Slamming Pakistan and its army for the genocide in erstwhile East Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that he too had been imprisoned for participating in a ‘satyagraha’ in India for the liberation of Bangladesh.
He said that India and Bangladesh should jointly fight against the “common threat”.
The Prime Minister participated in the celebration of 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh and the birth centenary of the founder of the neighbouring nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Dhaka. His visit however triggered widespread protest in Bangladesh, not only by Islamists for alleged persecution of Muslims in India, but also by the leftist organisations. Four people were killed in Chittagong, when police cracked down on the protesting activists of the radical Hifazat-e-Islam Bangladesh.
Modi recalled the role of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the valour and sacrifices of the Indian Army soldiers in helping the ‘Muktijoddhas’ or the liberation warriors of Bangladesh to end the repressive rule of Pakistan in east Pakistan and give birth to the new nation in 1971. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, too expressed her gratitude to the Indian Army soldiers for training the Muktijoddhas and fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with them against the Pakistan Army.
“My brothers and sisters of Bangladesh, I want to say something to the youths of this country and remind them very proudly. My participation in the struggle for the liberation of Bangladesh was one of the first movements of my life,” Modi said, adding: “I was then 20 or 22-year-old and I, along with a few others, had participated in the satyagraha for Bangladesh. I had courted arrest and had the opportunity to go to jail.”<.p>
Modi’s two-day tour to Bangladesh was his first visit to a foreign nation after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 forced him to suspend all overseas tours for almost a year. He was welcomed by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, herself, after the new VVIP aircraft of the Air India landed at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka. He had separate meetings with the leaders of the ruling and opposition coalitions in Bangladesh, apart from paying homage to the fallen “Muktijoddhas” at the National Martyrs’ Memorial in Dhaka.
He said that people of India were as much eager for liberation of Bangladesh as were the people of erstwhile East Pakistan themselves.
“The pictures of horrible crimes and atrocities committed by Pakistan Army in Bangladesh was so disturbing that I could not sleep several nights.”
He slammed Pakistan Government for the massacre of the people of Bangladesh.
“We (India and Bangladesh) have shared vision and shared challenges. We must keep in mind that while we have similar opportunities to explore in the area of trade and development, we also face similar threats, such as terrorism,” he said. “The ideologies and forces responsible for inhuman acts (of 1971) are still active even today. We not only need to be alert, but also need to stay united to fight them.”
The Government of India recently decided to honour Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with the Gandhi Peace Prize 2020 posthumously. The Prime Minister on Friday formally handed over the award to Bangabandhu’s daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana in Dhaka. He also took with him 1.2 million doses of “Made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines for Bangladesh.