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Nazrul balm on Bangla, N-heat from Lanka

- Senior minister to pay tribute to poet after slip-up last year

New Delhi, April 9: India doesn’t want to repeat a mistake it made last year when it launched Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations jointly with Bangladesh but forgot to honour Kazi Nazrul Islam.

A senior cabinet minister is slated to travel to Dhaka in the second half of next month to attend the 113th birth anniversary celebrations of Nazrul, sources said.

The trip will follow that of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee who is scheduled to visit Bangladesh in the first week of May to attend the closing ceremony of the year-long Tagore celebrations. The events related to Nazrul will take place in Dhaka on May 24-25.

Vice-President Hamid Ansari had opened the Tagore celebrations in Dhaka with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in early May last year.

But embarrassingly for Ansari and the Indian delegation, Bangladesh Opposition leader Khaleda Zia had reminded them how India had ignored the memory of Nazrul, described as the “rebel poet” for his poems urging people to stand up against the British.

Khaleda had told Ansari that New Delhi should also honour Nazrul, who was officially declared Bangladesh’s national poet but was born in Bengal and spent much of his life in India. He died in Dhaka in August 1976 at the age of 77.

The planned trip of a senior Indian minister for Nazrul’s anniversary celebrations is, therefore, being viewed by many as part of New Delhi’s attempt to squash suggestions of a bias in the way it looks at Bangladesh and its icons.

Last week, foreign minister S.M. Krishna wrote to Dhaka thanking the Hasina government for having recently honoured Indians who took part in the Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War.

But the gesture had come in for criticism from former diplomats and retired army officers who felt Krishna’s ministry should have sent the note of appreciation immediately after the March 27 felicitations, not six days later.

The leading article in the April 6 edition of The Telegraph had highlighted the tardiness of India’s response and suggested it could be seen by Sheikh Hasina’s rivals, who have always dubbed her India’s “stooge”, as a half-hearted gesture and could be used to embarrass her.

Sources said the decision to send a senior minister to Dhaka for the Nazrul-related events should be seen in that context. New Delhi, they said, didn’t want to give any more ammunition to Khaleda, who stepped up her attacks on the Hasina government since the Teesta water-sharing agreement was put off following Mamata Banerjee’s objections last year.

The sources said an early conclusion of the Teesta agreement was unlikely. But the Centre is hoping that Parliament will soon ratify the agreement on border enclaves signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka last September.

Finance minister Mukherjee is likely to discuss trade- related issues with his Bangladeshi counterpart during his Dhaka visit early next month. Bangladesh foreign minister Dipu Moni is likely to visit India after Mukherjee’s Dhaka trip to further discuss bilateral co- operation.