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Hasina pays tributes on Bangabandhu’s Homecoming Day

Prime Minister Hasina paid homage by placing wreaths at the portrait of her father at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in Dhaka, after which she stood in silence for a while, reports Sumi Khan

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday paid tributes on the 50th anniversary of Homecoming Day, which marks Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s return to the country in 1972 after spending months in a Pakistan jail.

She paid homage by placing wreaths at the portrait of her father at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in Dhaka, after which she stood in silence for a while.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by her younger sister Sheikh Rehana.

Following his return to Bangladesh, Rahman’s first statement to the media was: “Gentlemen, as you can see, I am alive and well.”

He was abducted by the Pakistan Army in the early hours of March 26, 1971 at the onset of Operation Searchlight, in an attempt to defeat Bangladesh’s struggle for independence.

But Rahman’s foresight in delegating responsibilities to his trusted deputies and faith in the people ensured they would not only wage one of the fiercest wars for independence, but also ensure victory.

After Bangabandhu was released on January 8, 1972, he wished to return to Dhaka immediately. But as Pakistani aircraft were banned in Indian airspace, Pakistan’s new President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had taken over from a disgraced General Yahya Khan, ordered that Rahman fly to Tehran or another ‘neutral’ location, not India.

50 years of Bangabondhu’s homecoming day-Hasina paid homage.

He then decided to fly to London, where he addressed the world media in a sensational meet-and-greet at the Claridge’s Hotel.

After a brief stopover in Delhi to thank then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for her assistance to the Bangladesh cause throughout the Liberation War, he finally returned home, where millions of people lined up the streets of Dhaka to welcome him.

Upon his return, Bangabandhu delivered a speech on January 10 at the Race Course (now Suhrawardy Udyan) outlining the principles upon which Bangladesh would function as a sovereign state.

“My Bangladesh is independent today, my life’s desire has been fulfilled today, people of my Bengal have been liberated today. My Bengal will remain free.

“In my state, in this Bangladesh, there will be a socialist system. There will be democracy in this Bangladesh. Bangladesh will be a secular state.

“Together we will build a new and prosperous Bengal. The people of Bengal will be happy again, live life merrily and breathe freely in an open atmosphere,” he had said.

The historic day will be observed across the country, but with Covid-19 protocols.

The ruling Awami League has arranged various programs.

ALSO READ: Hasina vows to create secular Bangladesh

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8 JANUARY 1972: Bangabandhu’s Release From Pakistani Prison

On 8 January 1972, under irresistible international pressure, Pakistan was compelled to release Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Rahman. Sheikh Mujib, who had been incarcerated in West Pakistan for nine months and had been sentenced to death for allegedly waging war against Pakistan. London-based veteran journalist Ashis Ray writes about Sheikh Mujib’s release from a Pakistani prison 50 years ago today

In March 1971 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of Bangladesh’s freedom struggle, warned Pakistan’s military government: “You cannot suppress us.”

On the 25th of that month the administration retaliated by imposing martial law and embarking on “Operation Searchlight” – a murderous crackdown on Bengalis in East Pakistan, systematically annihilating the intelligentsia and sexually assaulting women. International estimates reckon up to half a million people were killed and more than 300,000 women were raped, leaving many of them pregnant.

Nevertheless, the following day – 26 March – Mujib defiantly declared East Pakistan as free Bangladesh. He was predictably forthwith detained and flown to an undisclosed jail in West Pakistan. During his incarceration some 10-12 million Bengali refugees from East Pakistan descended on India fleeing from the rampage by Pakistani armed forces.  

Sheikh Mujib with British prime minister Sir Edward Heath @C bangladesh High Commission, London

On 3 December 1971, amid rising tension between India and Pakistan, the latter’s air force pre-emptively bombed 11 Indian airbases.

“War has been forced on us,” Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stated in a radio broadcast to the nation. Three days later, India officially recognised East Pakistan as an independent state of Bangladesh. In the interim, India had hit back.

In a manoeuvre lasting a mere 12 days Indian troops with Bangladesh’s Mukti Bahini (Freedom Force) liberated Pakistan’s eastern wing. On 16 December 93,000 Pakistani servicemen – from generals to foot soldiers – surrendered to the Indian army.

SASHANKA BANERJEE: “After about an hour of small talk, ‘Bongo Bondhu’ stood up and started singing ‘Aamar Shonaar Bangla, Aami Tomaye Bhalobashi’ (Oh my golden Bengal, I love you dearly)

On 8 January 1972 or three weeks later, under irresistible international pressure, Pakistan was compelled to release Mujib, who had been incarcerated in West Pakistan for nine months and had been sentenced to death for allegedly waging war against Pakistan.

Declassified records indicate Mujib preferred to be flown directly to Dhaka. But Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who had succeeded the dictator General Yahya Khan as Pakistan’s head of government, maintained this was not possible as India had banned flights over its territory by Pakistani aircraft.

Commonwealth Oral Histories has archived Bhutto replying: “We want to take you on one of our planes.”

