On Being Biranganas: Passivity, Agency, and Wartime Rapes in Shaukat Osman’s Nekre Aranya
The 1971 War of Bangladesh witnessed one of the worst incidents of gender-based violence in history in which women’s bodies became the site for asserting victory or dominance. The newly formed nation focused on the image of the violated women and was united in its thirst for revenge against Pakistani perpetrators. The nation bequeathed the apparently reverential title of birangana (brave women) to the rape survivors in recognition of their “sacrifice.” However, even though the image of the birangana circulated in the public sphere in various forms, the narrative of the women themselves got suppressed under national legend-building. This article studies Nekre Aranya, a novel written in Bengali by Shaukat Osman in 1972 in the immediate aftermath of the war. I argue that Nekre Aranya, although it depicts the horrors of wartime rape camps, does so from a distinctly male perspective on sexual violence, where nationalist emotions determine the trajectory of the narrative. This article examines the often simplistic binaries created by early war novels written by male writers such as Osman. It argues that since Nekre Aranya was written at a time when the nation was rebuilding itself after wartime devastation, the figure of the violated woman in this novel serves as an image that evokes deep nationalistic feelings. This article studies the intriguing conclusion of the novel, in which many women commit suicide within the rape camp and analyzes the reason behind the decision to eliminate violated women from the novel’s plot.
"On Being Biranganas: Passivity, Agency, and Wartime Rapes in Shaukat Osman’s Nekre Aranya,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 24:
6, Article 11.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol24/iss6/11