By Anand Sinha
Edited by Namitha Sadanand, Senoir editor, The Indian economist
As the Narendra Modi led NDA government decides to confer the Bharat Ratna awards for 2014, a controversy has kicked in because of the speculation surrounding the inclusion of late Indian freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s name in the list. Earlier, the inclusion of the cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar had also sparked a controversy because the great hockey master Major Dhyan Chand hasn’t been awarded the award until now.
The Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award awarded by the government of India. Like most civilian awards, the Bharat Ratna has also not been unblemished. This year, the Bhartiya Janta Party is said to be considering Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose along with its party patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The relatives of the Netaji have very rightly objected saying that figures like Netaji and Gandhiji are above the Bharat Ratna, and it is completely ridiculous to confer the award on him after many minor figures like the members of the Nehru- Gandhi family have been conferred the award. The Congress Party on the other hand has grabbed the opportunity for accusing the BJP of being anti- minority and anti- Dalit because the list does not include the names of Maulana Abul Kalaam Azad, the founder of the Aligarh Muslim University, and Kanshi Ram, the Bahujan Samaj Party founder.
It is a noteworthy fact that some of the greatest freedom fighters of India like Sardar Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Gopal Krishna Gokhle and many more have not been awarded the Bharat Ratna. The Congress Party during its rule had not shied away from awarding even Indira and Rajiv Gandhi with the Bharat Ratna, though the mother was a dictator and the son is even not considered a competent statesman today. On the other hand, the BJP has always politicised figures like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose for its own political gain, because of the differences key Congress members like Gandhiji and Jawahar Lal Nehru shared with them.
The field of sports is also not untouched by controversy. When Sachin Tendulkar’s name was announced for the award, supposedly at the behest of the hysterical Rahul Gandhi, hockey fans very rightly objected to it because the hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand had not been conferred with the award, despite being Sachin’s senior. Early last year, awardee Dr. Amartya Sen, economist- philosopher and the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics was threatened by BJP politicians with taking away his Bharat Ratna because he had criticised the then BJP PM-candidate Narendra Modi for his economic policies and pro- Hindu politics. He had been awarded with the prize during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA government. Nandana Sen, his actor- daughter was also respected accordingly.
When one comes to civilian awards like the Padma Sri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, the prestige of the awards has been even more maligned because of the inclusion of some very popular though mediocre artists. If rumours are to be believed, then these civilian awards are even lobbied for.
It is utterly useless to confer the Bharat Ratna on the greatest contributors of India after so many years because they are truly above the status of these awards. Whether or not Netaji is conferred with the award, his reputation is undoubtedly kept in high regard in the hearts of the people of India. The politicisation of the highest civilian awards of India by most of the political parties has tarnished the reputation of the awards themselves. Now it is to be seen how the present government and the subsequent governments deal with it.
Currently based in Delhi, Anand is an English literature student at the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, University of Delhi. After working as a content writer and editor for an online firm for a few months, he interned at Youth Ki Awaaz. Sinha defines his political stand as centre-left. His interests include literature, cinema, music, philosophy and world politics.