When Indira Gandhi and her cabinet received Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Palam. When Indira Gandhi and her cabinet received Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Palam

Digital Desk, London. On January 10, 50 years ago, a British Royal Air Force comet plane carrying Sheikh Mujibur Rahman landed at Delhi’s Palam airport, taking off from London. The entire Indian cabinet led by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was on the tarmac to receive Mujibur to a grand welcome. It was the climax of cooperation between India and freedom fighters in East Pakistan – a region that has now become Bangladesh.

25 days earlier, on 16 December, the Indian armed forces liberated Pakistan’s eastern wing and forced 93,000 Pakistani soldiers, ranging from generals to infantry, to surrender. Two days before his descent to Delhi or 8 January, under relentless international pressure, Pakistan was forced to release Mujib, who had been imprisoned in West Pakistan for nine months and charged with waging war against Pakistan. was sentenced to death.

London-based Indian diplomat Shashank Banerjee, who was appointed as an officer on special duty in the flight with Mujibur, recalled, after a brief talk of about an hour the Banga brothers stood up and spoke to Amar Shonar Bangla, Aami. Tomaye Bhalobashi (My golden Bengal, I love you) started singing. I was sitting next to him and as soon as he started singing, I stood up too. Mujibur Rahman asked me to join him in singing a song, which I did.

He continued, “Finally, he turned to me and asked what I thought of the song. I understood that Mujibur wanted the song to be Bangladesh’s national anthem or ethnic music. Who can deny that it was a song. The beautiful song is suitable to be the ethnic song of Bangladesh. He said, you are right, I was thinking the same. Well, that song will be the national anthem of Bangladesh. Composed by the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore in the first decade of the 20th century, the song was duly adopted as the national anthem.

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After arriving in the Indian capital, Mujibur took a brief rest before a formal discussion with Gandhi. Banerjee informed the prime minister that Mujibur wanted the withdrawal of Indian forces from Bangladesh to be extended from June 30 to March 31. According to Banerjee, he asked Mujibur to mention it officially in the upcoming meeting. Mujibur accepted his request immediately. When Mujibur was taken from Rawalpindi to London, British Prime Minister Edward Heath was holidaying in the country. He quickly returned to his official residence-cum-office at 10 Downing Street to meet her. In a conversation that lasted for about an hour, Mujibur asked Britain to recognize Bangladesh. Heath then told the House of Commons, “We will do our best to help Bangladesh in the current situation.” Less than a month later, the United Kingdom announced the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Dhaka.

Mujibur requested Heath to persuade America, which supported the regime of Pakistani General Yahya Khan, in the brutal repression of East Pakistan. It should accept Bangladesh as a sovereign nation. Heath argued before Nixon that, if we delay too much, communist countries will launch an attack on us. In the spring of 1972, America formally agreed. Heath shared with Nixon, Mujibur was eager to reach Dhaka as soon as possible (as reported in the Dhaka newspaper at the time) and we gave him an RAF aircraft for the onward journey.

Indira Gandhi had arranged for an Air India plane for this purpose, but now agreed with Heath that the British jet would stop in Delhi en route to Dhaka. Sheikh wholeheartedly supported it. After spending a few hours in Delhi, Sheikh Mujibur returned home, where he was given a warm welcome. As Banerjee’s eyewitness portrayed, over one lakh people had gathered to receive the Bangladesh leader at Romana Maidan, raising slogans of Joy Bang Bandhu, Joy Bangla. After this, Bangabandhu stood on the stage and declared, my countrymen, I am blissful. Bangladesh is now a sovereign, independent nation.

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(IANS)

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