Four days after Bhupen Hazarika’s son Tej Hazarika’s statements on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 and Bharat Ratna stoked a huge controversy, the 67-year-old, in another public statement Friday, said it will be a “dreamlike privilege” to receive the highest civilian award for his father and his fans and followers everywhere. He added it was “unfortunate” that people misrepresented his views earlier.
“The government of India has graciously extended me an invitation to accept the Bharat Ratna for my father. He sacrificed much and devoted selflessly to the cause of the united and progressive India and now he is being recognised for that with this well-deserved award,” read the statement that Hazarika circulated on Whatsapp early February 15.
On Monday night, after a local publication in Assam interviewed Tej, who is based in the US, news broke that he had “rejected” the Bharat Ratna because of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Tej, then, went on to clarify in a public statement that: “A), I have not received any invitation so far there is nothing to reject, and B), how the Centre moves on this matter far outweighs in importance the awarding and receiving of such national recognition — a display of short-lived cheap thrills.”
Tej, protesting the “painfully unpopular” Bill, had said it was “actually undermining” his father’s “documented position” and “would in reality be in direct opposition to what Bhupenda believed in his heart of hearts”.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 by enabling citizenship rights to six religious minority communities (barring the Muslims) three neighbouring countries, lapsed in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday after it was not tabled. There have been widespread protests across the Northeast against the Bill.
In the latest statement, Tej, who is based in the US, said: “Although I have lived abroad most of my life my Indian roots have been strong all along as not only was I born in India, I have family in India. By upbringing, and through informed reflection I have always had the highest regard for the Indian Republic.”
Tej is Hazarika’s only son and an artist, author and publisher. He is also the founder of the Dr. Bhupen Hazarika Foundation, a non-profit based in Guwahati that seeks to “present the rich cultures and traditions of the Northeast to nations overseas through the nuanced and sympathetic perceptions of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika.”
He also said: “It is a tremendous honour, for me and my family to be invited by the GOI to accept the Bharat Ratna on behalf of my late father. As always, I will strive to follow in my father’s footsteps to work to bring light where there is darkness.”