The Centre’s announcement of posthumously conferring the Bharat Ratna award to Northeast’s multi-faceted cultural icon, Bhupen Hazarika, was seen as a politically driven move. While a large sum of the people welcomed the decision to honour the legend, most questioned why it was announced only at a time when the region is boiling against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
As the entire region is agitating against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the approaching Lok Sabha election, many termed the honour as a ‘damage control measure’ by the BJP government.
The people of Assam have always been demanding the Bharat Ratna for the maestro. But the announcement, at a time when the party is being ridiculed for vehemently pushing forward the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, is being seen as a political move.
“Not just that Bhupen Hazarika deserved it much earlier, I wonder why the BJP-led NDA government waited for the final phase of their term to make this announcement? Was he not a deserving figure four years ago? The argument is that the BJP government did recognize him whereas the Congress did not do it at all. But, this does not hold much water. Had they recognized him after coming to power, they could have made a claim. Bhupen Hazarika has been used for political gain,” Guwahati-based senior journalist Sushmita Goswami told The News Mill.
Assam Assembly in 2010 had passed a resolution to urge the Centre to confer Bharat Ratna to Hazarika, who was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2012.
The singer-composer-lyricist and filmmaker was awarded Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1992. Before that, he was awarded Padma Shree in 1977 and in 2001 he became a Padma Bhushan awardee. In 1987, he got the Sangeet Natak Akademi award.
Noted cartoonist Nituparna Rajbongshi, who has been critical of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which endorses citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains from the neighbouring countries, said by giving the Bharat Ratna at this moment, the government has insulted Bhupen Hazarika.
“Why I’m saying so is because of the timing. The entire state and the region is protesting against the controversial bill and the BJP government wants to console the people by giving this honour to Bhupen da. This is very unfortunate,” Rajbongshi said.
Born in upper Assam’s Sadiya in 1926, Bhupen Hazarika has been conferred the country’s highest civilian award seven years after he passed away.