Dhaka, Jul 25: Bangladesh today conferred its highest state award posthumously on former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for her outstanding contribution to the country's 1971 ‘Liberation War'.
Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi, the daughter -in-law of the assassinated prime minister, received the “Bangladesh Swadhinata Sanmanona” from President Zillur Rahman at a grand ceremony attended by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and nearly 1,000 top dignitaries.
“By her (Indira Gandhi) political wisdom and vision, she influenced the course of history and the fate of generations,” Rahman said while handing over the posthumous award.
“I recall with highest gratitude her strong support for the independence of Bangladesh... by honoring Srimati Indira Gandhi for her noble contribution for our freedom, we honor ourselves and revisit the epic of our war of liberation,” he said.
The crest weighing three kilograms is designed on 400-year-old terracotta of a ‘Kadam tree' made of gold. Sonia, who arrived here yesterday on a 24-hour visit, said the award bestowed on the former Indian premier was an honour for India too.
“The honour is not hers (Indira Gandhi) alone, it's India's,” Sonia said receiving the award.
The UPA chairperson said she was humbled to accept the honour on behalf of the former prime minister “with a very full heart”.
“I know she would have been overwhelmed by the high honour you have bestowed on her,” she said. In a visibly nostalgic tone, Sonia said “memories and emotions flood (my) mind”.
She paid rich tributes to her late mother-in law as well as Bangladesh's founding leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Sonia ended her brief statement on the occasion with:“Joy Bangla”, the Bangladeshi slogan during the historic 1971 independence struggle.
Indira Gandhi made crucial contribution to the independence of Bangladesh. She traveled across the world to mobilise support for the people of East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh, amid a massive crackdown on civilians by the Pakistan Army.
President Rahman said Indira Gandhi had inspired millions of Bangladeshis and Indians to fight against oppression and injustices.
“Even after forty years, she remains as a beckon of hope and strength to all of us who aspire to make Bangladesh a true Sonar Bangla, dreamt by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Hasina paid glowing tributes to Indian soldiers of Bangladesh-India Friendship Forces as well as to Indira Gandhi for their sacrifices for Bangladesh's liberation movement.
“I personally (am) grateful to the Indian government and Mrs Indira Gandhi for providing shelter to my sister Sheikh Rehana and my family after the brutal assassination of my father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 along with our most of the family members,” a visibly moved Hasina said.
“That was really an invaluable support of Mrs Gandhi like a guardian extended to us during our time of distress,” she added. PTI