Guwahati: In a major embarrassment which could have political repercussions, legendary Assamese singer Bhupen Hazarika’s family has reportedly decided to spurn the Bharat Ratna that was conferred on him by the Modi government this year, as a mark of protest against the Citizenship Bill. Hazarika’s son Tej, who is based in the United States, reportedly told a local news channel in Assam that he had rejected the award after taking a call on the scenario in the state.
However, there was a conflicting report which also said Hazarika’s son has not received any invitation so far, and there is nothing to reject. “How the Centre moves on this Citizenship Bill far outweighs in importance the award and the national recognition,” said Tej in statement accessed by CNN-News18. Hazarika was posthumously honoured with the highest civilian award on Republic Day along with former President Pranab Mukherjee and late social activist Nanaji Deshmukh.
The northeast states, especially Meghalaya, Manipur and Assam, have been simmering in protest against the contentious Citizenship Bill that seeks to give citizenship to only non-Muslim immigrants. The BJP has been unfazed by the protests over the Citizenship Bill; Prime Minister Narendra was shown black flags in Assam during an election rally. However, he continued to defend the bill and said that his government wants to free the country of infiltrators.
Slogans like ‘Modi go back’, ‘Scrap Citizenship Amendment Bill’, ‘Joi Aai Asom’ (Glory to Mother Assam) greeted PM Modi during his two-day visit. Earlier this month, renowned Manipuri film director Aribam Syam Sharma had announced his decision to return the Padma Shri that was conferred on him in 2006 in protest against the Modi government’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Tej had earlier said that the award was a “victory for diversity.”
This was the essence of Hazarika’s songs: he celebrated the richness of indigenous people, not only of the Northeast but all of India, and he advocated their inclusion in the Indian experience as essential to the success of Indian civilisation as a whole.