Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi had formally announced way back in May this year that the country’s longest bridge – across the Brahmaputra connecting Dhola with Sadiya in upper Assam – was named after legendary balladeer Bhupen Hazarika, it was however only on Sunday that the state government finally put a signboard there with Hazarika’s name on it. Sunday was also the sixth death anniversary of Hazarika.
It was not a coincidence though, and the fact is that Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had to direct officials two days ago to take appropriate steps so that the name of Bhupen Hazarika was prominently displayed on both ends of the 9.15-km bridge. The Bhupen Hazarika Setu, as it was christened by Prime Minister Modi on May 26, incidentally also connects the legend’s birthplace Boleng – now in Arunachal Pradesh, with the rest of Assam.
While Assam paid rich tributes to Bhupen Hazarika on his sixth death anniversary, chief minister Sonowal also announced that the singer’s residence in Kolkata, which he had sold off to another person a few years before his death, would be converted into a cultural centre. “Our government has taken initiatives for preserving Bhupen-da’s historic house in Kolkata and decided to convert it into a cultural centre,” Sonowal said.
Last week, chief minister Sonowal had dispatched his culture minister Naba Kumar Doley and media advisor Hrishikesh Goswami to Kolkata to meet the present owner of the house, following which the latter is understood to have agreed to a proposal by the Assam government to hand over the house. Sonowal is himself visiting Kolkata later this month to finalise the deal, sources said.
Meanwhile, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) on Sunday reiterated its demand that the Centre confer the Bharat Ratna – the country’s highest civilian award – on Bhupen Hazarika. “Conferring a Bharat Ratna on a great singer, musician, artist, litterateur and patriot like Bhupen Hazarika has been long overdue. The government of India should not delay any further in conferring that country’s highest award on Bhupen Hazarika,” AASU general secretary Lurin Jyoti Gogoi said on Sunday.
The AASU incidentally had installed a statue of Bhupen Hazarika by the historic Dighalipukhuri tank in the heart of Guwahati way back in 2009, with the maestro himself unveiling it in February that year.
The demand for a Bharat Ratna for Hazarika has been on for several years now, the Assam Legislative Assembly had passed a resolution on two occasions in the past requesting the government of India to name him for the highest award.
Born in 1926, Bhupen Hazarika was conferred a Padmashri in 1977, the Padma Bhushan in 2001 and posthumously the Padma Bibhushan in 2012. Earlier, he was conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke award for his contribution to Indian Cinema in 1993.