Bhupen Hazarika was announced as this year's Bharat Ratna recipient along with former President Pranab Mukherjee and social activist Nanaji Deshmukh.
Taking a swipe at the BJP, legendary Assamese singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika’s son Tez Hazarika said on Monday his father’s name and words were being invoked and celebrated publicly while plans were afoot to pass the “painfully unpopular” Citizenship (Amendment) Bill against the wish of the people of the Northeast. In a Facebook post, Tez said the proposed legislation undermines the “documented position” of his father, who was awarded the country’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna posthumously by the Narendra Modi government last month.
“Numerous media journalists are now asking me whether or not I will accept the Bharat Ratna for my father. I go on record here to answer that A), I have not received any invitation so far there is nothing to reject. And B), how the Centre moves on this matter far outweighs in importance the awarding and receiving of such national recognition – a display of short lived cheap thrills,” he wrote. “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,” said Tez, who resides in the US.
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“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 Bhupenda believed in his heart of hearts,” he said, without naming any political party. “Adopting any form of this bill at this point in the manner in which it is being proffered, now or in the future, will ultimately have the sad and undesirable effect of not only disrupting the quality of life, language, identity and power balance of the region, but that of undermining my father’s position – by delivering a wreaking blow to the harmony, inner integrity and unity of the secular and democratic Republic of India,” he said.
The BJP government at the Centre has been pitching for the early passage of the legislation, which promises Indian citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It has triggered massive protests across the Northeast with many organisations and parties claiming that it would have a negative impact on the demography of the region. “Bharat Ratna and longest bridges, while necessary, will not promote the peace and prosperity of the citizens of India. Only just popular laws and foresight on the part of the leadership will,” Tez added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated Bogibeel Bridge — the country’s longest railroad bridge — in Assam. PTI’s efforts to reach Tez did not yield results. Meanwhile, Bhupen Hazarika’s brother and prominent singer Saumer Hazarika as well as his sister-in-law and popular singer Manisha Hazarika told the media that the family has neither rejected the award nor criticised the Centre for conferring the Bharat Ratna posthumously.
Saumar Hazarika said, “Tez has not contacted me on the issue of his Facebook post today. We as Bhupenda’s family have welcome the Bharat Ratna award to him. We had attended the Assam government’s programme celebrating the conferring of the honour to my brother who always stood for unity of the people of the Northeast and the country.” Manisha Hazarika, who is the wife of Bhupen Hazarika’s late brother and well-known singer Jayanta Hazarika, said, “Bhupen Hazarika was an institution. He is above politics and because he took Assam to the world that he has been honoured with the highest civilian award. If this award is made family centric, than it will be a dishonour to the award, the entire northeast region and the country.”