During his recent visit to Bangladesh, his first international trip since the pandemic, a particular statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has caused quite a stir.
“I must have been 20-22 years old when my colleagues and I participated in the Satyagraha for Bangladesh’s freedom. I even courted arrest for the same,” Modi said while addressing the golden jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh's Independence and the birth centenary of its founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Dhaka. Modi was speaking in the presence of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Since that statement, political circles and, of course, social media have been abuzz with many disbelieving the Prime Minister's claims. However, this was not the first time that he made the assertion.
Modi 1971 Arrest Mentioned In Biography
Modi courting arrest during the 1971 Bangladesh War was mentioned by him in conversation with author Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, who penned his biography ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times’.
In the book, Modi described the Satyagraha during the 1971 Bangladesh War as one of the starting points of his political career.
“By that time, the 1971 war was on. I would come to New Delhi during that period. There was a Satyagraha going on for sometime. I participated in the Satyagraha to go and join the war there. But instead of sending us to the war front, the government arrested us and sent us to Tihar Jail,” Modi is quoted in the book.
Mukhopadhyay, later, mentioned the incident in an article on Modi that he wrote for the Economic Times.
“Modi’s first known political activity as an adult was in 1971 when he joined a Jana Sangh satyagraha in Delhi led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee to enlist for the battlefield. But the government disallowed open support to Mukti Bahini and Modi was put in Tihar Jail for a short period. He became an RSS Pracharak in less than a year and was initially given the charge of managing menial jobs at the RSS headquarter in Ahmedabad. Within a year or two, he rose in hierarchy. By the time the Navnirman agitation snowballed into a political crisis for Mrs Gandhi, Modi was entrusted with crucial responsibilities,” Mukhopadhyay wrote in the article.
Political War Over Modi’s Claim
Responding to the Prime Minister, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted to say that “everyone knew who liberated Bangladesh”.
“International education: our PM is giving Bangladesh a taste of Indian ‘fake news’. The absurdity is that everyone knows who liberated Bangladesh,” Tharoor tweeted on 26 March.
Later, however, he apologised, saying that his reaction was based on “quick reading of headlines and tweets”.
“I don't mind admitting when I'm wrong. Yesterday, on the basis of a quick reading of headlines &tweets, I tweeted "everyone knows who liberated Bangladesh," implying that @narendramodi ad omitted to acknowledge Indira Gandhi. It turns out he did. Sorry,” said Tharoor in another tweet on 27 March.
Congress leader, Jairam Ramesh too, took a dig at Modi.
BJP leader Amit Malviya, however, dismissed the ‘allegations’ as many trended #LieLikeModi on Twitter.