March 23, 2021 4:01:48 am
Days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bangladesh visit, India announced the Gandhi Peace Prize for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the neighbouring country’s first president. Rahman also served as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh from 17 April 1971, until his assassination, on 15 August 1975, and is considered to be the driving force behind the independence of Bangladesh.
His daughter Sheikh Hasina is the current leader of the Awami League and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The annual award — which carries a financial award of Rs 1 crore, a citation, a plaque and a traditional Indian item — was instituted by the government in 1995, the 125th Birth Anniversary commemoration year of Mahatma Gandhi. It is open to all people regardless of nationality, race, language, caste or gender.
The jury for the Gandhi Peace Prize is chaired by the Prime Minister himself and comprises two ex-officio members — the Chief Justice of India and Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha. The other two members of the five-member jury include current Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, and Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, who won the award in 2016.
The jury met on March 19, and sources said Rahman’s name was unanimously decided upon, in recognition of the late leader’s “outstanding contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violent and other Gandhian methods”.
After the announcement on Monday, Modi said, “Bangabandhu (‘Friend of Bengal’ — a moniker given to Rahman) was a champion of human rights and freedom, and a hero to Indians as well.” He said the “path shown by Bangabandhu has laid a strong foundation for the partnership, progress and prosperity of both countries over the last decade”, and added, “As Bangladesh celebrates Mujib Borsho, India is honoured to be commemorating his legacy jointly with the Government of Bangladesh and its people.”
Modi is scheduled to visit Bangladesh on March 26-27 to attend the celebrations to mark the Rahman’s birth centenary and 50 years of the war of liberation of Bangladesh, as per a statement by the Union Ministry of External Affairs earlier this week. The visit, Modi’s first foreign trip since the pandemic, is noteworthy as the PM is scheduled to visit Orakandi — a place considered sacred to the Matua community of West Bengal. The visit also comes weeks before Assembly elections in West Bengal.
The Gandhi Peace Prize for the previous year, 2019, was also announced on Monday evening, and has been awarded to the late Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said.
“Sultan Qaboos was the architect of the special ties between India and Oman. He had studied in India and always maintained a special relationship with India. Under his leadership, India and Oman became strategic partners and our mutually beneficial, comprehensive partnership strengthened and scaled newer heights,” said a government statement while announcing the award.
The past awardees of the Gandhi Peace Prize include former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, Baba Amte, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, the Akshaya Patra Foundation, and Yohei Sasakawa of Japan. This is the first time awards are being given posthumously.
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