In The Land of Eternal Eid: Maulana Bhashani and the Political Mobilisation of Peasants and Lower-Class Urban Workers in East Pakistan, c. 1930s-1971.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis is a study of political mobilisation amongst peasantry and lower-class urban workers in the making and unmaking of East Pakistan, spanning from 1930s until 1971. It examines a) particular instances of struggles and resistance by these groups and b) their relationship with Maulana Bhashani, an unusually powerful pir (spiritual guide) and political leader throughout this period of transition from colonial to postcolonial rule. This thesis counters the existing historiography, which has, thus far, treated the break-up of Pakistan in 1971 in broad strokes, either on grounds of inevitability or as the outcome of mass-produced Bengali nationalism, orchestrated by elite actors, ideas and institutions. Using multiple archives and rare and unseen sources, the thesis details the nuanced, rich and critical role that peasants and workers, and their leader, Maulana Bhashani played in some of the seminal events that transpired over this period.
Over five chapters, I discuss and underline how subaltern groups imagined and experienced Pakistan, and their newfound freedom in considerably different and unequal ways. Their struggles, though, converged most times with broader political opposition and movements, departed from them also rather significantly, and gestured to other stories and possibilities. The thesis argues that it is in deconstructing and analysing the charismatic authority of Maulana Bhashani that it becomes possible, even with limitations, to access subaltern lifeworlds and politics over this period. His long-standing relationship to peasants and workers as their pir and political representative enabled him to emerge as the nexus between them and the state and other political forces. Using Bhashani as a mediating figure, the thesis engages with the richness and complexity of subaltern politics in terms of ideas and practices, and the alliances and solidarities that were forged, which went beyond traditional issues of subsistence, and also dealt with issues such as modernisation, industrialisation, internationalism, anti-imperialism, democracy and nationalism often in more radical and progressive terms than students, urban and middle-class intelligentsia. Overall, the thesis complicates our understanding about the failure of Pakistan as a project of the future for Muslims of the subcontinent and the making of Bangladesh.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Robinson, Francis, Supervisor
  • Ansari, Sarah, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date13 Jul 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016


  • Bangladesh
  • Islam, South Asia
  • History
  • Postcolonialism
  • War
  • Maulana Bhashani
  • Social Movements
  • Protests
  • Nationalism
  • Sufism
  • Socialism
  • Assam

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