PM Modi starts Bangladesh tour with homage to 1971 martyrs

Dhaka: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday began his historic two-day visit to Bangladesh by paying homage to the martyrs of the 1971 War of Liberation in which India had helped.

He also visited the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum dedicated to Bangladesh founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. As soon as he arrived here on the visit, Modi drove straight to 'Jatiyo Smriti Shoudho' (National Martyrs' Memorial) from airport to pay homage to the thousands who laid down their lives fighting for freedom from Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi waves as he leaves the plane on his arrival at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on June 6, 2015. Pic/PTIIndian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi waves as he leaves the plane on his arrival at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on June 6, 2015. Pic/PTI

Army bugle played the last post as Modi stood in solemn silence for some time in front of the memorial located in Savar, about 35 km north-west of Dhaka. As part of the military ritual, the Bangladesh flag was hoisted and lowered to the half mast as the Indian premier offered wreaths at the altar.

The Indian premier planted a sapling at the memorial premises and signed the visitors¿ book there. "Beginning the visit by paying homage to the martyrs of the Liberation War of 1971," he tweeted. "Foundation Stone for Jatiyo Smriti Shoudho was laid by Bangabandhu himself. Design was chosen from various entries obtained in a competition," Modi added in another tweet. He noted that the memorial consists of 7 distinct triangles indicating 7 stages of the national movement of Bangladesh that led to its Independence.

The monument is composed of seven isosceles triangular pyramid shaped structures, with the middle one being the tallest at 150 feet. There is an artificial lake and several mass graves in front of the main monument. A number of senior Bangladesh ministers, including Finance Minister A M A Muhith, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed and Agriculture Minister Moti Choudhury accompanied Modi when he visited the memorial.

Earlier, on his arrival, Modi tweeted, "Hello Bangladesh. I bring with me the affection & goodwill of the people of India." Modi arrived in Dhaka to a red carpet welcome on his maiden visit. Breaking protocol, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received him at the airport.

At the Bangabandhu museum, Modi took a round for about 20 minutes, seeing the personal belongings of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The three-storey building was originally the residence of Rahman from 1961 till his assassination in the early hours of August 15, 1975 and was later converted into a musuem. Rahman's eldest daughter Hasina is the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

"After tributes to the Martyrs, paying respects to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Bangabandhu Memorial Museum," the PMO tweeted. "I pay homage to the men, women and children who made the ultimate sacrifice for their motherland," Modi wrote on the visitor's book kept at the memorial.

At the museum, Bangabandhu's grandson Sheikh Rezwan Siddiqui and leaders of the Bangabandhu Memorial Trust welcomed him and escorted him to different parts of the house. "Memorial gives impression of rising from the ashes like a phoenix. It symbolises courage & determination of people," the Indian Prime Minister said.

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