New Delhi, Oct 3 (IANS): As Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visits New Delhi, the Indian capital is a relatively familiar place for her, not just for the warmth and comfort level in bilateral diplomatic relations, it is also the place where she was sheltered for around five years after her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was brutally assassinated on August 15, 1975.
At the time Pranab Mukherjee, then a trusted lieutenant of Indira Gandhi under whose watch the creation of Bangladesh came into being with the 1971 India-Pakistan war, was put in charge of taking care of Hasina.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh, was assassinated along with his wife and three sons in their home in Dhaka home in an army coup. At the time Hasina and her younger sister Rehana were abroad.
Shattered with the tragedy, Hasina was given diplomatic asylum in India, and stayed in a house in Pandara Road, along with her nuclear physicist husband and two children. Pranab Mukherjee was a close friend and confidant throughout those trying years when she was living in self-exile in India, under tight security watch.
Even later when she moved to Bangladesh as head of the Awami League and became Prime Minister, she kept up her contact with Pranab Mukherjee and his wife Suvra, whom she would call ‘Boudi’.
Her husband, M.A. Wazed Miah, took up a job with the Atomic Energy Commission in New Delhi. The Wazed family spent some time living in a house in Lajpat Nagar, which acted as the office of the government-in-exile before Bangladesh came into being. They later moved to the Pandara Road house.
In 1979, the Awami League made repeated efforts to bring Hasina back to Bangladesh to assist in its election campaign. But then Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman refused to let any of Mujibur Rahman’s remaining family enter.
However, in 1981, she was unanimously elected president of the Awami League, then Bangladesh’s largest opposition party, and there was nothing Ziaur Rahman could do to stop Hasina’s return, or her climb to the top of the political ladder.
But Hasina has never forgotten her close ties with the Mukherjee family. She visited New Delhi in August 2015 to attend the last rites of Suvra Mukherjee. The two had developed a close bond during the years Hasina spent in New Delhi, discussing music and literature. Suvra Mukherjee was an accomplished singer of Tagore songs.
In March 2013, Pranab Mukherjee chose Bangladesh for his first foreign trip after becoming president, and was received with much affection and warmth. He also paid his maiden visit to the ancestral house of his in-laws in Narail, where he was accorded the traditional reception for a ‘Jamai’ or the husband of a Bengali woman, with blowing of conch shells and ‘arati’. Suvra Mukherjee was born in Narail and did her early schooling there.
In 2013, Pranab Mukherjee was conferred the Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sammanona, or Bangladesh’s Liberation War honour, in recognition of his contribution to the country during its difficult birth in 1971.
Hasina’s trip to India and her close bond and understanding with India make for Bangladesh’s strong ties with India, and a friendly neighbour in the east.