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Amartya Sen controversy: Indian Civilian Awards 101 for Chandan Mitra

Chandan Mitra is talking through his hat when he demands the withdrawal of Bharat Ratna awarded to Dr Amartya Sen – on the basis that a Bharat Ratna awardee “is a jewel of whole country” (sic) and, in Mitra’s view, “no BR (sic) should speak for or against any party or leader”.

Perhaps, in 1954, the worthies who decide to institute civilian awards such as the Bharat Ratna and the Padma awards would have benefited from Mitra’s opinion and counsel when they framed the eligibility norms.

Officially, the Bharat Ratna is awarded in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour. Any person without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex is eligible for these awards.

Why limit his views to Bharat Ratna awardees – why should Mitra not extend his obnoxious and untenable views to all civilian honours, including the Padma awards?

The eligibility for all these awards remains the same: “all persons without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex are eligible for these awards.”

It says all persons. It does not say all persons without any opinion on politics. It does not say that all awardees must commit never to make public their opinions on politics.

Reuters

Amartya Sen receiving the Bharat Ratna from the then President KR Naryanan. Reuters

Mitra says, “No BR should speak for or against any leader or party.” (I extend the logic to any winner of any civilian awardee). So Indira Gandhi should have stopped talking about politics in 1971, when she won the award. Nelson Mandela should have stopped talking about politics in 1990. Morarji Desai should have stopped talking about politics in 1991.

What about Padma winners? Should Nana Chudasama (who has run a political banner campaign till as long as one can remember) be asked to return the honour? I’m sure Mitra will ask Teesta Setalvad’s honour to be withdrawn, much for the same reasons that he wants Sen’s to be withdrawn – she speaks against Modi.

“Can you show me examples of others who do party politics after getting BR,” Mitra asks.

Yes, I can. I have. That’s shoddy homework, Dr Mitra, in addition to weak thinking.

Independence Day