus. I argue that in such circumstances, those Hindus in East Pakistan and Muslims in West Bengal who continued to defy implicit expectations that they would migrate became, on the one hand, necessary political subjects whose continued residence in their natal countries provided their countries with authentication for their secular aspirations. On the other hand, these minorities had to re-negotiate their public and private interactions in their daily lives as their routine actions were now automatically put under the microscope of national allegiance.
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