Kolkata: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen will not be accepting the Banga Bibhushan award, the highest civilian honour conferred by the West Bengal government, Monday, ThePrint has learnt.
Artist Subhaprasanna Bhattacharjee, a member of the ruling Trinamool Congress’ intellectual cell — who plays an active role in organising the award ceremony every year — played down the implication of Sen’s refusal of the award, saying, “We have a very good relationship with Mr Sen and there is nothing to read between the lines. We are not the BJP, he hates the BJP. He has no differences with the Trinamool.”
The Banga Bibhushan was introduced by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in 2011, soon after she took over the reins of the state government. It is the higher one among the Banga Samman honours, the other being the Banga Bhushan.
This year’s awardees will be honoured by the CM at a star-studded ceremony at a Kolkata auditorium Monday. The ceremony is being held after a gap of two years, owing to the Covid pandemic.
While Sen is learnt to have declined the award, another Nobel laureate from the state, Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee — who shared the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer — is said to have accepted the honour. A resident of the US, however, his Banga Bibhushan award is expected to be received by his mother, Nirmala, at Monday’s ceremony.
Banerjee is among 16 Banga Bibhushan and 20 Banga Bhushan recipients this year.
Sen’s daughter, Antara Dev Sen, told ThePrint that her father had informed the state government that he wouldn’t be in India during the month of July and expressed his wish that the honour be bestowed upon someone else.
Bhattacharjee also said that it was Sen’s inability to be physically present at the award ceremony that led him to decline the honour.
“Amartya Sen has already received the Bharat Ratna; there can be no bigger honour for any citizen. He was in Kolkata for some time last month and is back in the UK, so it’s not possible for him to receive the award physically. Maybe Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will speak to him personally and see if the award could be sent to him. That, Didi will decide,” he said.
Sen is not the first to have refused the award. The late actor Soumitra Chatterjee once termed it a “bogus award” while turning it down, although he finally accepted it a few years later.
ThePrint reached Sen’s brother, Shantabhanu Sen, over the phone to know whether there was any other reason behind the economist declining the award, but he refused to comment on the matter.
Also read: Poet, artist, singer Mamata showcased another talent on hill visit — making puchka, momos
Not the first one to say no
Sen isn’t the first to have declined the Banga Bibhushan.
In 2012, Pandit Ravi Shankar had declined the award, reportedly because he didn’t want to be clubbed with the many recipients. He reportedly backed out after initially saying that he would accept the award.
The following year, actor Soumitra Chatterjee not only refused the award, but called it a “bogus award” while interacting with the media, and said such award ceremonies shouldn’t be held. However, he went on to accept the award from Mamata Banerjee in 2017.
The list of recipients of the Banga Bibhushan includes singer Asha Bhosle, actor Suchitra Sen, dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj, cricketer Sourav Ganguly and many others.
Responding to the news of Sen’s refusal of the award, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sujan Chakraborty told ThePrint, “Amartya Sen did a good thing by declining the award. The kind of corruption this state is reeling under, the entire nation is watching. Why only Sen, everyone should boycott the award ceremony in protest.”
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
Also read: Admit cards from 2016, land documents – Why ED arrested TMC’s Partha Chatterjee in SSC case