New Delhi: Yoga teacher Ramdev has given a new dimension to the Bharat Ratna controversy by pointing out that in the 70 years since Independence, no sadhu or seer has been given any national award despite their immense contribution to society. He further put a religious spin on the matter and pointed out that Mother Teresa can get the Ratna because she was a Christian, but no seers have got one because they are Hindus. ‘‘Is it a crime to be a Hindu in this nation?” Ramdev questioned.
“The contributions of Maharishi Dayananda or Swami Vivekananda towards the nation were no less than any political leader or sports person,” the Yoga guru said, warming up to his theme. He, however, added that he was not for discrimination on the basis of religion. Asked if he has a grudge against the government in this regard, Ramdev grinned, saying, “I can’t say that… I’m simply pointing this out”.
“All these saints who have contributed so much, must also be conferred with the Bharat Ratna,” he added, underscoring that he has tremendous respect for the recipients of India’s highest national award. A number of politicians from Karnataka, including former chief minister Siddaramaiah and deputy chief minister G Parameshwara, had raised the demand for conferring the Bharat Ratna on late Siddaganga Mutt seer Shivakumara Swami, who died last week at the age of 111.
This year, former President Pranab Mukherjee, late singer Bhupen Hazarika, and RSS social activist Nanaji Deshmukh received the country’s highest honour. Many have claimed that the list reflected the political concerns of the ruling BJP, ahead of the national elections, which are due by May.
In another development on the intervening Republic Day holiday on Saturday, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s sister Gita Mehta, who has been conferred with the Padma Shri, refused to accept the award. In a press statement issued from New York, Mehta said she was refusing the award as the timing for it was not right, according to a local website.
“I am deeply honoured that the Government of India should think me worthy of a Padma Shri but with great regret I feel I must decline as there is a general election looming and the timing of the award might be misconstrued, causing embarrassment both to the government and myself, which I would much regret,” Mehta said in the statement. Embedded in the award was possibly a BJP move to win the support of Navin Patnaik’s party – the BJD.