Amidst current political turmoil in Bangladesh, President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday expressed confidence that the democratic traditions in this country will grow stronger with time and the youth will preserve democracy with their "constant vigil".
"I am confident that democratic traditions in Bangladesh will grow stronger with time and that you will preserve democracy with your constant vigil," he told students at the prestigious Dhaka University after receiving an honorary law degree at a special convocation here this afternoon.
"You have been steadfast. You, better than anyone else, know that democracy means the ability to respect differences and allow the will of the people to prevail for the common good. You know that it means respect for the rule of law and building of strong institutions along with free speech and a vibrant media," 77-year-old Mukherjee said amid applause.
Mukherjee, who arrived in Bangladesh on his first foreign visit as the President, was accorded a rousing welcome by over 10,000 students and staff in an open air pandal.
He reminded students that Bangladesh has embraced democracy largely due to the values and principles which its people held dear when they fought for their independence from Pakistan in 1971.
"Looking at you, I am convinced that the future of Bangladesh is bright. I wish you all every success in making the dream of Sonar Bangla a reality. India will stand by your side as you shape the destiny of your country," he told students of the university, located close to the Shahbag Square – the scene of ongoing massive protests by the youth demanding death penalty for 1971 Independence war criminals.
Bangladesh has been gripped by violent protests after a war crimes tribunal awarded death sentence to fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami's two top leaders.
Another Jamaat leader was sentenced to life, triggering protests from youths and secular forces who demanded death penalty for him as well.
At least 80 people have been killed so far in Bangladesh in clashes that have rocked the nation since the conviction.