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Eyes of Women and Lens of Feminism


Anuradha Chenoy

THE PAKISTAN PROJECT: A FEMINIST PERSPECTIVE ON NATION AND IDENTITY
By Rubina Saigol
Women Unlimited, Delhi, 2013, pp. 357, Rs. 650.00

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 6 June 2013

The feminist perspective of Pakistan is one that recognizes and explains how a nation is created through the intersection of ideologies and structures of patriarchy and how these mould the identities as well as relations between genders, between people and communities. It also links the issues of relations with material structures and modes of development. It understands how the other is constructed and perceived. It rejects the understanding that the other should not be tolerated or that force should be used to control and subjugate the other— whether it is the other gender, the other religion, or other community. This book by Rubina Saigol is imbued with such an understanding and deals with such intersections.   Saigol’s feminist perspective of a nation—in this case Pakistan begins with knowing that the founders of the Pakistani nation like Jinnah were part of the Indian nationalist movement until the hegemonic impulse of the Congress Party politics at critical junctures excluded other political formations, representing smaller communities, in this case the Muslims. At the same time the feminist perspective recognizes and recounts as prescient, the analysis by nationalist leaders like Maulana Azad that warned of the evil consequences of Partition, which both India and Pakistan would be haunted by in a distant future. The Maulana made the argument that a nation based on the religion of the dominant population would not only be artificial but conceived and built on hatred for others. A feminist perspective also builds its narrative on secular politics, in opposition to fundamentalism, zenophobic nationalism, militarization and identity politics based on exclusions of women and minorities. It relates history through the eyes of women and analyses this from the lens of feminism. This is the essence of Rubina Saigol’s book. And every chapter unfolds this trope in detail. In a sense, Saigol uses Maulana Azad’s projection of the two nation theory as a frame, whereby in the 1940’s itself he says that militarization, impoverishment and class divide, internal unrest and regional conflicts would unfold in Pakistan’s future. This prediction was based on the choices that the ruling classes of that nation made in terms of debates on its national identity. The choice for the foundation and development of Pakistan lay between secular versus religious nationalism; dictatorship versus democracy; centralized versus decentralized federal state; securitized as opposed to developmental economy. Thus Saigol argues that Pakistan faltered into choices ...


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