Why Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Delhi will be a homecoming

- September 8, 2023

The city had given her refuge and provided her with support after the assassination of her father, mother and several other family members back in 1975

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina

Many heads of state who will visit the national capital to attend the G20 Summit have been to Delhi, possibly several times, in the past. But very few would have seen the city evolve gradually over the past 50 years, like Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. 

The Bangladesh PM first landed in Delhi way back in 1975, after the city gave Hasina and her family refuge following the murder of her father and the first President of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, mother, three brothers and several other family members on August 15, 1975 in Dhaka. 

Hasina escaped death as she was in Germany with her husband, M.A. Wazed Miah, and their children. 

Delhi also gave her friends in the form of Suvra Mukherjee and her husband and former President of India, Pranab Kumar Mukherjee. 

CLOSE TIES: Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was good friends with Bangladesh founder and Sheikh Hasina’s father Mujibur Rahman

The Mukherjee couple had given her a shoulder to cry on after she was granted political asylum between 1975 and 1981 by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was a close friend of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. 

While in Delhi, Hasina was allotted a spacious house in Central Delhi’s Pandara Park. The house was guarded round-the-clock by policemen in plainclothes and R&AW officers. It is said that those were the days when Sheikh Hasina and the Mukherjee family became very close. She would later make a point of visiting the Mukherjee family house on Talkatora Road. 

Suvra and Hasina used to have long discussions on art, music and literature. Both were fond of the works of Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam, as told to this writer by DK Bose, president of the Hindustan football club. Bose passed away during the second wave of the pandemic. 

FAMILY BONDS: The friendship between Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and former President Pranab Mukherjee’s wife extended to their younger generations as well

Pranab Mukherjee and Hasina’s late husband, M. A. Wazed Miah, a nuclear scientist, also became close friends. Wazed was engaged in research work at the New Delhibased laboratory of the Atomic Energy Commission of India. According to Manmohan Sharma, a veteran journalist, “During her stay in Delhi, Sheikh Hasina even started working for the Bangla service of the All India Radio (AIR). She was quiet and almost an apolitical person though her father was the founder of Bangladesh.” 

Some say the government did not cut corners when it came to providing for her family. Even the children of Sheikh Hasina and the Mukherjees grew up together. 

Hasina’s two children, Sajeeb Wazed ‘Joy’ and Saima Wazed ‘ Putul’, and Suvra’s children, Sharmistha Mukherjee, Abhijit Mukherjee and Indrajit Mukherjee, used to play together. They had regular picnics at the India Gate lawns. 

Saima Wazed and Sharmishta Mukherjee, now a Congress leader, are said to be very close friends. Now, Saima Wazed is based in Canada, while Joy is settled in the United States of America. 

He attended St. Joseph’s College in Nainital and Kodaikanal International School in Palani Hills, Tamil Nadu. Hasina’s son studied computer science at the University of Bangalore, then transferred to the University of Texas at Arlington in the US, where he graduated with a B.Sc. in computer engineering. 

Sheikh Hasina had briefly lived at 56 Ring Road, Lajpat Nagar-3 and later at Pandara Park. Actually, the Lajpat Nagar house was the High Commission of Bangladesh before it shifted to Chankaypuri. “I vividly recall when the Bangladesh High Commission was in Lajpat Nagar. Most of the staff members of the mission used to stay in and around Lajpat Nagar, Defence Colony and in south Delhi colonies,” said Deepak Joshi, a businessman and an old resident of Lajpat Nagar. It is said that Sheikh Hasina’s younger sister, Sheikh Rehana, is also very close to the Mukherjees. 

The bonhomie between Sheikh Hasina and Suvra Mukherjee continued even after Hasina left Delhi for Bangladesh. On her visit to Delhi in 2010, Sheikh Hasina broke the protocol to visit Suvara Mukherjee’s home on Talkatora Road. It was bonhomie of West and East Bengal at its best. The Bengal bonhomie was complete with the then Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee gifting Nalli sarees (from South India, not Bengal) and sweets to the Bangladesh Prime Minister. 

On one instance, Karol Bagh Bang Sabha and Minto Road Puja Samiti held a massive protest march in front of the Pakistan High Commission when the armed forces of Pakistan massacred lakhs of people in the then ‘East Pakistan’, where they also invited Hasina. 

She declined the invitation. However, she appreciated the organisers’ concern for the people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). 

When Suvra Mukherjee passed away in 2015, Sheikh Hasina came to attend the last rites of her friend with her daughter, Saima. She was received at the Airport by Sharmistha Mukherjee. 

Once, D.K. Bose met Sheikh Hasina at her Pandara Park house. He used to say, “When she was in Delhi, her Awami party leaders used to visit her to persuade her to take up the party’s mantle. She was not very keen, though she later agreed.” While in Delhi, she was declared the head of the Awami League. In Delhi, A.L. Khatib used to work as an assistant to Hasina. Khatib has authored a book, ‘Who Killed Mujib?’. It is considered one of the most authentic accounts of the killing of Mujib and his family.” 

An imprint of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founder, in Delhi is said to have made Sheikh Hasina happy. In 2017, the Indian government named a prominent road in New Delhi after the founder of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Road is located in Central Delhi near RML Hospital. It was earlier known as Park Street. 

IN HONOUR: In 2017, the Indian government named a prominent New Delhi road after Bangladesh’s first President Sheikh Mujbur Rahman

“Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a dear friend of India and a towering leader. As a mark of our respect and deep admiration for the father of Bangladesh, a prominent road in our capital city has been named after him,” Prime Minister Modi had said while making the announcement. 

While the national capital may have changed greatly over the last 48 years since the 25-year-old future Bangladesh Prime Minister was here, in a way, Delhi will always remain her second home. And the G20 Summit visit will be her homecoming.