Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has formally approved a proposal by a senior researcher and freedom fighter to honour nearly 2,000 Indian soldiers who fell martyr during the 1971 Liberation War. The Bangladeshi government will announce the proposal, in consultation with India, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s weekend visit to the country, sources close to the Prime Minister told The Hindu .
Lieutenant-Colonel Kaji Sajjad Ali Zahir, who is the Project Director of the Bangladesh Army’s History Project, has worked in India for years to locate the families of the martyrs.
“The Prime Minister has agreed to the project, and in all probability, the announcement will be made during Mr. Modi’s visit,” Lt. Colonel Zahir said.
He said that as a freedom fighter, he found it “shocking” that both sides had never thought of honouring the Indian soldiers.
“Wife of a 17-year-old soldier, Ansul Prasad, of 10 Mahar Regiment asked me whether Bangladesh knows about her husband. I had many such experiences and do remember each of them. I remember what the wife of Lance Naik Albert Ekka of Damar village, 186 kilometres from Ranchi, told me as well. She held my hand and said: ‘First time I am seeing Bangladeshi’,” he said.
Producing a list of Indian soldiers who laid down their lives, Lt. Colonel Zahir told The Hindu that he proposed to honour the dead soldiers and the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved it.
“But there is a problem. How can we fly family members of 1,984 soldiers, whom I have identified so far,” he said. “I rather proposed to take a team of Prime Minister’s personal emissaries to seven Army Commands of India to honour the families.” He, however, agrees that he is yet to identify all the soldiers who laid down their lives. Once the proposal is formally approved, the soldiers can be duly honoured.
“Whether we give them a plaque, certificate or Nakshi Kantha (embroidered quilt) with images of Bangladesh and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman stitched on it, has to be decided. But we can think of the process once the proposal is formally announced,” he said.
Lt. Colonel Zahir is the nodal officer of another India-Bangladesh project of identifying the graves of the Bangladeshi freedom fighters who are believed to be buried on Indian side of the border.
“I am nearly sure that there will be a mention in the joint statement, formalising the process of verifying the graves of the ‘Muktijoddhas’,” he said.
“As a practising Muslim, I can’t think of dislodging all the graves. If some graves are properly maintained, we should not dislodge those. But if some of the graves are in dilapidated condition, we will ensure that those are shifted with proper respect and care.”