WHEN BANGLADESH Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina travels to India next month from April 7 to 10, she will begin the process of honouring families of Indian soldiers killed in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, The Indian Express has learnt. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi by her side, Hasina is likely to present the citation and Rs 5 lakh to each fallen soldier’s family, according to sources. She is likely to start with seven such families in Delhi on April 8. These families have been carefully chosen – four from the Army and one each from Air Force, Navy and the BSF. “A total of 1,661 Indian soldiers died in the liberation war of Bangladesh. It is time we recognise their sacrifices, and Prime Minister Hasina will start the process with a mega-event in Delhi,” a source said.
Bangladesh had earlier honoured Indians from all walks of life who played a role in the country’s liberation: top Army generals and officers, political leaders, activists, journalists, doctors and diplomats, among others. The country had honoured former PMs Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, among others, with the ‘Friends of Bangladesh’ award – received, respectively, by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and PM Modi. “After the Friends of Bangladesh honours were given to prominent people, it was felt that the Bangladesh government should also honour Indian soldiers who had fought on ground,” the source said. The decision was taken in 2015 during Modi’s visit to Dhaka, and the Bangladesh government and the Defence ministry had been discussing the modalities.
It was finally agreed that Hasina will give away the citation — in three languages — and the cheque of Rs 5 lakh to the families during her visit to India. After the visit, Bangladesh will send ministers as representatives to give away the citation and the cheques to the families in batches. “It will be done in five or six phases, depending on the regions where these families are based,” the source said. The Hasina government is learnt to have earmarked about Rs 100 crore for honouring these families of soldiers.
It is estimated that between 3 lakh and 30 lakh people – Hindus and Muslims, Bengalis and non-Bengalis — were killed between March and December 1971. Operation Searchlight, which was the Pakistan Army’s all-out offensive against citizens of then East Pakistan, led to the war. East Pakistan became Bangladesh on December 16, 1971. To remember those horrific months, Bangladesh Parliament declared March 25, the night Operation Searchlight was launched in 1971, as Bangladesh Genocide Day.