Hasina revisits Delhi, her home from 1975-81

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday began her state visit to India with a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi – the city that had also been her home between 1975 and 1981. CORRECTED

Published : 11 Jan 2010, 02:02 AM
Updated : 11 Jan 2010, 02:02 AM
(CORRECTED - Paragraph 15: Please read Hasina and Rehana were staying in Belgium, not West Germany, when they heard of their father's death)
bdnews24.com New Delhi Correspondent
New Delhi, Jan 11 (bdnews24.com) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday began her state visit to India with a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi – the city that had also been her home between 1975 and 1981.
Hasina expressed hope that her visit would strengthen the India-Bangladesh ties. She stressed on bilateral cooperation for the fight against poverty in both the countries.
The media in India as well as old acquaintances remembered her days in New Delhi, when she lived here with her nuclear scientist husband MA Wajed, who died last year, and children Sajeeb and Saima Putul – first at 56 Ring Road in Lajpat Nagar and later at a modest flat at the C Block of Pandara Park here.
As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh formally welcomed her at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the heart of the Lutyens' Delhi, Hasina, herself, too might have remembered her stay in the Indian capital during the tumultuous period that followed her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib's assassination in Dhaka on the fateful night of August 15, 1975.
It is still not clear whether Prime Minister will take some time off from her busy schedule in New Delhi to pay a visit to her old homes at Lajpat Nagar and Pandara Park.
She has a series of official engagements on Monday. Soon after the ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, she went to the Mahatma Gandhi's memorial at Rajghat and paid homage to India's Father of the Nation. Hasina also called on Indian President Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan at noon.
India's Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna India's Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will both call on her at Hotel ITC Maurya on Monday.
Mukherjee, the unofficial "second-in-command" in India's current Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government, has long had a personal family connection with Hasina.
A prominent leader of the Congress party from the Indian state of West Bengal, Mukherjee was a deputy minister in India's the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's Government when Hasina came to Delhi after her father's assassination.
Hasina may on Tuesday meet up with Mukherjee's wife Suvra Mukherjee, one of her close friends since her Delhi days.
DK Bose, a familiar face in football circles of Delhi, was among the ones who still recall meeting Hasina during her time in Delhi.
"I had met her in her Pandara Park residence, possibly in 1980. I had gone with an academician from Dhaka University," said Bose.
Bose recalled discussing a range of topics with Hasina – from political situation in Bangladesh, Bengali literature in Bangladesh and India and off course football.
When Hasina was in Delhi, she was always surrounded by the security guards provided by Indian Government. She was sometimes seen having a quiet lunch or dinner at the Indian International Centre in Lodi Road. A man – A L Khatib – worked as her assistant and he later wrote a book on Sheikh Mujib.
Hasina and Rehana were on a private tour of Europe. On the night of 15-16 August 1975, they were staying in Brussels with Bangladesh ambassador Sanwarul Haq. They were on the point of leaving for Paris, when the news of their family's murder reached them early on the 16th morning.
Hasina then sought refuge in United Kingdom and later, in India. She lived in New Delhi till May 17, 1981, when she was returned to Bangladesh.
She was elected the president of Bangladesh Awami League during her stay in New Delhi itself.
When she was in New Delhi, India too was in turmoil – in a state of emergency from 1975 till 1977.
Hasina first lived at 56 Ring Road in Lajpat Nagar and moved to Pandara Park in December 1975. The 56 Ring Road later became the address of the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi and it was there for quite some time before moving to the more spacious location at the diplomatic area in Chanakyapuri.
"Pandara Park will definitely remain in her mind during her stay in Delhi," journalist Vivek Shukla wrote in an article in Indian newspaper The Pioneer.
Hasina will also meet former Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, on Tuesday, with whom she had developed a good rapport during her first term at the helm of the Bangladesh Government in later 1990s. Gujral, as the chancellor of the Vishwabharti University in Shantiniketan in West Bengal, had in 1999 bestowed on her the varsity's top honour – Deshikottam.
President of the India's Congress party and chairperson of the ruling coalition UPA Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition in Indian Parliament's lower house Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj are also likely to meet her on Monday.
Hasina will meet her Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh at 1730 hrs (Indian Standard Time) on Monday for delegation-level talks. Singh will also host a banquet in honour of Hasina.
After the two prime ministers meet, India and Bangladesh are expected to sign five agreements for mutual legal assistance on criminal matters, transfer of sentenced persons, combating international terrorism, organized crime and illegal drug trafficking, power cooperation and a cultural exchange programme.
Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher