Sheikh Mujibur Rahman named for Gandhi Peace Prize after Modi makes an exception

India on Monday named Bangladesh’s father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and Oman’s longtime ruler Sultan Qaboos for the Gandhi Peace Prize, an official statement by the government said.This is the first time that the prestigious prize for 2019 and 2020 has been awarded posthumously.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman was the Middle East’s longest-ruling monarch, and known internationally for his diplomatic balancing in the volatile Persian Gulf. He often served as a facilitator of talks between adversaries, Iran and the U.S. He was a key to meeting India’s energy security needs in the Persian Gulf.

The award carries an amount of Rs. 1 crore, a citation, a plaque and an exquisite traditional handloom item.

The decision to confer the award for 2020 on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, his first foreign trip since the outbreak of Covid-19. PM Modi will attend the national day programme of Bangladesh on March 26 as the guest of honour and participate in the commemoration of what New Delhi has described as “three epochal events” – Mujib Borsho, the birth centenary of Bangladesh’s father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, 50 years of diplomatic ties, and 50 years of Bangladesh’s war of liberation.

PM Modi’s itinerary in Bangladesh includes visits to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s memorial in Tungipara, about 400 km from Dhaka. Tungipara is the place of birth of Mujibur Rahman. It is also also where the architect of the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence lies buried inside a tomb called the ‘Bangabandhu mausoleum’.

PM Modi will also pay respect to Harichand Thakur, the founder of a religious reformation movement Matua Mahasangha at his shrine in Orakandi. On March 27, PM Modi is scheduled to visit the famous Jeshoreshwari Kali temple in Satkhira.

A large number of people from the Matua community migrated from Bangladesh to parts of Bengal and Assam over the last five decades to escape religious persecution. In Bengal, they are mostly concentrated in Nadia, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Kolkata and Hooghly, districts that together have 16 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats.

PM Modi, who heads the jury for the Gandhi Peace Prize, called Bangabandhu a champion of human rights and freedom, and is a hero to Indians as well.

An official statement said the prestigious award “recognizes the immense and unparalleled contribution of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in inspiring the liberation of Bangladesh, bringing stability to a nation born out of strife, laying the foundation for the close and fraternal relations between India and Bangladesh, and promoting peace and non-violence in the Indian subcontinent”.

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