1971: A People’s History from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India

Hardcover (Penguin Random House 2019)

About the book

The year 1971 exists everywhere in Bangladesh-on its roads, in sculptures, in its museums and oral history projects, in its curriculum, in people’s homes and their stories, and in political discourse. It marks the birth of the nation, its liberation. More than 1000 miles away, in Pakistan too, 1971 marks a watershed moment, its memories sitting uncomfortably in public imagination. It is remembered as the ‘Fall of Dacca’, the dismemberment of Pakistan or the third Indo-Pak war. In India, 1971 represents something else-the story of humanitarian intervention, of triumph and valour that paved the way for India’s rise as a military power, the beginning of its journey to becoming a regional superpower.

Navigating the widely varied terrain that is 1971 across Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, Anam Zakaria sifts through three distinct state narratives, and studies the institutionalization of the memory of the year and its events. Through a personal journey, she juxtaposes state narratives with people’s history on the ground, bringing forth the nuanced experiences of those who lived through the war. Using intergenerational interviews, textbook analyses, visits to schools and travels to museums and sites commemorating 1971, Zakaria explores the ways in which the year is remembered and forgotten across countries, generations and communities.

Paperback edition (Penguin Random House 2021)

Praise for the book

“…poignantly brings out how 1971 is one of the originary wounds not only for
Bangladesh but also for Pakistan and India” —Nayanika Mookherjee, professor at Durham University, UK, author of The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971

“…a moving, accessible and at times jolting account of the traumatic-triumphant
memory of 1971” —Raza Rumi, author, director of Park Center for Independent Media, Ithaca
College, USA

“…enlightening, deeply felt, harrowing and urgently needed work” —Nadeem Zaman, author of In the Time of the Others

“Zakaria’s book is an important act of solidarity on the part of a Pakistani” —Urvashi Butalia, author of The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India

“Her book is essential reading for those who want to understand the politics of history and remembering in South Asia. Among the growing body of work on Bangladesh’s independence, what makes it particularly stand out is its effective focus on keeping Bangladesh the central character in its own story” — The Caravan

“Zakaria goes beyond the politics over the 1971 war in all three countries, whether it is silence (Pakistan), a sense of triumph (India) or a yardstick for nationalism (Bangladesh)” —Dawn

“The book argues, persuasively and convincingly, that memory and amnesia have been more of a ‘project’ rather than natural and organic processes” —The Telegraph

“Her book cuts through the cloud of residual emotions and state propaganda to present a fresh historical perspective.” —Business Standard

“At a time when the generation that witnessed the events of 1971 is gradually fading away, it is essential to understand the conflict without the blinkers of state-sanctioned hostility. Zakaria’s 1971 allows us to do just that” —The News on Sunday

“The book deals with forgotten memories and locates them in the mills of state narratives, providing a rare insight into the way the history of the subcontinent unfolded” —The Daily Star

“…a milestone in the oral history of South Asia which will remain a landmark study for future generations” — Professor Tariq Rahman, Bloomsbury Pakistan

“A positive aspect in Zakaria’s telling of the tale is her conscious effort to avoid taking sides. She begins as a listener and ends her account of the war as an observer” — Dhaka Tribune