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“Legal” Land Appropriation as Sanctioned by the Vested Property Act(s)

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Democracy in Practice

image of Asian Journal of Social Science

In this chapter, I interrogate the Vested Property Act (VPA) to explore one aspect of the uneven and contradictory project of democratic state formation in Bangladesh. The Act, initially sanctioned by the state of the then-East Pakistan, and continued in independent Bangladesh through various military regimes and democratically-elected governments, paved the way for the displacement of millions of Hindus from both ownership rights and their security as citizens. By drawing attention to the Act’s institutionalisation and struggles over its legitimacy, I show how the promise of democracy, as well as of secularism, reveals the violences that are entailed in actually existing democratic practice, including in the construction of the Hindu citizen as unworthy and a threat to national security. This construction of the minority as “other” and the making of majoritarian rule reveal the violence that attends to a democratic politics that includes everyday inaction and omission, rather than one which focuses solely on acts of force that usually involve physical harm or injury.

Affiliations: 1: Cornell University


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