President Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Bangladesh to a red-carpet
welcome and 21-gun salute even as 14 people were killed in fresh
clashes Sunday over the death sentence given to a top Islamist
Mukherjee, on his first trip abroad as India's head of state, was
received by President Zillur Rahman at the Hazrat Shahjalal
The president is accompanied by his wife Suvra Mukherjee and an
official delegation, including Minister of State for Railways
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and four
MPs. A special decorated stage was erected on the tarmac with
soldiers standing around to welcome Mukherjee. Several Bangladeshi
ministers, including Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, were present at
the airport to welcome Mukherjee.
The opposition Jamaat-e-Islami has called a general strike March
3-5, coinciding with the president's visit, to protest the
conviction of JI chief Delwar Hossain Sayedee for the 1971 war
crimes, including rape and genocide.
Nearly 60 people have been killed so far in the clashes between
police and Jamaat supporters, including its student wing, Islami
The streets of Dhaka are calm, but the visiting journalists have
been advised not to venture out alone, but go in groups. The
violence has mostly been concentrated in Hindu-dominated Noakhali
and in Chittagong, said an official.
On Sunday, 14 people, including a police constable, were killed
when activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami
Chhatra Shibir and supporters of convicted Sayedee clashed with
police in five districts.
Ahead of the visit, to a question on the security situation
keeping in mind the president's visit, Foreign Secretary Ranjan
Mathai had said in New Delhi: "The overall security situation in
Bangladesh is completely calm..."
"We have done a lot of preparations for the visit... advance teams
have gone to Bangladesh to prepare for the visit. The overall
situation has been carefully examined, and it would be appropriate
to carry out the visit."
"The visit is to convey that India is stands strongly behind
Bangladesh in this time of trouble," said a source.
After landing at the airport, Mukherjee flew in a chopper to the
National Martyr's Memorial at Savar, around 30 km away. He laid a
wreath on the memorial, planted a sapling and signed on the
In his message, the president said that the National Martyrs'
Memorial "symbolizes 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."
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who had personally invited Mukherjee
to visit Dhaka, as well as Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and Finance
Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith are to call on Mukherjee
separately at the Hotel Pan Pacific Sonargaon where he is staying.
(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at email@example.com)