After Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, 2 more rejects Padma awards

Former Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was the first to decline yesterday. Since then, two eminent artists from the state, tabla maestro Pandit Anindya Chatterjee and eminent vocalist Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, have said they too, have turned down the awards.

Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, the 90-year-old who has a singing career spanning eight decades, refused a Padma Shri- the fourth highest civilian honour, saying it suits a junior artist and not someone of her stature.

Soumi Sengupta, daughter of Ms Mukherjee said when the call on the award came from Delhi, her mother told the senior official that she felt “insulted” at her being offered the award at her age.

“Padma Shri is more deserving for a junior artist, not ‘Gitasree’ Sandhya Mukhopadhyay. Her family and all the lovers of her songs feel,” Ms Sengupta said.

Pandit Anindya Chatterjee who accompanied maestros like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, also said that he had signalled his negative when he received the phone call from Delhi seeking his consent.

“However I politely declined. I said thank you but I am not ready to receive Padma Shri at this phase of my career. I have passed that phase,” said the eminent percussionist, who received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2002, reported news agency Press Trust of India.

Yesterday, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was conferred the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award, promptly issued a statement declining it.

“I don’t know anything about the Padma Bhushan. No one has told me anything about it. If indeed they have given me the Padma Bhushan, then I reject it,” read the statement issued in Bengali.

Public refusal of Padma awards after the announcement is extremely rare. Under the protocol, the awardees are mandatorily informed about the award in advance and the list is announced only after they accept.

The Congress, meanwhile, stands divided over the Padma Bhushan to senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. While leaders like Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor have congratulated Mr Azad over the government recognition, senior leader Jairam Ramesh has commended Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s refusal of the award.