Bhupen Hazarika’s son turns down Bharat Ratna award by Modi government in protest against Citizenship Amendment Bill

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In a serious setback to the Centre’s Narendra Modi government, the family members of legendary Assamese singer Bhupen Hazarika has decided to turn down the Bharat Ratna award, conferred to him posthumously last month.

 Bhupen Hazarika

According to local correspondents, the legendary singer’s son has said that the family will inform the central government about their inability to accept the highest civilian honour in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha in January this year.

In his statement, Tez Hazarika, who is now based in the US, said, “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.”

Among those chosen for the Bharat Ratna honours this year were former President of India and veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, RSS ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh and Hazarika.

Tez Hazarika added, “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 center moves on this matter far outweighs in importance the awarding and receiving of such national recognition – a display of short lived cheap thrills.”

Tez’s uncle and Bhupen Hazarika’s brother, differed and said that Bharat Ratna must be given to Bhupen. He said, “It’s too late now.” Hazarika’s sister too agreed as she said, “Being a member of the Bhupen Hazarika family I am saying that this award is one of the most respected awards of this nation and Bhupen Da is a legendary figure. He is above politics, so raking up this controversy is wrong.”

Twitter has exploded with reactions on this extraordinary piece of news break. One user wrote, “The same Bhupen Hazarika who joined BJP and and contested 2004 Lok Sabha elections. But salute to his family for refusing to accept his Bharat Ratna in protest against Citizens Amendments Bill.”

Journalist Pradyot Manikya tweeted, “Lets Also not forget Bhupen hazarika was a BJP MP candidate once ! Miscalculation on the emotions by centre on the CAB!”

Another user wrote, “Bhupen Hazarika has rejected the Bharat Ratna. BJP reduced Bharat Ratna into BJP Ratna and soon.”

The BJP has been facing intense protests over the Citizenship Amendment Bill by locals in Assam. A popular Assamese singer had recently written to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, asking him to return votes that the saffron party obtained by using his song.  Garg had taken to his Facebook page to express his dissatisfaction over the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 by the BJP-led central government.

Earlier this month, 15-time National Award winner filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma too had returned his Padma award in protest against the Citizen Amendment Bill.

Passed in Lok Sabha on 8 January, the contentious Bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to news agency PTI, a large section of people in the northeast have opposed the Bill, saying it would nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

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