GUWAHATI: When legendary singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika’s name figured on the Bharat Ratna list, political commentators read in it the Centre’s attempt to use his iconic status to hardsell the controversial Citizenship Bill to the Northeast.
While the rest of his family welcomed the gesture, Hazarika’s US-based son Tez changed the tune, saying he would reject the Bharat Ratna.
Speaking to an Assamese newspaper over phone from the US on Monday, he said it would not be proper to accept the award given the general mood in the state against the Citizenship Bill. “I am aware of the prevailing situation in Assam. Bhupen Hazarika, who had always stood by the people of Assam in times of struggle, perhaps would not have wished to accept the honour. So, as his son, I cannot accept it. My conscience says I shouldn’t accept it,” Tez said.
His comments, however, were not aligned with the rest of the family. “Bharat Ratna for Bhupenda is an award given to the whole of Northeast. There is no question of the family members being unhappy,” his sister-in-law Manisha Hazarika told TNIE.
Later in the day, Tez Hazarika issued a statement to explain his position. “My father’s name and words are being invoked publicly while plans are afoot to pass a painfully unpopular bill regarding citizenship that is actually undermining his documented position,” he said, adding adopting the bill will disrupt the quality of life, language, identity and power balance of the region.
Tez’s statement came on a day when there were indications of a rethink by the Centre on the bill.