Bhupen Hazarika now Bharat Ratna

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Pranab Mukherjee, Nanaji Deshmukh too conferred country’s highest civilian award

NEW DELHI, Aug 8 (PTI): Music maestro Dr Bhupen Hazarika, former president Pranab Mukherjee and late Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader Nanaji Deshmukh were conferred the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, on Thursday.

President Ram Nath Kovind gave the award to Mukherjee, Hazarika’s son Tej and Vikramjeet Singh, a close relative of Deshmukh, at a function held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

Dr Hazarika becomes second person from Assam after Gopinath Bordoloi to receive the country’s highest civilian award.

Hazarika and Deshmukh were given the Bharat Ratna posthumously.

Vice President M Venkaikah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah, Defence minister Rajnath Singh, several Union cabinet ministers, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal were among those present at the function held at the imposing Durbar Hall.

The Bharat Ratna has been conferred after a gap of four years. Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and founder of Banaras Hindu University Madan Mohan Malviya were given the award by the Narendra Modi government in 2015.

Born in 1926, Hazarika was a playback singer, lyricist, musician, singer, poet and filmmaker from Assam.

He was awarded Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1987), Padma Shri (1977), Dada Saheb Phalke Award (1992), Padma Bhushan (2001) and Padma Vibhushan (2012-posthumously).

Hazarika did his PhD from Columbia University in 1952. He died in 2011. The cultural icon also had a brush with politics and had unsuccessfully contested the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat on a BJP ticket in 2004. He was an Independent MLA in Assam during 1967-72.

Hazarika gave music in acclaimed Bollywood movies Rudaali, Darmiyaan, Gaja Gamini, Daman and many Assamese hits, including the award winning film ‘Sameli Memsaab’.

Mukherjee, fondly known as ‘Pranab Da’, has been the fifth president to receive this award. He was the president between 2012 and 2017.

Mukherjee (83), who was also known as the quintessential ‘Man Friday’ of the Congress, joins the elite club of former presidents Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Rajendra Prasad, Zakir Hussain and V V Giri, who were also awarded the nation’s highest civilian honour.

Mukherjee became India’s youngest finance minister in 1982 at the age of 47. From 2004, he went on to head three crucial ministries — external affairs, defence and finance — and became the first occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan to have this distinction.

Last year, Mukherjee had drawn flak from certain quarters for attending a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) function in Nagpur.

Deshmukh was associated with the RSS from 1928 till his death in Satna, Madhya Pradesh, in 2010 at the age of 94 and was known for starting a chain of RSS-inspired schools throughout India.

He was one of the founder members of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, which later evolved as Bharatiya Janata Party.

He was considered to be one of the architects of the Jai Prakash Narayan’s movement against the Emergency in 1975 and among the key persons in the formation of the Janata Party government in 1977.

The government in January announced it decision to confer the Bharat Ratna upon Mukherjee, Deshmukh and Hazarika. With these three recipients, 48 eminent people have been conferred the Bharat Ratna so far.

 

‘It’s a moment of pride for people of Assam’

Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi and chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal congratulated the family of Bhupen Hazarika after bard of the Brahmaputra received (posthumously) the coveted Bharat Ratna from President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday.

In a statement here, Mukhi said that Hazarika’s contribution to the cultural field of Assam and the country in general is monumental. “Honouring him with the coveted Bharat Ratna is a fitting recognition to his sagacious and multi-faceted role,” he said.

He also thanked the Union government for choosing Bhupen Hazarika for Bharat Ratna.

Sonowal said that conferring the Bharat Ratna on Hazarika is a matter of great joy and pride for the people of Assam. He said this momentous act of the government of India inspires the Assamese people living in India and abroad.

While expressing his views on the presentation of the country’s highest civilian award to Hazarika in New Delhi, Sonowal said that Bhupen Hazarika had a multifaceted personality who set new benchmark in the realm of Indian art and culture.

The chief minister also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government for conferring the Bharat Ratna on the legendary singer.

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