Less than a month after the Government of India announced to confer country’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, posthumously on legendary singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika, his son Tej Hazarika said on Monday the music maestro’s name and words were being invoked and celebrated publicly even as plans were afoot to pass the “painfully unpopular” Citizenship Bill against the wishes of the people of the Northeast.
“As the son of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika—one of the most popular and loved cultural and socio-political figures for the people of Assam and it’s neighboring sister states of India’s great Northeast—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,” Tej Hazarika said in a Facebook post, which he has shared twice since Monday night.
Stating that the manner in which the law was being “pushed” was “grossly un-constitutional, un-democratic and un-Indian”, he said Hazarika would have never endorsed it.
“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 un-constitutional, un-democratic and un-Indian,” said Tej Hazarika, who lives in the US.
About the award of Bharat Ratna on his legendary father, he said Bharat Ratnas and longest bridges, while necessary, “will not promote the peace and prosperity of the citizens of India”.
He wrote: “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.”
It may be recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated Bogibeel Bridge — the country’s longest railroad bridge — in Assam.
About the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Tej wrote: “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.”
While he did not say he would “accept” or “reject” the Bharat Ratna, Tej Hazarika had in September 2014, when Bhupen Hazarika turned 88, said his father deserved a Bharat Ratna for his works and legacy of unity and harmony.
Meanwhile, Bhupen Hazarika’s brother and prominent singer Saumer Hazarika and his sister-in-law and popular singer Manisha Hazarika told the media that the family had neither rejected the award nor criticised the Centre for conferring the Bharat Ratna posthumously.
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“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,” said Saumar Hazarika.
Manisha Hazarika, 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.”