Hon’ble Planning Minister, Bangladesh, Air Vice Marshal (retd.) AK Khandekar addressing at the National Commemoration of 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore

On 7th May 2011 at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi

It's a great privilege and honour for me to be here in Delhi at the inaugural session of the joint programme of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, one of the greatest minds of all times. The occasion is significant because the event is being celebrated in our two countries under the joint sponsorship.We felt honoured to inaugurate the year long joint programme yesterday in Dhaka with the gracious presence of the Hon’ble Vice President of India.

Bangladesh and India share a common heritage that dates back to antiquity. For thousands of years the people of these two lands have shared common cultural, linguistic, religious and social bonds that have ensured that not only their past but also their future destinies are forever intertwined. We have a shared history of struggle against colonialism and exploitation. More recently that shared heritage has manifested itself in commonality of values such as faith in democracy and secularism.

Today, as we jointly celebrate the 150th Birth Anniversary of one of the greatest sons of our subcontinent, I feel proud and privileged to be a part of a unique point in history. It was my privilege to be part of another great event in the annals of history in 1971, when I joined our glorious War of Liberation.

That part of Bangladesh’s history is also to be jointly celebrated with India, since the spontaneous support that we received from the government and the people of India, can never be forgotten by the people of Bangladesh. The courage and spirit of sacrifice displayed by the people of India, particularly the visionary leadership of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who announced her recognition of Bangladesh as an independent and sovereign nation even before the war ended, can perhaps never be fully reciprocated by the people of Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was greatly imbibed with the ideals of the great poet. From Rabindranath, Bangabandhu derived his spirit, strength and courage, his profound love for the country, and his vision of the distinctiveness of Bengali language, literature and culture. From Rabindranath he got his concept of Sonar  Bangla ( Golden Bengal ) that he dreamt of creating to bring peace and happiness to the “down-trodden” people of the then East Pakistan. The poet used to refer to Bengal as Bangladesh. It was Bangabandhu who first decided to rename East Pakistan as Bangladesh. And it is, therefore, no wonder that he adopted Rabindranath’s Amar Sonar Bangla as our national anthem.

We, the people of Bangladesh, are proud of Rabindranath Tagore. He was a Bangali. That a Bangali was the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize makes us extremely proud. For the people of Bangladesh Rabindranath Tagore will remain a beckoning light not only for the glorification of our victory over injustice but also for illuminating our path toward progress and emancipation from ignorance and poverty for the establishment of Sonar Bangla, the Golden Bengal.

We in Bangladesh firmly believe that for our region to develop and achieve peace and stability, it must be free from the scourge of terrorism and extremism. To this end the government of Sheikh Hasina has launched an uncompromising fight against terrorism, extremism and militancy.

She has also assured India that Bangladesh will not allow its soil to be used by elements working against the interest of any country.

He is the only person ever to have written the national anthems of two nations one for India and another for Bangladesh. He was truly a poet-laureate of the world as would be evident from his messages of peace, harmony and universal humanism. He was also a great philosopher.

Rabindranath Tagore dreamt of a world free of strife and bitterness, a world free from economic exploitation and political suppression, a world free from ignorance and hunger, and a world in which all nations will live in peace and harmony.

Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry became most innovative and mature after his exposure to rural life and culture of Shelidah, Shahjadpur and Potisor of present Bangladesh. It included songs sung by Baul singers, especially Lalan Shah, the iconic mystic poet of Bangladesh. He drew heavily on these songs to emphasise inward divinity and rebellion against religious and social orthodoxy. Rabindranath Tagore found a meeting point of time and the timeless.

To understand how tradition unfolds from the past through the present to motivate and inspire a great poet, we have to understand how Rabindranath creates the timeless while it seems that he is only responding to his environment in his own inimitable way. Rabindranath revolutionised Bengali music with his numerous multidimensional songs. The central themes of all these songs are unique, original and innovative – unparalleled in tune, melody and aesthetic excellence.

That world is still conspicuous by its absence. That is why this joint celebration of Rabindranath’s 150th Birth Anniversary calls for a fresh resolution for all of us to respond to his messages for peace, harmony and universal brotherhood. Bangladesh and India are collaborating in different areas of mutual interest. We may set before us a new task to popularise Rabindranath’s works in our respective countries and beyond, and we may set up such institutions as may create opportunities for conducting research on Rabindranath and for the cultivation of the various arts that he created. Rabindranath Tagore will remain a beacon light to humanity for all time to come

Ladies and gentlemen thank you all very much.