The World Peace Council Presidential Committee at its closing session held in Berlin on 10 October 1972 took a unanimous decision to award its highest honour ‘Juliot-Curie Gold Medal for Peace’ to the leader of the Bangladesh Liberation struggle, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The Council had also, in a special message to the UN Secretary General and to the President of the 27th UN General Assembly, called upon all its member nations to accept the application of Bangladesh for full membership of the United Nations in the interest of peace and the universality of the world body.
We know that though the World Peace Council announced the award of the Juliot-Curie Gold Medal for Peace to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in October 1972, but the award was physically handed over to Bangabandhu on 23 May 1973 at the inaugural ceremony of the Asian Peace Conference held in Dhaka. While pinning the gold medal on Bangabandhu’s coat (popularly known as Mujib coat), Mr. Ramesh Chandra, the Secretary General of the World Peace Council, described Bangabandhu as “a man of peace, a man of independence and a man of the world”.
Inaugurating the 3-day Asian Peace Conference, Bangabandhu announced that Bangladesh did not believe in arm race. On this occasion, Bangabandhu gave a short speech. In his speech, he first welcomed the peace fighters who had come from various parts of the world to attend the first Asian Peace Conference held on the holy land of independence Bangladesh built by the blood of millions of martyrs. He said, “We have snatched our national independence at the cost of the lives of three million martyrs by resisting the naked attack of the colonial rule and exploitation. To the people of Bangladesh, peace and independence have become one and the same. We deeply understand the importance of world peace, particularly regional peace.”
He mentioned the award as the recognition of the struggle of the 75 million people of the Bengali nation for peace. In this context, he said, “Against this background, you, the fellow representatives of the world peace movement, have awarded me the ‘Juliot Curie’ Peace Medal. This honour is not for any particular person. This honour is for the martyrs who had sacrificed their lives in the war of independence, the heroic fighters of the independent war, the Juliot Curie Peace Medal is for the entire Bengali nation. This is for the 75 million people of my country. The people of this country have shown sympathy with the world peace movement in the same way as the World Peace Council declared its solidarity with us during the most difficult times of Bangladesh”
In his speech, he mentioned his participation in the first Peace Conference of the Asia and Pacific region held in Peking in 1952 as a delegate. He also said that he had attended the conference of the World Peace Council held in Stockholm in 1956. At the same time, he mentioned it very clearly that world peace was the basic principle of his philosophy of life. He would always remain by the side of the oppressed, tortured, exploited, peace and freedom-loving people, wherever they might be. He said, “We want peace in all parts of the world, to be consolidated.” He also said that a crisis had been created as a result of the arms races of the major powers, especially some of the superpowers pursuing policy of aggression
Referring to the basic aspects of Bangladesh’s state structure and foreign policy, Bangabandhu said, “We want the money being spent for arms race to be diverted for the welfare of the poor people throughout the world. Then the task of eliminating the curse of poverty from the world will be much easier. We, as the citizens of the world, seek the friendship of all the countries and nations of the world for the welfare of all the exploited and oppressed people of the world instead of all kinds of arms races. We believe in the principles of friendship towards all, malice towards none and peaceful co-existence.” He stated that in the policy of peaceful co-existence, a foreign policy of positive non-alignment was being pursued and all military blocs were being avoided. It was not just the policy of the government, but was one of the precepts of the Constitution of Bangladesh to strengthen international peace and solidarity. He mentioned that the Constitution of Bangladesh was based on four pillars- nationalism, democracy, socialism and secularism. Bangabandhu said, “We want to establish a society free from exploitation on the basis of this ideology.”
Who can pronounce such words so boldly except a person who is imbued with and inspired by the mantra of peace and freedom? His intense desire to eliminate arms race from the world, to free people from the curse of poverty, and to establish a society free from exploitation had clearly been manifested here. In fact, it was the dream of Bangabandhu to establish such a society in the world where people would live in peace and only in peace.
Bangabandhu wholeheartedly supported the just struggle of the freedom seeking people of the world, whether that struggle was in Africa, Latin America or any part of Asia. In his speech, he mentioned, “We have realised the value of national independence and sovereignty in the light of our liberation struggle. We know that the just struggle of the freedom seeking people cannot be stopped by force of arms. That is why we have extended unwavering support to all anti-colonial struggles in the world, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau. We express our grief at the illegal occupation of the Arab territories by Israel. We unequivocally condemn the racist policies in all parts of the world, including South Africa. We support any great effort for world peace, disarmament and human welfare.”
Mentioning the joint efforts of Bangladesh and India for establishment of lasting peace in the sub-continent, Bangabandhu said, “We have been striving for lasting peace in the sub-continent from the very beginning as world peace and human welfare is one of our basic principles. But it is a matter of regret that our efforts were not successful due to Pakistan’s hostile attitude. Pakistan has repeatedly refused to accept the new realities of the sub-continent.” In this context, he mentioned the Indo-Bangladesh joint declaration of 17 April and said that the declaration proposed a solution to humanitarian problems aimed at creating an environment conducive to finding a source for establishment of lasting peace. Instead of responding favourably to the proposal, Pakistan retaliated by holding innocent Bengalis staying there in detention. Thus, Pakistan’s stubborn policy was becoming an obstacle to lasting peace in the sub-continent. Not only that, some corners were re-equipping Pakistan with new weapons. Undoubtedly, it could be an obstacle in the way of any good initiative for establishment of lasting peace. Finally, he drew the attention of the world on this matter and concluded his speech.
A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman, The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary
Daily Sun, 21 May, 2020 Link