When Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's plane touched down at the airport here on Tuesday evening a flush of emotions overwhelmed her as she recalled the tremendous sacrifices by the people of Agartala and help provided by Tripura in the form of food, shelter and support to Bangladesh liberation war heroes and lakhs of refugees.

On Thursday, when she was greeted by a capacity crowd at the huge Assam Rifles ground, where a civic reception was accorded to her by the Agartala Municipal Corporation, and earlier in the day, when she was conferred the honorary D. Litt. degree by Tripura University, Ms. Hasina was overwhelmed with emotions of memories and historical affinity of people of her country and Tripura.

Saying that the campus of Tripura University was the site of a training camp of Mukti-joddha during the Liberation War of 1971, Ms. Hasina said she was proud to visit the same place after 40 years.

“An occupation force had brutally cracked down on a defenceless people all over Bangladesh on March 25, 1971, setting in motion a large human exodus of the last millennium. As they streamed across the border with only their lives, starving and lost, they were welcomed by you with open arms,” she said.

She recalled: “Tripura was in those days flooded with refugees, who were more than its own population. It was indeed a unique situation. Nevertheless, through the nine months of our liberation war, the people of Tripura and India stood by our side and helped selflessly the forsaken millions, giving them food, shelter and other basic necessities. Our freedom-fighters also received training and support on this side of the border, and eventually fought with our Indian friends to the final surrender of the occupation forces and liberation of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971. How can we not remember with gratitude our friends in need in Tripura and India?”

The Bangladesh Prime Minister said that after the brutal assassination of her father — Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman — and 18 close family members on August 15, 1975, as the elder of the two surviving sisters, (her younger sister is Sheikh Rehana), she was determined to carry forward her father's struggle to establish democracy and give people their fundamental rights, including freedom from poverty.

She said she would always be thankful to late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for providing her and sister shelter from 1975 to 1981. When her father was implicated in the so-called ‘Agartala conspiracy case' in 1966, a conspiracy was hatched to hang him to death, but massive uprising by the people that followed foiled the conspiracy.

Thousands of people, who thronged the Assam Rifles ground to listen to her, waved flags of both the countries to showcase the strong bond between people of Tripura and Bangladesh and their historical, cultural, linguistic and traditional affinity.