The Sheikh suggested he be handed over to the Red Cross or the United Nations and transported on one of their planes. This was refused by Bhutto, who offered Tehran as a neutral alternative. This did not meet with Mujib’s approval. When London was finally presented as a possibility, he agreed.

ALSO READ: Growing calls to create separate ministry for minorities in Bangladesh

In the darkness of night, Bhutto secretly saw off the man who had dismembered Pakistan at Rawalpindi airport not far from the General Headquarters of the Pakistani army. “The bird has flown,” he later told newsmen.         

In the early hours of 8 January 1972, a Pakistan International Airlines plane landed at Heathrow. In a classified message later sent to the United States President Richard Nixon, the British Prime Minister Edward Heath disclosed: “We first heard of his release in a message from Islamabad which was received when the aircraft carrying him was only an hour away.”

A diplomat at the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office was rushed to receive him and escort him to Claridge’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair, where de facto representatives of Bangladesh in the British capital had hurriedly booked a suite.

Heath was holidaying in the country. He now quickly returned to his official residence-cum-office at 10 Downing Street to meet Sheikh Mujib. The talks lasted about an hour.

The Sheikh asked Britain to recognise Bangladesh. Following this, Heath told the House of Commons: “We would do our utmost to help Bangladesh in the present situation.” Less than a month later, the United Kingdom announced establishment of full diplomatic relations with Dhaka.

Mujib also requested Heath to persuade the US – which had nakedly supported Khan’s junta in their brutal repression of in East Pakistan – to acknowledge Bangladesh as a sovereign nation.

Heath argued before Nixon: “If we delay too long, the Communist countries will get a start on us.” America duly fell in line in the spring of 1972.

At a packed press conference at Claridge’s, the Sheikh memorably declared a free Bengali country was “an unchallengeable reality”. 

The New York Times reported he said at this interaction he had been held in a condemned cell. It quoted him as opening his remarks by saying: “Gentlemen of the press, today I am free to share the unbounded joy of freedom with my fellow countrymen. We have earned our freedom in an epic liberation struggle.” The paper further described: “He spoke bitterly of what the Yahya Khan regime had done in East Bengal”, quoting him as saying, ‘they tortured boys and girls’, ‘mercilessly’ killed people, and burned ‘hundreds of thousands of buildings’. Reproducing his remarks verbatim, it added that he further stated: “I think if Hitler had been alive today, even he would have been ashamed.”

Heath shared with Nixon: “He (Mujib) was anxious to reach Dacca as soon as possible and we gave him an RAF aircraft for the onward journey.” Mrs Gandhi had arranged an Air India plane for the purpose, but now agreed with Heath that the British jet would stop in Delhi en route to Dhaka. The Sheikh heartily endorsed this.  

London-based Indian diplomat Sashanka Banerjee, who was deputed to accompany Mujib as an Indian officer on special duty, depicted: “After about an hour of small talk, ‘Bongo Bondhu’ stood up and started singing ‘Aamar Shonaar Bangla, Aami Tomaye Bhalobashi’ (Oh my golden Bengal, I love you dearly). I was seated next to him, and as he started singing, I too stood up as he did. Mujibur Rahman asked me to join him in singing the song with him, which I did.”

ALSO READ: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman@100

He went on: “At the end, he turned towards me and asked what I thought of the song. I had understood that Mujib wanted the song to be the national anthem or ‘jaatiyo shongeet’ of Bangladesh. Who could deny that it was a beautiful song fit to be the Jaatiyo Songeet of Bangladesh. ‘You are right,’ he said, ‘that was what I was thinking too. Good then, that will be the song that will be the national anthem of Bangladesh’.”

The Royal Air Force Comet refuelled at its bases in Cyprus and Oman before landing in Delhi on the morning of 10 January to a rapturous reception by the Indian cabinet. As Mujib rested before formal discussion with Mrs Gandhi, Banerjee informed her the Sheikh desired, withdrawal of Indian forces from Bangladesh be advanced to 31 March from 30 June. She, according to Banerjee, asked him to communicate back to him that this be formally mentioned at the ensuing meeting. This Mujib did; Indira immediately accepted the request.

A few hours later, Sheikh Mujib arrived in Dhaka to a tumultuous welcome. Banerjee’s eye-witness account portrayed: “Over a million people had gathered to receive the Bangladesh leader at the Romna Maidan, echoing slogans of ‘Joy Bongo Bondhu, Joy Bangla’. Raising his very masculine voice, Bongo Bandhu (friend of Bengal) declared standing on the podium: ‘My countrymen, rejoice. Bangladesh is now a sovereign, independent nation.”

It was a heady moment for he world at large, unforgettable even after half a century. 

