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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

'Friends of Bangladesh Award' for Col (Retd) Ashok Tara

Dhanmondi is one of the most crowded planned areas in Dhaka city. Its origins can be traced back to the late 1950s, beginning as an affluent residential area, and over the decades evolving into a miniature city, where one can find everything from hospitals to malls, schools, banks, offices and universities.  The history of Bangladesh as a nation state began in 1971, when it seceded from Pakistan. Prior to the creation of Pakistan in 1947, modern-day Bangladesh was part of ancient, classical, medieval and colonial India.

Akin to India, there has been  succession of empires, internal squabbling, religious tussles, regional conflicts and more.  The borders of present-day Bangladesh were established with the partition of Bengal and India in 1947, when the region became East Pakistan, part of the newly formed Islamic State of Pakistan. Due to political exclusion, ethnic and linguistic discrimination, as well as economic neglect by the politically-dominant West Pakistan, popular agitation led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman grew against West Pakistan, resulting in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which the Bengali people won with the support of India. After independence, the new state endured famine, natural disasters and widespread poverty, as well as political turmoil and military coups. The restoration of democracy in 1991 has been followed by relative calm and economic progress.

With all that, Bangladesh has not exactly been the ‘friendly neighbour’ despite having common ancestral routes and regional culture.  

Now there is news of the Bangladeshi  cabinet deciding to confer `Friends of Bangladesh Award on Colonel (retd) Ashok Tara, a retired officer of the Indian Army, for his outstanding contribution to the War of Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.  The decision came from the regular cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.  After the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Mosharraf Hossain Buiyan said Ashoke Tara, the then major of the Indian Army served as commander of the 14 Guard Regiment Company of Allied Force in 1971, fought at Dhaloi, Gangasagar, Brahamanbaria and Bhairab area.

With immense courage Major Ashoke freed Begum Fazilatunessa Mujib, Sheikh Hasina, Sheikh Rehana, Sheik Russell from a house at Dhanmondi on December 17, 1971 where they were kept under house arrest by the Pakistani occupation force, he added.  Ashoke Tare had been honoured by the Indian Govt with gallantry award `Vir Chakra` for his contribution to the War of Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.  Fajilatunnesa Mujib was killed in a military coup along with other family members, including her husband Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,on  15 August 1975. Hasina and Rehana were visiting Germany, and therefore survived the massacre.

Last July (2011)  The highest Bangladesh award — the Bangladesh Swadhinata Sammanona (Bangladesh Freedom Honour ) — was  conferred on the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for her outstanding contributions to Bangladesh's Liberation War.  The award included a 200 tola gold medal and a citation which read: “Ms. Indira Gandhi stood by the side of the people of Bangladesh from the beginning of the Liberation War despite various adversities. She provided shelter to about one crore Bangladeshi refugees. She provided courage in the Liberation War by facing different diplomatic hurdles. She played a great role in freeing Bangabandhu from Pakistani jail. Her contribution to Bangladesh's Liberation War will be remembered forever.”

These awards sure would promote bonhomie. The Partition of Bengal in 1947 left a poorly demarcated international border between India and Bangladesh (then-East Pakistan). Ownership of several villages on both sides of the de facto border  have remained disputed.  The dispute over the demarcation of the Indo-Bangladeshi border worsened due to the existence of over 190 enclaves.  One of the disputed areas was a small sliver of land near the village of Pyrdiwah which the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) had occupied since the 1971 liberation of Bangladesh.  In 2001 there was a armed conflict nearer the village of Padua (known as Pyrdiwah in India).  There were loss of lives of soldiers and thousands of civilians had to flee. There were also reports that BSF men had been tortured before being killed.   Later  Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina "expressed regrets" over the border skirmish.  Bangladesh ordered no courts martial, suspensions, or transfers of any local commanders.

Awards are welcome, but more than these, the Nation expects friendly neighbourhood and expects that terrorists are not harboured in their land.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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