For close to forty years, tens of thousands of Urdu speakers in Bangladesh did not exercise their rights as citizens, which they held in law but which were not recognized in practice. The roots of their marginalization were deep, stretching back to Indian independence and the creation of East and West Pakistan in 1947 and specifically to the divisions within Pakistan that existed at that time and were hardened during the Bangladesh struggle for independence in subsequent years. From the creation of the state of Bangladesh in 1971, this community lived in camps and settlements, without a legal identity and the associated rights to be educated, to work, and to participate in public life. The recognition by the government of Bangladesh in 2008 of their right to be registered as citizens was a significant human rights achievement. This essay tells the story behind this remarkable development and, using the framework for analysing the determinants of public choices advanced by Michael Trebilcock, examines the role that ideas, interests, and institutions played in this dramatic reversal of a long-standing public policy.


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pp. 349-371
Launched on MUSE
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