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5-min read

'It's No Compensation': Bharat Ratna for Bhupen Hazarika Fuels Fight Against Citizenship Bill in Assam

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

Pranjal Baruah | News18.com

Updated:January 26, 2019, 9:52 AM IST
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'It's No Compensation': Bharat Ratna for Bhupen Hazarika Fuels Fight Against Citizenship Bill in Assam
File photo of Bhupen Hazarika.

Guwahati: The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) welcoming the decision to confer the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, to the state’s legendary singer Dr Bhupen Hazarika, has asked the Centre to preserve Assam’s culture and language by scrapping the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 (CAB) if it respects Assam’s heritage.

The student group believes that the state’s cultural integrity and harmony could only be kept alive if Hazarika’s ideologies are preserved and followed to its true spirit. More than seven years after his death, Hazarika is awarded the highest civilian award of the Indian Republic, the Bharat Ratna in 2019.

AASU chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharjee said, “Dr Bhupen Hazarika is the soul of Assam. We always wanted that he should be conferred with Bharat Ratna when he was alive. That did not happen. However, we are happy that the award has been conferred posthumously.

Talking about the controversial Bill, Bhattacharjee said that if the Centre is truly committed to saving Assamese culture, language and history, then it must scrap the Bill, and show some sensitivity towards the indigenous people of Assam.

The AASU along with the Assam government has been demanding for a very long time that the Bharat Ratna be conferred on Hazarika. 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 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.

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which has recently walked out of the ruling government over its resentment and differences with the ruling BJP over the CAB, although expressing happiness over the announcement, has said that the ruling government must not try to mix it with the current crisis.

“It is a great reason for the people of Assam to celebrate. But the award should not be taken as compensation to the ongoing crisis. People of the state must not forget that if the CAB is passed, Bhupen da’s dream of a united and prosperous Assamese community would be in danger,” said Samarjit Barman, an AGP leader from Assam’s Bongaingaon district.

The AGP, who sat for a 10-hour long hunger strike on Thursday against the Bill, played Hazarika’s songs throughout the day as a symbol of unity in the state.

“Bhupen da’s Manuhe manuhor babe, jodihe okonu nabjabe (Humanity will not survive, if one doesn’t think about another) song reflects his effort for the unification of Assamese society and the world in general. But today’s politics has been a politics of divide and rule,” he added.

Hazarika will be the second Assamese to be conferred the country’s highest civilian honour after Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi.

The 76-year old multi-faceted genius, the former president of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, was conferred with the Padmashree in 1977 for his outstanding contribution to the field of culture. A winner of the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke award, Hazarika is hailed as the country’s cultural ambassador for popularizing Assamese folk music abroad.

The singer, beyond cultural fields, also made a foray in politics. He was elected as an Independent MLA in the assembly from Nauboicha constituency in 1967. In 2004 Lok Sabha polls he contested as a BJP candidate from Guwahati parliamentary seat, which he lost. Political parties in the state cutting across their ideologies and differences have always pushed for Bharat Ratna award for the bard.

Sirajuddin Ajmal, MP Lok Sabha from Barpeta for All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) said, “It’s indeed great news for the entire region. He (Hazarika) deserved it long back. That’s why we pressed for it while he was alive.”

However, the singer’s family has dedicated the honour to the people of the state.

Samar Hazarika, younger brother of the deceased singer, said, “The family wants to thank the entire country that they have chosen Bhupen da for the honour. Bhupen da with his music had always wanted to represent the North Eastern region and today the entire region is happy. I’ve been receiving calls from all over the country people welcoming the announcement. Today, he took the region one more steps ahead globally. I wish he was alive today.”

For Manjula Hazarika, joint secretary of the Bhupen Hazrika Cultural Trust, the Bharat Ratna award came at a very crucial time. “The state is in crisis and the announcement came as a blessing to all. Like Bhupen da united the entire country with his music, the people of the state now needs to stand united in this crucial juncture,” she stated.

Amarendra Deka, a student of Cotton College, said, “It’s great that the Centre has finally listened to our demand. Now it should also listen to our demand for scrapping the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and do its duty to the people of the state. We will appreciate that.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to twitter to congratulate the late musician. He tweeted, "The songs and music of Shri Bhupen Hazarika are admired by people across generations. From them radiates the message of justice, harmony and brotherhood. He popularised India's musical traditions globally. Happy that the Bharat Ratna has been conferred on Bhupen Da.”

The singer, musician, poet, lyricist, a filmmaker was born on September 8, 1926, and died on November 5, 2011.

Hazarika left behind some of the immortal songs like Bistirno Parore, Moi Eti Jajabor, Gonga Mor Maa, Manuhe Manuhor Babey and Buku Hom Hom Kore among many others. He swayed millions with the power and passion of his voice, and the message of universal brotherhood and humanism, which comes through in his songs sung in Assamese, Bengali and Hindi as well.

On Friday, President Ram Nath Kovind has posthumously awarded Bharat Ratna to music maestro and cultural icon Bhupen Hazarika Friday on the eve of 70th Republic Day. Social activist Nanaji Deshmukh has also been awarded Bharat Ratna posthumously. Also, former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee has also been conferred the Bharat Ratna.

State’s Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said it is a proud moment that “the bard of Brahmaputra” has been conferred with Bharat Ratna. “One of India’s greatest sons and unifiers, the Bharat Ratna for Dr Bhupen Hazarika is a great honour for Assam and its glorious culture. A proud moment or all of us,” Sonowal said in his tweet.

Adding to him, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted, “It is a matter of great pride and delight that Dr Bhupen Hazarika has been posthumously conferred with Bharat Ratna. My gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We are all elated.”

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| Edited by: Aditya Sharma
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