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Bangabandhu Bangladesh

Madiba, Tutu, Bangabandhu and Modi: the South African connection to Bangladesh’s special 50th anniversary

Bangladesh has said it is an honour for the country and its people as Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (known affectionately as Bangabandhu) has been conferred with Gandhi Peace Prize 2020 posthumously, as announced by PM Narendra Modi. This puts him in the same company as Madiba and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

On Monday, India announced that Bangladesh’s father of the nation has been nominated for the Gandhi Peace Prize. In a statement on Monday, the Bangladesh government said that the award is a befitting tribute to the ever-deepening Bangladesh-India relations.

Madiba accepting Gandhi Peace Prize 2000

“The award is also a befitting tribute to the ever-deepening Bangladesh-India relations in a year when both countries are jointly celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s Independence,” the statement read. The Bangladesh government said that the honour assumes special significance on the 50th year of Bangladesh’s independence when the country is on the “verge of becoming a developing country, through political, economic and social transformation, the foundations of which were laid by Bangabandhu”.

“On the occasion, the people of Bangladesh pay homage to the two great leaders Bapuji and Bangabandhu, whose values and ideals remain even more relevant today for building a world of peace, free from oppression, injustice and deprivation,” the statement read.

Mandela, Tutu awardees

The announcement of the award comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-anticipated visit to Bangladesh. It is his first foreign trip since the outbreak of COVID-19. The Gandhi peace prize has been awarded to leaders and organisations for peaceful and Gandhian methods. South Africa’s Nelson Mandela (Madiba) and Desmond Tutu were winners in 2000 and 2005 respectively.

Announcing the award, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is “one of the greatest leaders of our subcontinent”.

In a tweet, PM Modi said, “He remains an icon of indomitable courage and the tireless struggle for his millions of admirers. Gandhi Peace Prize 2020 has been conferred on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, one of the greatest leaders of our subcontinent. Year 2020 marked the birth centenary of Bangabandhu. He remains an icon of indomitable courage and tireless struggle for his millions of admirers,” he tweeted.

A Ministry of External Affairs release said that the Prime Minister Modi visit is in connection with the commemoration of three epochal events – Mujib Borsho, the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Bangladesh and 50 years of Bangladesh’s war of liberation. Prime Minister Modi had last visited Bangladesh in 2015.

During the visit, the Prime Minister will attend the National Day programme of Bangladesh on March 26 as the guest of honour.

Read: Bangladesh at 50: A nation created in violence and still bearing scars of a troubled birth

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