Legendary Bengali singer Sandhya Mukhopadhyay rejects Padma Shri award

Legendary Bengali singer Sandhya Mukhopadhyay has rejected the Padma Shri award offered by India’s central government, calling it “a big humiliation” to her.

The 90-year-old received a call from New Delhi on Tuesday, in which an official informed her about the award, according to local media reports.

But she made it clear that she would not receive the fourth highest civilian award now after an illustrious musical career spanning seven and a half decades.  

“It's a big humiliation for me. I don't want to receive an award after such humiliation,” The Times of India quoted her as saying.

“They don't even know about the works I have done over the years. They don't even know me and have no idea about Indian music. They contacted me without even basic knowledge and that's what hurt me.

“They reached out to me at the last moment of the announcement. After all these years now they want to give me an award when I can't even stand at the podium. How can I take the award?"

Over the years she has worked with almost all the noted musicians across the country.

Speaking to the ToI, Sandhya noted that she is a disciple of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, one of the all-time greatest musicians in the sub-continent, and shared a stage with him. “That's the best award in my life. Also, I have received so much love from my listeners and that's enough for me. That's the best award I can get in my lifetime. I have no regrets.”

She said iconic Bengali playback singer Hemanta Mukhopadhyay and legendary actor Soumitra Chattopadhyay had turned down these awards for the “same reason”. Soumitra had accepted the award finally, saying he had done so to “please” his admirers. 

Sandhya had won the national award in 1971 for her songs in the films “Joy Jayanti” and “Nishi Padma”. In 2011, the West Bengal government awarded her “Banga Bibhushan”.

Kolkata-based newspaper Anandabazar Patrika reported that Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, a former chief minister of West Bengal and leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), also rejected the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award of the country, on Tuesday.

“I don’t know anything about Padman Bhusan. No one has said anything about it. If I have been given Padma Bhushan, I refuse to accept it,” he said in a statement.

Citing sources in the veteran politician’s party, The Indian Express said it “does not believe in such awards” and hence the party as well as Budddhadeb decided to refuse it.