The citation of Dhaka University’s honorary doctorate for Pranab Mukherjee has described him as the “First Bengali president of India”, who got the degree on Monday at a function attended by 10,000 students.
“For me personally, this is an emotional journey. I have my roots in the soil of Bengal, and have imbibed its language, traditions and culture,” the President in his acceptance speech.
“My wife was born in Narail (a district in south-west Bangladesh) and started her education here. I have grown up reading the compositions of the same poets as you, listening to the same songs which both our people love,” Mukherjee said.
All members in the President’s delegation — Sitaram Yechury of the CPM, Mukul Roy (Trinamool Congress), Chandan Mitra (BJP), Bhubaneswar Kalita (Congress) and Adhir Chowdhury (Congress) — are either from West Bengal or can speak Bengali.
While emotion was palpable in the events surrounding Mukherjee’s visit, pragmatism too ruled. The President reiterated India’s commitment to the early conclusion of the Teesta water-sharing pact and the land-boundary agreement.
In his speech, the President said his government proposed to introduce a constitutional amendment bill in Parliament to give effect to the provisions of the land boundary agreement.
“The sharing of the waters of our common rivers is high priority. We are hopeful of arriving at an early accord on the sharing of the Teesta waters.”
At the museum dedicated to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the liberator of Bangladesh, the president wrote in the visitors’ book: “He fought for their rights and dignity in one of the most profound liberation struggles of the twentieth century ... I salute this great visionary...”