Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is fondly remembered for her grit and determination in helping Bangladesh win independence and dismantling Pakistan, but on Friday PM Modi revealed that he too had played a role in the movement for the freedom of Bangladesh.
He did so while wearing a "Mujib Jacket" and speaking with his counterpart Sheikh Hasina at the National Parade Ground in Dhaka.
With a touch of nostalgia, PM Modi recalled that his participation in the movement for the independence of Bangladesh was one of the first "andolans" in his life. "I must be 20-22 years old at that time when I, along with many colleagues, participated in Satyagrah. I even had the opportunity to go to jail while clamouring for Bangladesh’s freedom," he said.
‘‘This is one of the most memorable days of my life. I am grateful that Bangladesh has included me in this event," Modi said, as he dwelt on the contribution of the Indian Army in the 1971 war. Hailing Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the prime minister said no power could enslave Bangladesh.
(The war in 1971 ended on December 16 with Pakistan conceding defeat and unconditionally surrendered in Dhaka. Officially three million people were killed during the nine-month-long war.)
The prime minister’s words in Dhaka were a throwback to his statement in the Rajya Sabha on February 9 when he had asserted he too was an "Andolan-jeevi" (living on movements) in his early life. His remarks had come while taunting those stoking the farmers’ stir on Delhi’s borders.
PM Modi is in the neighbouring country on a two-day visit which began on Friday. It has triggered protests in some parts of the country and four people were killed in clashes in Chittagong. On Friday, PM Modi met with several community leaders, including representatives of minorities in Bangladesh, 'mukhtijoddhas' or freedom fighters, friends of India and youth icons.