Bahadur Shah latest to join list of personalities for 'Bharat Ratna'

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New Delhi, Jan 14 (UNI) In the burgeoning list of aspirants for this year's 'Bharat Ratna', the country's top civilian award, the latest to join is the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar.

The demand to confer the award on the Mughal Emperor, who was the symbol of India's First War of Independence in 1857, had been made by Delhi Assembly Deputy Speaker Shoaib Iqbal.

In support of his contention, Mr Iqbal said it was unfortunate that Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, whose martyrdom and national stature rank among the highest in India's freedom struggle, had not so far been conferred with the 'Bharat Ratna'.

''Bahadur Shah Zafar was the leader of the freedom fighters of the entire sub-continent. He could have compromised with the British and lived a life like the royal family of England but chose to sacrifice his sons, pomp and grandeur -- all for for the sake of the honour and independence of India and its people,'' he added.

The poet-emperor was exiled by the colonial British regime to Rangoon (Yangon) where he died, leaving behind one of the most soulful poetic creations in Urdu.

How unfortunate was Zafar who could not get even two yards of land in his beloved land, he wrote.

Mr Iqbal reminded that when former President APJ Abdul Kalam visited the mausoleum of Bahadur Shhah in Yangon, he wrote in the visitors' book: ''You had said that nobody would come to your 'mazaar' and light candles or offer flowers on it, but today on behalf of India I have come...I have lit many candles and offered flowers.'' Dr Kalam also stated that he was proud to be at the mausoleum and reminded that Subhash Chandra Bose had given a call for 'Dilli Chalo' from Yangon itself.

Mr Iqbal also said that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in his comments in the visitors' book at the mausoleum, had written a Hindi poem, which said, ''It is not correct to say that nobody would go to the emperor's tomb.'' Among other prominent figures to had visited the mausoleum in the recent past was former Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

The Deputy Speaker exuded hope that all political parties would unanimously support the demand to pay tribute to the king, who sacrificed everything to uphold India's honour, and to end the bitter controversy on the 'Bharat Ratna' award.

Earlier, BJP leader L K Advani had proposed the name of former Prime Minister and veteran party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee for the award. This triggered vociferous demands by some political parties to suggest some other names for the award.

The CPM proposed the name of former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, who later reportedly said his name should not be considered and he was not in the race for it.

BSP chief and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati had demanded that the award be conferred on late Kanshiram. The DMK had proposed the name of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, while the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) suggested that late Chaudhary Charan Singh, who was the former Deputy Prime Minister, was the ideal choice.

Former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar's name had also been suggested.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier told reporters here that it was too early to take a decision on it.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi had also said the government would follow the due procedure in the selection of personalities for the civilian awards.

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