War veterans and high-ranking military officers from Bangladesh and India laid wreaths at Vijay Smarak in Fort William on Friday morning, marking the 44th anniversary of India and East Pakistan’s victory over the Pakistani Army in 1971.
Indian armed forces led by GOC-in-C Eastern Command Lt General Praveen Bakshi and Bangladeshi war veterans paid respects to the martyred soldiers.
While Vijay Diwas is marked in Kolkata every year, this has been one of the bigger celebrations, Army officers said, to “mark the increasing bonhomie and cooperation between the two countries as well as the two militaries”. A 72-member Bangladeshi delegation arrived Wednesday (December 14), led by Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, kicking off celebrations at different venues including equestrian events and military band concerts. While Asaduzzaman Khan left shortly after, the delegation remained in their “friend-nation”.
Major General Nazim of East Bengal Infantry Regiment said presence of both countries at the celebration is “very important”.
“We have always had problems with Pakistan, which culminated in 1971. We never wanted independence, but more autonomy. We wanted self-rule. This the Pakistanis denied us. We answered their bullets with our own. A huge number of Bangladeshi refugees crossed the border and fled to Assam, Manipur, Tripura, West Bengal. We received support from Indira Gandhi not only diplomatically and with arms, but with refuge, shelter and food. We will always be indebted to India for that. We have a working relationship with Pakistan as per our foreign policy, but to be honest, our relations have never been good,’’said Major General Nazim, adding that Bangladesh, being a “secular Islamic country”, will support India against terrorism.
Former Minister of Justice and Bangladesh Member of Parliament Abdul Matin Khasru said Bangladesh has zero tolerance towards terrorism.
“Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already declared this. Our friendship is forged with the blood of martyrs from both nations, so this can neither be shaken nor forgotten. So even if China increases in investment in Bangladesh (in the textile industry in particular), India will always be our close friend. You have stood by us, we will always stand by you,” said Khasru.
Vice-chairman of Bangladesh Muktijodha Sangathan Central Command Council (an organization of Bangladeshi freedom fighters) M A Salman Khan is a former freedom fighter. Now 65 years old, Khan was a barely 20-year-old medical student when he snuck across the border at Barasat and came to Kolkata. He was then sent to Saranath camp, which housed 46,000 refugees, where he assisted in providing medical attention to refugees.
“But I soon went back to Bangladesh and got in touch with the Muktijoddhas, and told them this is not what I want to do. I want to train and fight Pakistanis with arms,” he said. Khan was recruited into Mukti Vahinis and sent to train in guerrilla warfare at Chahulia training centre in Bihar.
“After our training, we would go into Bangladesh, carry out strikes and ambushes, and quickly come back to India. Shyambajar, Munshiganj, Gabna – strike and come back. Finally, we went into Bangladesh for good. When we heard Indira Gandhi had officially recognized our struggle on December 3, and would back our fight, we knew that the battle was ours and fought with renewed vigour. We knew victory was just days away. The Pakistanis have never been able to accept their defeat. We can never be friends with Pakistan. It is not possible. They did not want us to exist,” said Khan.