Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Sunday was conferred upon the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War Honor’ in recognition of his active role in support of Bangladesh Liberation War when he was a Lok Sabha member, UNB reports. Visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the award from Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid on behalf of Atal Bihari Vajpayee at a ceremony held at Bangabhaban as Vajpayee could not visit Bangladesh to receive it as he is unwell.
Addressing the function, Modi said, “The entire life of Atal Bihari Vajpayee was for the country and general people. Today Bangladesh is honouring Vajpayee, a great leader, for his contribution to Bangladesh Liberation War.” Modi expressed gratitude to Bangladesh for conferring Bangladesh Liberation War Honor on Vajpayee saying, “During the Liberation War when freedom fighters were shedding blood, Indian citizens were also fighting side by side with them. Thus, they helped realise the dream of Bangladesh. Even though he (Vajpayee) was in opposition, was able to give India direction in this regard.”
Modi said he was delighted as Vajpayee is being honored by the President of Bangladesh, an illustrious freedom fighter and in the presence of Bangabandhu’s daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Quoting a paragraph of Vajpayee’s speech delivered at the Indian Parliament on December 6, 1971, the Indian Prime Minister said, “We’ve taken steps in the right direction. The process of changing history is unfolding before our eyes. The friendship between India and Bangladesh was like a bond which would not break under any pressure, and would never be the victim of any diplomacy.”
The visiting PM said it would have been wonderful if Shri Vajpayee had been present to receive this honour himself. He expressed hope that Vajpayee would soon become well and guide everyone once again. Modi said though he had entered politics quite late, he had been one of the many youth activists who had come to Delhi in response to Shri Vajpayee’s call for Satyagraha for the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan read out the citation conferred on Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Chief Justice SK Sinha, Opposition Leader Raushan Ershad, cabinet members, Indian Prime Minister’s entourage were, among others, present at the programme held at the Darbar Hall of the Presidential palace.
In his speech, Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid said, “We all know what Shri Vajpayee did for Bangladesh when we were fighting our Liberation War at the call of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.” “Despite being in the opposition, he had the political pragmatism to lend his strong support to the government of smt. Indira Gandhi for the cause of Bangladesh. Awarding Shri Vajpayee with Bangladesh Liberation War Honor is just a humble expression of our gratitude and appreciation,” the President added.
Abdul Hamid said, “On this solemn occasion, with great pleasure, I would like to announce that we have decided to honor each Indian soldier who had made supreme sacrifice in our Liberation War in 1971. This is a humble and token expression our gratefulness.” Speaking on then occasion, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, “In 1971 when the entire Bangladesh, under the leadership of Bangabandhu, waged the War of Liberation against the occupation forces, we were fortunate to have India beside us. The whole of Indian nation stood by their brothers and sisters across the border.”
She went on saying, “As a politician, Shri Vajpayee’s unstinting support of Bangladesh played an important role in mobilizing support for our cause in the Indian political arena. The programmes and activities he had undertaken at that time were instrumental in this regard.” “His love for Bangladesh continued which was demonstrated during his tenure as the External Affairs Minister and later as the Prime Minister of India,” Hasina added.
Bangladesh introduced the honour in various categories to recognise the contributions of foreign friends and has so far awarded several hundred foreigners. Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was awarded posthumously on July 25, 2012, while President Pranab Mukherjee on March 5, 2013. Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law and Congress party president Sonia Gandhi received the honour on her behalf at a special ceremony in 2012. Bharatiya Janata Party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Indian Prime Minister first time for 13 days in 1996 and then from 1998 to 2004.