Language as a Discourse of Legitimate Power


Every state must legitimize itself with a discourse of legitimate power. The state of Pakistan was originally imagined as a homeland for the Muslims of India. Religion, thus, served as the discourse of legitimacy for this state. However, its Bengali speaking eastern wing East Pakistan soon grew restive as Urdu was declared the sole official language of the state. The discontented East Pakistanis were never completely reconciled to West Pakistan. They eventually seceded in 1971 and thus was born the sovereign state of Bangladesh. I seek to argue in my paper that the dissolution of bicephalous Pakistan was inevitable. This because, the Bengali-Muslim political elite had already crafted a discourse of legitimate power - one which combined religion and language in 1947. East Pakistan had been imagined as a sovereign entity where the Bengali language and the cultural complex surrounding it will be supreme, albeit in an Islamicate framework. It came to take shape as a hitherto dominant Persianised elite yielded ground to a new Bengali-Muslim politician. Fazlul Haq, a typical representative of this new political leadership, stood up against the Muslim League high command and, probably, sought to build a movement for a sovereign Bangistan as early as 1942. A definite trend among the Bengali-Muslim litterateurs and intelligentsia was also a reason why the Pakistan idea in Bengal had acquired a distinctiveness. For decades, they had been articulating and shaping a cultural discourse which reconciled the Bengali and Muslim halves of the Bengali-Muslim identity.

Author Information
Saumya Dey, O P Jindal Global University, India

Paper Information
Conference: ECSS2015
Stream: Social History

This paper is part of the ECSS2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon