Agartala, 10 January 2012. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina makes a historic border crossing here on Wednesday with a 100-member delegation to commemorate the northeast Indian state’s role in her nation’s liberation.
She will be accompanied by her Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and a delegation comprising traders, prominent leaders, intellectuals and journalists during her two-day maiden visit to the state.
The Tripura Central University will confer an honorary doctorate (honoris causa) to Hasina on January 12 during the university’s ninth convocation. The Tripura government will host a huge civic reception for Hasina at the famous Assam Rifles ground.
According to historian and writer Bikach Chowdhury, Tripura had six to seven camps under four different sectors from where the ‘muktijoddhas’ (freedom fighters) fought the Pakistani forces in the nine-month-long war in 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh from East Pakistan.
“A large number of Tripura’s youths, politicians, leaders and other citizens had helped the muktijoddhas in numerous ways to achieve their goal. In fact, Tripura was the ‘labour room’ of the Bangladesh liberation war,” Chowdhury told the media, adding these could have influenced Hasina’s decision to visit.
Political analyst and columnist Gautam Das recalled: “During the war, to evade Pakistani forces’ barbaric atrocities, over one crore (10 million) Bangladeshi men, women and children took shelter in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya.”
“Over 1,600,000 Bangladeshis – a number larger than the state’s then total population of 1,500,000 – had taken shelter in Tripura alone,” he said.
Das, who has personal experience of the 1971 war, said veteran communist leaders Jyoti Basu and Nripen Chakraborty had played a key role in providing relief to Bangladeshi refugees and demanding Indian recognition to Bangladesh.
“Hasina’s illustrious father and architect of Bangladesh’s independence, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had become more famous following the Agartala conspiracy case. This also may be the reason behind Hasina’s visit to Agartala,” said Tripura Finance Minister Badal Chowdhury, who had done his primary education in the erstwhile east Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
The case related to charges of sedition, slapped by the then Pakistan government against Sheikh Mujib and 34 other people. Filed in January 6, 1968, it charged Sheikh Mujib and others in conspiring with India against the stability of Pakistan.
“Bangabandhu, as he was known, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman was not involved in the case though he was named as the ‘first accused’. In fact, when the Agartala conspiracy case was initiated, Sheikh Mujib had already been in prison in Dhaka along with many others,” Das said.
Chowdhury said the Tripura government has been building an ambitious edifice and a park in southern Tripura in memory of Indian soldiers and Bangladeshi freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives during the 1971 war.
“The park being built at Chottakhola, a border village, 130 km from Agartala, at a cost of Rs.2.3 crore, will have a statue of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” Chowdhury told the media.
Hasina’s visit was eagerly sought by the state, with Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, Governor D.Y. Patil and the Tripura Central University vice chancellor Arunoday Saha inviting her to visit during separate visits to Dhaka.
“Hasina at once accepted our invitations and agreed to visit Tripura,” Sarkar had said, on his return. (IANS)