The Newsletter 55 Winter 2010

Maulana Bhashani and the transition to secular politics in East Bengal

Peter Custers

In the 1950s, a mass movement demanding national self-determination for the Bengali people emerged in East Bengal, then part of Pakistan. This movement was led by the politician-preacher Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, who, prior to Partition, emerged as a leader of marginalised peasants in Assam. Bhashani championed the twin demands that shaped the politics of East Bengal – the demand for national self-determination and the demand that the state distance itself from Islam. Peter Custers argues that, in fact, Bhashani led the transition to secular politics in the decades that preceded the emergence of Bangladesh.

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