Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday requested India for help in urging Myanmar to take Rohingya Muslim refugees back, ANI reported. She said her country had allowed the refugees to enter on humanitarian grounds, but wants to repatriate them as soon as possible.
Hasina is on a two-day visit to West Bengal, and was speaking at the convocation ceremony of Visva Bharati University. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart arrived in Santiniketan to attend the ceremony. Visva Bharati is the only central university with the prime minister as its chancellor.
Modi said India and Bangladesh have written a “golden chapter” in recent years by solving issues that were earlier considered impossible to solve. The two prime ministers inaugurated the Bangladesh Bhavan museum inside the campus, ANI reported. The Rs 25-crore museum, dedicated to the 1971 war, is funded by Bangladesh.
The two leaders are likely to hold bilateral meetings later in the day. Hasina will also visit the ancestral home of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in Kolkata.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was also present on the occasion, and was the first chief minister to be invited for the ceremony since the 1970s, The Indian Express reported.
Meanwhile, Banerjee expressed her displeasure at the decision to defer the Desikottam award, the highest award given by the university to eminent personalities. Sabuj Kali Sen, the vice chancellor of the university, said on Thursday that the ceremony was being deferred because of paucity of time, PTI reported. Modi was supposed to give away the award.
In May, the institution’s academic council had approved the Desikottam award for actor Amitabh Bachchan, author Amitav Ghosh and poet Gulzar, among others.
Banerjee said she was shocked at the ceremony being postponed. “I am unhappy,” she said. “Those who were supposed to get the award are not getting it. Amitabh Bachchan’s name was there, Dwijen Mukherjee’s name was there. They are above politics. They deserve it. They should have got it.”
She added: “I do not want to go into the reasons why they are not getting the award. I am shocked.”
The university has not given any official explanation for deferring the ceremony.
Modi apologises for lack of water in Santiniketan
Modi urged the students of Visva Bharati to turn 100 villages around Santiniketan self-sufficient to mark the central university’s centenary in 2021. The prime minister also apologised for the non-availability of drinking water in Santiniketan. “As I was coming by car, some children gestured to me that they don’t even have drinking water,” Modi said. “As the chancellor, I tender my apology.”