Dhaka, Oct. 21 (ANI): Bangladesh has honoured 61 dignitaries from eight countries in recognition for their outstanding contribution in creating the country out of the 1971 Liberation War.
Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina presided over the colourful awards presentation function at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka.
Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said it was great honour for the country to pay tribute to the people without whom this day could not have been possible for them.
"Poets, writers, journalists, social workers, intellectuals and politicians apart from people from all walks of life stood by us during those hours of crisis. They helped us in all possible modes. They exerted pressure on their respective governments to support the cause of the people of Bangladesh," said Hasina.
She added: "They stood by our people who took refuge in India and also lent morale support to our freedom fighters. They extended help through financial support for arms for the Mukti Bahini, the crusaders who fought for the liberation."
" And today (Saturday), we are reciprocating their kind and heroic gestures with our salutations and honour them here. It is not just an honour for them but we, the people of Bangladesh, too feel elated for honouring them as a mark of our gratitude," said Hasina.
Joan A Dine, an American social worker, recalling her days as a volunteer in 1971, said they were happy the way Bangladesh has emerged and transformed itself post war.
"Armies do salute you for your amazing achievements since independence and before. We value ... your economic growth rate and we admire your rich language, music, poetry, dance and tradition but most of all, we cherish, we all honourees and our countrymen cherish our friendship with your handsome, talented, courageous, brilliant and .... people. We hope for you all the best," said Dine.
The awardees received a citation on silk cloth and a gold-plated silver plaque on which the replica of the national mausoleum is engraved.
The awards were divided in two categories. One was 'Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sammanana' (Bangladesh Liberation War Honour) while the other was 'Muktijuddho Moitri Sammanana' (Friends of Liberation War Honour).
Out of 61 dignitaries, two received Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sammanana awards while the remaining 59 got Muktijuddho Moitri Sammanana.
Among the awardees, 52 were from India and the rest were from Nepal, United States, United Kingdom, Vietnam, Australia, Sweden and Italy.
Anshul Avijit received an award on behalf of his late grandfather Babu Jagjivan Ram who was India's Defence Minister in 1971 and played a pivotal role in the liberation of Bangladesh, an armed battle that lasted nine months.
"It's a great honour and a privilege to be here in Dhaka. I am receiving this award. I am the grandson of Babu Jagjivan Ram who was the Defence Minister of India during the time of Bangladesh Liberation War. His contribution has been recognised and honoured here. It's a great privilege to be here and it is also important for me and for other people associated with the war and the manner in which they contributed," said Avijit.
This is the third phase of awarding foreign friends and organisations after conferring of 'Bangladesh Freedom Honour' posthumously on Indira Gandhi last year.
Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, gained independence with India's help in December 1971, following a nine-month war against Pakistan.
Around three million people were killed while the Pakistan troops and Razakkars (Pakistanis who originally hailed from India's northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar), reportedly raped thousands of women and young girls in the rural areas.
Although the present day Bangladesh is keen to keep at bay fundamentalists, certain Islamist groups want to scrap the tag of 'secularism' as a state principle in the Muslim-majority country.
In context of this, it may be mentioned that the former chief of Jamaat-e-Islami party and country's top Islamist leader, Golam Azam, was arrested for war crimes and for abetting the Razakars who supported the tyranny of the Pakistan Army on locals.
The 90-year-old leader is facing trial for helping the Pakistani Army during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence.
Activists of Jamaat-e-Islami opposed Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan and fought with the Pakistani Army in what was then East Pakistan.
Dozens of other Jamaat leaders, including its chief Moulana Motiur Rahman Nizami and Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid are already in prison accused of war crimes. (ANI)