Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bangladesh Govt. Honours Foreign Supporters of the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971

L-R: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, President Zillur Rahman 
and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni at the awarding ceremony 
of foreigners in Dhaka
Photo courtesy: bdnews24.com

In an elaborate ceremony on March 27 at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka, the Government of Bangladesh honoured 83 foreigners and foreign organizations for their roles in 1971 supporting the independence movement of Bangladesh, report Bangladesh news sources.

In 1971, Bangladesh (former East Pakistan) was engaged in deadly war of independence with the military ruling elite of West Pakistan (presently called Pakistan). After a nine-month war, Bangladesh gained independence on December 16, 1971.

Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave the awards in two categories – (1) Bangladesh Liberation War Honour (for foreign heads of states) and (2) Friends of Liberation War Honour (for foreign persons from different walks of life and foreign organizations). 

The recipients of the awards were heads of states, ministers, lawmakers, artistes, humanitarian activists, lawyers, military officers and personnel, journalists and writers. They come from Bhutan, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Soviet Union (presently Russia), Sweden, United Kingdom, U.S.A. and former Yugoslavia. 

President Zillur Rahman, speaking on the occasion, said: “Bangladesh is grateful to recognize contributions of the country’s foreign friends and well-wishers who whole-heartedly supported the war of independence and rendered invaluable endeavour of freedom from their respective positions.” “Their precious inspiration and support put impetus to achieve our victory,” he said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said: “They gave us all sorts of help available – food, shelter, medicine, and even military training. Most importantly, they gave greater voice to our legitimate cause, facilitated our access to global media, mobilized public opinion and financial support…Their moral and logistics support had been a constant source of inspiration for our valiant freedom fighters.”

Among these honorees were four foreign Roman Catholic missionaries who dedicated their life for the service to the people of Bangladesh. These missionaries are: Father Mario Veronesi, S.X. (from Italy) who was shot dead by West Pakistani army personnel for giving shelter and treating internal refugees in Jessore after March 25 and later military attack on ordinary citizens, many of whom were Hindus; Father William P. Evans, CSC (from the USA) who was also killed by West Pakistani military personnel for helping internal refugees and supporting freedom fighters in their efforts in Golla-Bandura area of Dhaka District; Father Richard W. Timm, CSC (from the USA) who assisted many East Pakistanis in different ways in different areas of East Pakistan and created public opinion in the USA in favour of the Bangladesh war of independence; and Father Eugene E. Homrich, CSC (from the USA) who gave shelter and fed innumerable East Pakistanis in Jalchatra-Pirgacha area of Tangail District and helped create public opinion in the USA in support of the freedom struggle in East Pakistan. 

All the 83 award recipients, many dead and some alive today, saw the West Pakistan army's blatant atrocities, injustices and total disregard for life in East Pakistan during the nine-month liberation war in 1971. Their conscience moved them to support the cause of the East Pakistani victims in different ways. There's no doubt that their voice and action against this genocidal war were a tremendous source of encouragement and inspiration to the East Pakistanis. 

The complete list of the first batch of the award recipients can be viewed at: The Awardees. More of such awards will follow in future.

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