Ahluwalia (extreme left) and Tenzing’s son Jamling (extreme right) at the mountaineer’s Darjeeling home. (Suman Tamang)
Darjeeling, March 23: S.S. Ahluwalia, the BJP’s candidate for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, today called on Tenzing Norgay’s son and supported the demand by the late mountaineer’s family and hill residents that the Bharat Ratna be conferred on the first man along with Edmund Hillary to have climbed Mt Everest.
During his visit to Tenzing’s home at Ghang-La, Darjeeling, Ahluwalia said: “Tomorrow, I will file my nomination but before that, I wanted to come and pay homage to the tallest figure of Darjeeling. Today is a historic day as Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were sent to the gallows on March 23, 1931.”
The BJP leader’s gesture is being seen as an attempt to connect with the people of the hills. The chorus for conferring the Bharat Ratna posthumously on Tenzing gathered steam in the hills after the Prime Minister’s Office issued a notification in 2012 extending the ambit of the award to “recognise excellence in any field of human endeavour”.
Ahluwalia reached Tenzing’s house around 11.30am along with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha assistant secretary Binay Tamang. Tenzing’s son Jamling took him around the family’s private museum.
Lambasting the state government and the Centre for “failing to recognise” Tenzing’s contribution, Ahluwalia said: “Successive state governments have not even taken a cabinet decision to recommend Tenzing Norgay’s name to the President for the Bharat Ratna.”
The BJP candidate added: “Two members of the 1953 expedition (team), John Hunt and Edmund Hillary, were conferred knighthood…. It was only in 1959, six years after the first major international event after Independence in which an Indian was involved, was Tenzing given the Padma Bhushan.”
Tenzing had received the George Medal from the British government in 1953. The Nepal government had honoured him with the Nepal Tara and the Nepal Pratap Vardak awards. The mountaineer had also received the USSR Sports Special Medal, the Special Olympic Medal, the French Sports Special Medal, the Italian Sports Special Medal, the Coronation Medal of Queen Elizabeth II and many other honours.
“I felt very sad that the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) has not issued any coin or note on Tenzing,” Ahluwalia said. “Do we only go by media hype? Why are people like Dhyan Chand and Milkha Singh forgotten? Have we forgotten our heroes of the 50 and 60s?” he added.
Sachin Tendulkar is the first sportsperson to receive the Bharat Ratna following the change in the award’s criteria.
Ahluwalia said Tenzing “had all the credentials” and “deserves” the Bharat Ratna. “He will surely get it,” the BJP leader added.
Darjeeling residents, particularly members of the United Sherpa Association, have demanded that the Bharat Ratna be conferred on Tenzing. There are around 1.4 lakh Sherpas in the Darjeeling hills.
Jamling said he received a call from the Ahluwalia camp last evening, informing him about the BJP leader’s wish to visit him.
“Ahluwalia has specifically said he will fight for the Bharat Ratna. I hope he lives up to his words. I am happy we have the support of the BJP’s Darjeeling candidate. This (if Tenzing is given the Bharat Ratna) will be an honour and recognition for Darjeeling,” Jamling said.