Bhupen’s Bharat Ratna tied to Bill

Son says accepting or rejecting it depends on Citizenship Act amendment

Tez Hazarika, the U.S.-based son of music maestro Bhupen Hazarika, has said that accepting or rejecting the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award bestowed posthumously on his father, depends on “how the Centre moves” on the issue of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Assam and the other northeastern States are opposed to the Bill that seeks to fast-track the process of granting citizenship to non-Muslims who took refuge in India after fleeing religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan up to December 31, 2014.

The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in January and awaits its fate in the Rajya Sabha.

“I believe that my father’s name and words are being invoked and celebrated publicly while plans are afoot to pass a painfully unpopular Bill regarding citizenship that is actually undermining his documented position. It would, in reality, be in direct opposition to what Bupenda believed in his heart of hearts,” Mr. Haziraka said in a statement, a copy of which was received by The Hindu .

“For his fans — a vast majority of people of the Northeast — and India’s great diversity including all indigenous populations of India, he would never have endorsed what appears, quite transparently, to be an underhanded way of pushing a law against the will and benefit of the majority in a manner that also seems to be grossly unconstitutional, undemocratic and un-Indian,” he said.

Big question

He said many have been asking whether or not he would accept the Bharat Ratna for his father.

“I have not received any invitation so far (so) there is nothing to reject, and how the Centre moves on this matter (Bill) far outweighs in importance the awarding and receiving of such national recognition — a display of short-lived cheap thrills,” he said.

Padma Shri returned

A few days ago, Manipur-based film-maker and music composer Aribam Shyam Sharma decided to return his 2006 Padma Shri award in protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA’s bid to have the Bill passed in Parliament.

Before him, a majority of survivors of the martyrs of the Assam Agitation (1979-85) had returned the mementos awarded by the BJP-led coalition government in the State in 2016.

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