Last night, several media houses reported that the family of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika has rejected the Bharat Ratna that the government of India had decided to confer on him last month. On January 25, it was announced that Dr. Hazarika, Pranab Mukherjee, and Nanaji Deshmukh will be conferred with Bharat Ratna.
Later, it emerged that the family member that ‘rejected’ the award is Tej Hazarika, the long forgotten only child of Bhupen Hazarika who lives in the USA. It was reported that Tej is refusing to accept the award in protest against the citizenship amendment Bill.
But when the statement issued by Tej Hazarika emerged, it became clear that he refusing the award was fake news. In a statement issued on Facebook, Tej clearly states that there is no question of accepting or refusing the award, as he has not received any such invitation from the government.
He has stated that he is clarifying this because he has been receiving questions from the media asking him whether he will be accepting or refusing the award. Tej Hazarika has written against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in his statement and accused that his father’s name is being used to pass an unpopular bill. But he didn’t say that he is refusing to accept the award, that part was invented by media.
It is interesting to note that just two weeks ago when Dr. Bhupen Hazarika’s name was announced for Bharat Ratna, Tej Hazarika had welcomed the move. He had said that the decision to confer Bharat Ratna on his father is a victory for humanity, diversity and the country’s secular character. At that time, he didn’t link it with the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Although the bill is facing opposition in the state, most people opposing the bill had not linked it with the Bharat Ratna, only a few leaders of Congress party had tried to do it, for which they had to face criticism in the state.
Now suddenly Tej Hazarika has done a turnaround and now seems to think the Modi government has done it to pass the bill. He writes that decision is a “display of short-lived cheap thrills”. Which is a strange argument, and by doing so, he himself is politicising the award while accusing others of doing the same.
Other family members of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika have said that they do not agree with the comments of Tej Hazarika and asserted that Bhupen Hazarika deserves the Bharat Ratna, which should not be dragged into any controversy. Bhupen Hazarika’s brother Samar Hazarika and sister-in-law Manisha Hazarika, both of whom are singers, said that views of Tej Hazarika are his own and they are not the views of the entire family.
Therefore, the news that Bhupen Hazarika’s family has rejected the Bharat Ratna in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill is completely fake news. His son has objected to perceived linking of the award with the Bill, and other family members of Hazarika, who were more closer to him, have objected to his comments and reiterated that they welcome the decision to award him the Bharat Ratna.
Some people are also questioning the ‘right’ of Tej Hazarika to question the Bharat Ratna awarded to his father. Bhupen Hazarika was married to Priyamvada Patel in 1950 in the USA, and Tej was born there two years later. Soon they were separated, although not divorced, and Priyamvada Patel lived in the USA and later in Canada with his son. In all those decades till the death of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, people of Assam never heard or saw anything about Priyamvada Patel and her son. In fact, while the siblings of Bhupen Hazarika are well known in Assam, all of them being associated with the field of music, most general people were not even aware that Bhupen Hazarika was married and he has a son. Now suddenly Tej Hazarika linking the matter of Bharat Ratna to his father with the CAB has raised eyebrows in the state.
Moreover, people in Assam believe that Bhupen Hazarika is the cultural icon of Assam, much beyond anyone’s father or brother. When Bharat Ratna for him was announced, the entire state welcomed this move, irrespective of political affiliation. Bharat Ratna for Dr. Hazarika had been demanded for a long time, the state government had proposed the same immediately after his death. But the UPA government at that time had refused to do so, perhaps due to the reason that one he had contested Lok Sabha election on a BJP ticket. The recent decision to confer Bharat Ratna on Dr. Hazarika was seen as a late but welcome move, and the attempt to politicise the same by the estranged son has attracted severe criticism in the state.