ALSO READ: The many plots to assassinate Bangabandhu

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Modi made us glorified with his presence: Hasina

Sheikh Hasina hailed Narendra Modi’s neighbourhood policy, saying that Bangladesh receiving 2 million Covid vaccine doses from India establishes this principle, reports Sumi Khan

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday expressed her gratitude to her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, saying the government of India always stands by Bangladesh through thick and thin.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Dhaka on Friday on a two-day visit to Bangladesh to attend the celebrations of the country’s 50th year of liberation from Pakistan and the 100th birth anniversary of its founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of Sheikh Hasina.

“I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Modi Ji and the people of India,” Hasina said.

Also Read – Modi begins Bangladesh tour with goodwill message

On the last day of the 10-day celebrations to mark the country’s 50th year of liberation from Pakistan, Modi and Hasina enjoyed the music of legendary classical vocalist Pandit Ajoy Chakravarty at the National Parade Square in Dhaka, along with the President of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid, and others.

The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi being received by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Sheikh Hasina, on his arrival at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, in Dhaka, Bangladesh on March 26, 2021. (PIB)

Hasina said, “The Prime Minister of India made us glorified with his priceless presence in this pandemic period. The people of Bangladesh are grateful to Modi Ji and the people of India, who served the most for the people of Bangladesh in 1971.”

Hasina added that India must play a leading role in building a politically and economically prosperous South Asia. “We can make this region a hunger-free, poverty-free zone. We will achieve the goal set by the UN by 2031,” she said.

Also Read – B’desh sees violent anti-Modi protests

“I am grateful to India for nominating Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize in 2019. India is our friendly neighbour, and the two countries share a long standing relationship. The government of India had provided all kinds of assistance to the people of Bangladesh who took refuge there to save their lives from the atrocity, rape and arson of the Pakistani army in 1971. The Indian government and its people gave shelter, served food and assured medical help to around 1 million helpless people from Bangladesh,” she said.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi paying homage at the National Martyr’s Memorial, Savar, in Dhaka, Bangladesh on March 26, 2021.

“In 1971, many army officers from India shed their blood for the independence of Bangladesh. I respectfully remember their contributions. India’s cooperation will never be forgotten. I’m personally grateful to the people and government of India. After all my family members were killed during the war, I was at my husband’s workplace in Germany with my sister and children. I had lost everyone. There was no arrangement to stay in that country. At that time, then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi and Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito gave us shelter,” Hasina said.

Read More – Bangladesh thanks India for providing vaccines

The Bangladesh premier also appreciated the policies of Modi, and his slogan “Neighbours first and foremost”, saying that Bangladesh receiving 2 million Covid vaccine doses from India establishes this principle.

With the inauguration of the Maitri Bridge, India will now be able to use the Chittagong Port and Mongla Port, Hasina assured to Modi.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi signing the visitor’s book at the National Martyr’s Memorial, Savar, in Dhaka, Bangladesh on March 26, 2021.

“May Bangladesh-India friendship be long-lasting for all kinds of cooperation,” she said.

Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid said, “During my stay in India for nine months during the liberation war in 1971, I myself witnessed how the government of India and its people gave shelter to 10 million people and refugees from Bangladesh. I hope all the unresolved issues will be settled soon. Bangladesh is always grateful to India.”

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Nepal President embarks on visit to B’desh

Bangladesh is hosting the 10-day special programme to celebrate the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and also 50 years of the country’s independence…reports Asian Lite News

Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Monday left for Bangladesh on a two-day state visit, during which she will attend a special programme in Dhaka and meet others senior leaders from the region.

Bangladesh is hosting the 10-day special programme to celebrate the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and also 50 years of the country’s independence. The celebrations began on March 17.

According to Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bhandari will attend the celebrations in Dhaka and on the occasion she deliver a statement on the theme, “Nepal-Bangladesh Relations and Bangabandhu’s Birth Centenary”.

Bidhya Devi Bhandari(Wikipedia)

She will also hold talks her Bangladeshi counterpart Abdul Hamid at Bangabhaban, the Presidential Palace in the capital city.

Nepal’s Minister for Communications and Information Technology Parbat Gurung, also the government spokesperson, said the countries will sign three Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs).

An array of subjects like cultural relations, tourism sector, and pesticides on agriculture and livestock between Nepal and Bangladesh would be discussed, he added.

Also read:Bangladesh thanks India for providing vaccines

Likewise, linking Nepal with ports in Bangladesh through railway and transportation would also be on Bhandari’s agency.

“There is the hope that the subject of initiatives taken by Bangladesh on purchasing power from Nepal will be discussed,” Gurung said.

The government of Bangladesh has provided Nepal transit facility through the Kakadbhitta-Phulbari-Banglabandh via India roadway as well as at the Chittagong and Mongla seaports.

It has also made available an additional �rail corridor’ for the operation of a freight train from Rohanpur-Singhabad to Nepal via India, and it has opened the way for the Himalayan nation to use the Mongla harbour as an option to the Kolkata port.

Since Mongla port is nearer to Kolkata, it will help expand bilateral trade at a comparatively lesser cost for Nepal.

Also read:Nepal gives emergency nod to India’s Covaxin