B’desh keen to protect Mukti Yoddhas’ graveyards, training camps in Tripura

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The Bangladesh government “keenly wants” to protect the graveyards, training camps of “Mukti Yoddhas” (freedom fighters) and other commemorative houses and installations of Tripura, where around 15 lakh Bangladeshi refugees — a number almost equal the state’s then population of around 16 lakh — also took shelter during the nine-month long 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

Assistant High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Agartala, Mohammad Jobayed Hosen said that there are many graveyards, training camps of Bangladesh “Mukti Yoddhas” in all the eight districts of Tripura, and the Bangladesh government is keen to develop and protect them for the future generation.

“At our government cost we want to build a ‘Shaheed Minar’ (martyrs’ memorial) in Agartala. I have also discussed this with Tripura’s Education and Law Minister Ratan Lal Nath,” Hosen told IANS.

He said as India helped a lot in the Bangladesh Liberation War, and provided shelter and training to the “Mukti Yoddhas”, the protection of the graveyards, training camps and erection of the ‘Shaheed Minar’ would be “very imperative” for the continued friendship of the two good neighbours and the upcoming generations as well.

Bangladesh Liberation War expert and writer Swapan Bhattacharjee said that there are many private and government houses in Tripura used by the “Mukti Yoddhas” for numerous purposes including functioning of camp office in 1971, these should be protected for obvious reasons.

The Mukti Yoddhas’ biggest training camp in bordering Melaghar, hospitals in Habul Banerjee garden in Nalchar and Dhajanagar, training camp at Palatana and many graveyards, where Bangladesh “Mukti Yoddhas” had buried must be preserved so that future generation of the two countries could know about the history,” Bhattacharjee, who was conferred by the Bangladesh government’s “Friends of Liberation War Honour” in 2013, told IANS.

He said that the Pakistan army had tried many times to blow up all the camp offices and important training centres “Mukti Yoddhas” in Tripura but they failed.

Tripura Minister Nath said that the state government has no objection in protecting the graveyards, training camps and construction of ‘Shaheed Minar’ in Agartala, but these needs government of India permission.

“We are always sympathetic and supportive to Bangladesh. For each others’ progress, continued support is necessary,” Nath told IANS.

As Tripura is surrounded by Bangladesh on almost all four sides, strategically the state’s various setups played an extremely vital role during the Bangladesh Liberation War.

“In the Eastern Frontier of 1971 war, major operations like Operation Cactus Lily and Operation Nut Cracker took place — and the 57 Mountain Division was actively involved in both operations,” said Manas Paul, a defence analyst.

Both the operations progressed from Agartala westwards towards Dhaka. The war finally culminated on December 16, 1971 with the unconditional surrender of 93,000 Pakistani soldiers.

“Lt Gen Sagat Singh, Maj Gen JFR Jacob, Maj Gen BF Gonsalves, Vice Admiral N Krishnan, Lance Naik Albert Ekka are a few of our war heroes,” Paul told IANS.

He underscored the valiant sacrifices made by the officers and soldiers of the Indian Army, especially Lance Naik Albert Ekka of 14 Guards regiment.

Paul said: “The Indian Army, accompanied by the people of the then East Pakistan, fought the war most effectively and decisively for Bangladesh Liberation.”

Tripura’s capital city Agartala, and other bordering towns of the state, had played crucial role as those places were the launch pad for the main offensive into Bangladesh.

“Local residents of Tripura played a huge role by providing support to the Indian Army and Mukti Yoddhas,” he added.

Paul said: “Around 15 lakhs Bangladeshi refugees — a number equal the state’s then population of around 16 lakh — had taken shelter in Tripura alone. During the war, 10 million men, women and children from then East Pakistan took shelter in West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya.”

The Bangladesh Liberation War later turned into a full-scale India-Pakistan war, leading to the surrender of 93,000 Pakistani soldiers in Dacca (now Dhaka) on December 16, 1971.

India was the first country to recognise Bangladesh as a sovereign nation.

The Tripura government has already developed a big memorial and park at the border village of Chottakhola — 132 km south of Agartala — in memory of the Indian soldiers and Bangladeshi freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives during the war.

Former Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar inaugurated the park and memorial in 2017, which was built on 20.20 hectares of land over an eight-year period at a cost of Rs 7 crore.

Five Indian states — West Bengal (2,216 km), Tripura (856 km), Meghalaya (443 km), Mizoram (318 km) and Assam (263 km) share a 4,096-km border with Bangladesh.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

20211215-164912

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