PM Modi hails Bangabandhu's leadership, Indian Army's contribution in Bangladesh's independence war

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Dhaka, Mar 26 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday hailed 'Bangabandhu' Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's leadership and the contributions of the Indian Army in Bangladesh's 1971 Liberation War as he joined his counterpart Sheikh Hasina and President Abdul Hamid in celebrating the golden jubilee of the country's independence and the birth centenary of its founder.

Addressing Bangladesh's 50th Independence anniversary at the National Parade Square, Modi recalled the role played by the Indian Army in the freedom war and said the blood of those who fought for their liberation and the blood of Indian soldiers are flowing together and this blood will form such a relationship that will not break down under any type of pressure.

'I salute the brave soldiers of the Indian Army who stood with the brothers and sisters of Bangladesh in Muktijuddo. Those who gave their blood in Muktijuddo, sacrificed themselves, and played a very big role in realising the dream of independent Bangladesh,' said Modi, who is visiting Bangladesh on his first trip to a foreign country since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Modi, who was wearing a 'Mujib Jacket' as tribute to Bangladesh's Father of the Nation, said that Bangabandhu’s leadership and bravery had ensured that no power could enslave Bangladesh.

Under Bangabandhu’s leadership, common people of Bangladesh across the social spectrum came together and became 'Muktibahini', Modi said, adding Bangladesh's Liberation War had support from all corners of India, from all parties, every section of the society.

'This is one of the most memorable days of my life. I am grateful that Bangladesh has included me in this event. I am grateful that Bangladesh has invited India to take part in this function. It is a matter of our pride that we got the opportunity to honour Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with Gandhi Peace Prize,' he said.

The Gandhi Peace Prize 2020 was conferred on Bangabandhu early this week. It was for the first time that the award was given away posthumously.

At the beginning of the programme, Modi handed over the Gandhi Peace Prize to Bangabandhu’s daughters – Prime Minister Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana.

Recalling the 1971 war of independence, Modi said the pictures of atrocities that the Pakistan Army inflicted on the people in then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) used to distract people in India. 'I must have been 20-22 years old when I and my colleagues did Satyagraha for Bangladesh's freedom,' he told the gathering.

The war broke out after the sudden crackdown at midnight past on March 25, 1971 in the erstwhile East Pakistan by the Pakistani troops and ended on December 16. The same year Pakistan conceded defeat and unconditionally surrendered in Dhaka to the allied forces comprising the freedom fighters and the Indian soldiers. Officially three million people were killed during the nine-month long war.

Modi said the next 25 years are crucial for both India and Bangladesh. “Our heritage is shared, our growth is shared, our targets and opportunities are also shared,” he said.

He said both India and Bangladesh have the power of democracy and vision for the future, and it is necessary for the region the two countries progress together. 'That is why Indian and Bangladeshi governments are making meaningful efforts in this direction,' he said.

'We must remember that we've similar opportunities in fields of trade and commerce, but at the same time, we've similar threats like terrorism. The ideas and powers behind such types of inhumane acts are still active. We must remain vigilant and united to counter them,” he added.

On the occasion of the 50th year of Indo-Bangla ties, Modi invited 50 Bangladeshi entrepreneurs to India. 'They should get associated with our innovation ecosystem and meet venture capitalists. We will learn from them and they will learn from us as well,' he said.

Earlier, the programme began with the religious leaders from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity reciting prayers from their holy books, projecting a secular image of Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Bangladesh was founded as a secular state, but Islam was made the state religion in the 1980s. In 2010, the High Court held up the secular principles of the 1972 constitution.

Modi was the guest of honour while Bangladesh President Hamid was the chief guest at the function chaired by Prime Minister Hasina.

Meanwhile, at least four persons were killed and dozens injured when some Islamist organisations protesting Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Bangladesh clashed with police on Friday afternoon.

In Chittagong’s Hathazari upazila, at least four persons, including two students, were killed and dozens injured when police tried to disperse the protesters by first firing tear shells followed by rubber bullets and shotguns, the Dhaka Tribune reported.

'The Hathazari police station suddenly came under attack. We are trying to bring the situation under control,' the paper quoted Additional Superintendent of Police Shahadat Hossain as saying.

In Dhaka, at least 50 people, including two journalists, were injured when clashes broke out between a group of protesters and police in the Baitul Mukarram area on Friday afternoon.

The protesters, members of various Islamist groups, launched a fresh demonstration after Friday prayers, protesting the visit of Modi. PTI SCY/ZH AKJ ZH ZH