Bharat Ratna conferred on former President Mukherjee

*on music maestro Bhupenda posthumously

NEW DELHI, Aug 08: Former President of India and veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee was presented Bharat Ratna by President Ramnath Kovind on Thursday evening. Mukherjee was named for India’s highest civilian honour in January along with renowned musician Bhupen Hazarika and Bharatiya Jan Sangh founder Nanaji Deshmukh.

Mukherjee, 83, served the country as its 13th President for five years from 25.05.12 and emerged in the role as a respected and admired leader whose words were heard with attention. At Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mukherjee worked with two Prime Ministers – Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi and showed a natural ease in his relationship with PM Modi who belonged to the party he had strongly opposed in his political career.

He returned to the presidential palace on Thursday evening to receive the award from President Kovind who had succeeded him. Mukherjee also greeted PM Modi after receiving the award.

The last time Bharat Ratnas were conferred in 2015, when educationalist-politician Madan Mohan Malviya and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee were the recipients. A total of 48 Bharat Ratnas have been conferred by India since the honour was instituted in 1954 with father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, President S Radhakrishnan and scientist CV Raman the first recipients.

The GoI’s choice had come as a surprise to many within the opposition party and beyond. PM Modi and others from the ruling coalition often cite this decision to make the point that the Congress doesn’t credit its performers unless it was from the Gandhi family. He made the same point during a discussion on a motion of thanks to the President for his address to Parliament’s joint sitting, underlining that it was his Govt that had conferred Pranab Mukherjee with the Bharat Ratna. (Agency)

Bhupenda songs reflected Arunachal

By Pradeep Kumar

The more I learn about the legendary singer Dr Bhupen Hazarika, the more I am drawn to a state of despair for what we have lost and how miserably we failed to realize the quality of a jewel of the humanity.

While continuing my quest to know about Bhupenda’s journey, I came across the article –Serenading the East – by former GoAP officer TP Khaund, published in 13th November edition of The Assam Tribune.

Khaund has vividly described the unique qualities of the roving composer-singer from his first hand experience at Bomdila in 1962, at Ziro in 1972 and at Yazali in 1977 while shooting for the film Mera Dharam Meri Maa.

The most striking record is Bhupenda’s visit to Kameng district in December 1962 at the invitation of Vishnu Sahay, Governor of undivided Assam after the Chinese aggression in 1962.

Khaund, who as an IPR officer accompanied Bupenda on his mission to assuage the bruised sentiments of the local people who bore the brunt of the armed misadventure of the neighbouring country and to restore the confidence of the armed forces through the healing touch of music, writes: “On a cold December morning in 1962, wrapped up in jackets and boots, began one of my life’s most memorable journeys. Our jeep struggled up the steep hills of the eastern Himalayas, through Chakoo, Rupa and then to Bomdila. I could see Bhupenda in his true element – a humanist, who loved passionately and wept at the sight of death and destruction. I was witness to what magic that golden voice could do. I saw the faces of hundreds of local people and jawans, which a minute before, were swollen and sad, light up with a smile. At Dirang, old Pema Dorjee, a prominent member from the local Sherdukpen community, embraced Bhupenda and kissed his forehead. From there, we went up to Sela Pass at 14,000 feet, where he looked all round at the snow-clad mountains and silently bowed in reverence. Next morning, at Bomdila Circuit House, where we had put up, I was shown a handwritten song. The famous Koto jowanar mrityu hol (Grieving about the soldiers killed by the enemies) was composed within one night. I was awestruck – that was the maestro at his best.”

Khaund’s experience was similar, when Bhupenda on an invitation by his close friend and then Subansiri DC Tarun Hazarika, arrived at Ziro on 19.01.1972 to take part in the function to rename NEFA as Arunachal Pradesh. He was requested to compose an opening song and the outcome was bewilderingly beautiful. He composed Poowar suruje suma khowa desh amar Arunachal (the land kissed by the morning sun), collected few young local boys and girls, and coached them on the morning of 21st January as thunderous applause reverberated through Subansiri’s blue sky as the melodious song rent the air. The number is the title of Arunachal today.

As a singer and composer in my own right, I know what propels one to do so. I may too small an individual and may be pardoned for his comparison with that of Lata Mageshkar. Lata’s famous number – Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon, Zara Aankh Me Bhar Lo Pani – had moved India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Neheru that he had wept after listening to her.  I do not know if Lata had visited any forward post before singing the song. Her melodious voice is unchallenged but Bhupenda’s Koto jowanar mrityu hol conveys much deeper agonies and patriotism to the extent that he wonders why he was not among the dead jawans though death is inevitable (shei mrityu aporajeye, tene mritak nahalu mai kiyo?).

That was the humanist he was. Had Nehru or for that matter the rest of India listen to the song, perhaps Bhupenda would have been more popular across India since then. Neither was Assamese known nor the song retranslated to Hindi, the lingua franca of mainland India. Alas…. How could the countrymen know him, recognize his human values as ‘his direct connect’ through his golden voice was not established?

Bhupenda had composed many songs reflecting the true natural beauty and rich culture of Arunachal Pradesh. His songs, like Siangor Galong(1961) and Tirap Himantor (1966) created an emotional bridge between the tribes of Arunachal and Assam people.

He had produced, directed, and composed the music for the state’s first colour Hindi feature film Meri Maa Mera Dharam in 1977.  He also had directed a colour documentary for state Govt on tribal folk songs and dances entitled ‘For Whom The Sun Shines’ in 1974. The GoAP in 1977 had conferred state award (gold medal) on him for his outstanding contribution towards tribal welfare, uplift of tribal culture through cinema and music.Thanks god, the genius has been conferred with the highest civilian honour, albeit posthumously!

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