Former West Bengal (WB) chief minister (CM) Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee along with two eminent artistes – legendary singer Sandhya Mukhopadhyay and tabla maestro Pandit Anindya Chatterjee have rejected the Padma Awards.
One of the highest civilian awards of the neighbouring country, the Padma Awards are given in total three categories – Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri.
A recipient turning down the recognition is extremely rare as the acceptance is confirmed before a formal announcement is made, reports Indian media.
The three veterans of their respective fields' citied different reasons for their unwillingness to accept the awards.
Former WB CM and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has rejected the award by stating that he was not aware of the fact that the government has conferred him with it.
"I am not aware of any such thing. If the government has decided to give me [the award], I refuse it," the staunch critic of the present central government said in a statement posted on his party's social media handle.
Soon after the veteran politician rejected his country's third-highest civilian award, official sources said that a top official of the home ministry had called Bhattacharjee's home early Tuesday morning.
The former CM's wife picked up the phone as he has been unwell and she was conveyed the central government's decision to honour him as one of the Padma awardees in 2022.
According to the sources, Bhattacharjee's wife told the top official that she would inform him about the development.
Since no one from his household got back to the home ministry throughout the day, his name was announced late in the evening as one of the Padma awardees, they added.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, singing legend Sandhya Mukherjee – also known as "Sandhya Mukhopadhyay" – refused to accept her Padma Shri Award after the central government contacted her over phone.
Soumi Sengupta, her daughter said that Mukherjee told the senior official from Delhi (the made the call) that she was not willing to be named as a Padma Shri recipient this year.
"At the age of 90, with a singing career spanning over about eight decades, being chosen for Padma Shri is demeaning for a singer of her stature," Sengupta said.
"Padma Shri is more deserving for a junior artiste, not `Gitasree' Sandhya Mukhopadhyay. Her family and all the lovers of her songs feel," the daughter added.
A vast number of netizens supported Mukherjee's decision. The singer considered for long a prima donna of music in Bengal has also sung for a number of Hindi movie music directors including S D Burman, Anil Biswas, Madan Mohan, Roshan, and Salil Choudhary.
Sandhya Mukhopadhyay received the "Banga Bibhushan" – WB's highest civilian award, in 2011 – and a National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1970.
Pandit Anindya Chatterjee
Eminent tabla player Pandit Anindya Chatterjee has also declined to receive the Padma Shri honour.
Chatterjee is the second person from Bengal's vibrant musical world who was offered the Padma Awards this year and refused it.
The eminent percussionist, who has been in "jugal bandis" (duets) with classical maestros like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan on Wednesday said he had received a phone call from Delhi on Tuesday seeking his consent to accepting the honour.
"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," he said.
Chatterjee, who received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2002, said that he would have accepted the honour had it been conferred on him a decade ago.
"Many of my contemporaries and juniors were given Padma Shri years ago.
"Anyway, I said with all humbleness, that I am sorry but I cannot accept it (award) now," he said.
A disciple of Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh, he has performed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the past and was the youngest tabla player to perform in the British Parliament's House of Commons in 1989.