Dhaka: President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday paid rich tribute to the 1971 Liberation War martyrs as he visited the national memorial at Savar near here.
Soon after his arrival in Dhaka on his maiden overseas visit, Mukherjee placed wreaths on the memorial altar and stood in solemn silence for a minute as army bugles played the last post when the national flag was kept half mast and revealed again as part of the ceremony.
The President later wrote in the Visitors` Book that "the National Martyrs memorial symbolises Bangladesh`s struggle for justice, emancipation and independence. It reminds us of the valiant sacrifices made by innumerable men, women and children who fought for their homeland - Sonar Bangla. I pay my deep respect and homage to all those martyrs."
By itself, Mukherjee`s visit to Savar would have passed off as the usual curtain-raiser to any foreign dignitary visit to Bangladesh but its significance in the present circumstances, when there is renewed focus on the spirit and values symbolised by Bangladesh liberation war in the backdrop of the trial of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and the atrocities they are accuse of having committed in collusion with the Pakistan Army in 1971.
Delwar Hossain Sayedee, Jammat vice president, was the third man to be convicted by the domestic war crimes tribunal for setting afire 25 houses in a Hindu village, and abetting the killing of two persons, including a Hindu. In February, the tribunal sentenced Jamaat assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Mollah to life imprisonment.
While angering Jamaat, the verdicts encouraged tens of thousands of secular protestors, mostly youths, who have been staging protests in Shahbag Square demanding capital punishment for Mollah and all others charged by the International Crimes Tribunal of committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity during the 1971 Bangladeshi Liberation War.
Mukherjee himself made a veiled reference to the Shahbag Square movement when he told BSS news agency that it has been seen recently that youths of Bangladesh, inspired by the values and spirit of Liberation War, would determine the future of the country.