Ahluwalia (left) with Jamling (right), the son of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, at the latter’s house in Darjeeling on Sunday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, March 23: The BJP candidate for Darjeeling, S.S. Ahluwalia, today paid homage to Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, the first man to climb Mount Everest, along with Sir Edmund Hillary, and batted for Bharat Ratna for the “tallest figure” of the Darjeeling hills.
The gesture is being seen as an attempt by Ahluwalia to connect with the local people. The chorus for conferring Bharat Ratna on Tenzing, a resident of Darjeeling, gathered steam in the hills after the Centre had in 2012 extended the ambit of the award to “recognise excellence in any field of human endeavour”.
Earlier, the country’s highest award was restricted to exceptional achievements in art, literature, science and public service.
Ahluwalia reached the house of Jamling Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, the son of Tenzing Norgay, around 11.30am, along with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha assistant secretary, Binay Tamang. Jamling took the BJP candidate around the family’s private museum and they spent around half-an-hour talking about Tenzing.
Speaking to the media, Ahluwalia said: “Tomorrow, I am filing my nomination but before doing so, I wanted to come and pay homage to the tallest figure of Darjeeling. Today is also a historic day as Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were sent to the gallows (on this day) in 1931.”
Accusing both the state and the Centre of failing to recognise Tenzing’s contribution, Ahluwalia said: “Successive state governments have not even taken a cabinet decision to recommend Tenzing Norgay’s name for a Bharat Ratna to the President.”
Tenzing, who had scaled Mount Everest on May 29, 1953, died in 1986.
With Jamling by his side, the BJP candidate said: “Two members of the 1953 expedition, John Hunt (team leader) and Edmund Hillary were conferred with knighthood (in 1953) but because of the reluctance of the then prime minister of our country, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Tenzing Norgay was not conferred with knighthood. Tenzing was given Padma Bhushan only in 1959, six years after the first major international event, in which an Indian was involved, after Independence.”
Tenzing had received the George Medal in 1953 from the British government, Iran Shah Medal and the Nepal Tara and Nepal Pratap Vardak awards. He was also conferred with the USSR Sports Special Medal, French Sports Special Medal, Italian Sports Special Medal and Coronation Medal of Queen Elizabeth II.
“I felt very sad that our country’s RBI has not issued any coin or note on Tenzing,” said Ahluwalia. “Do we only go by media hype? Why are people like Dhyan Chand and Milkha Singh forgotten? Have we forgotten our heroes of the 50s and 60s?” Ahluwalia asked, referring to the Centre’s decision to grant Bharat Ratna to Sachin Tendulkar.
Tendulkar is the first sportsman to receive Bharat Ratna following the change in the award’s criteria. The BJP candidate said: “Tenzing Norgay Sherpa has all the credentials and deserves Bharat Ratna. He will surely get it… Narendra Modi will look into the matter.”
The people of Darjeeling and particularly, the United Sherpa Association, had demanded that Tenzing be bestowed with Bharat Ratna. The population of the Sherpa community is pegged at around 1.4 lakh in the hills.
Jamling said he had received a call from the Ahluwalia camp last evening to convey the BJP nominee’s wish to visit him. “Ahluwalia has specifically said he will fight for Bharat Ratna for my father. I hope he lives up to his word. I am happy we have the support of the BJP candidate from Darjeeling. This will be an honour and recognition for Darjeeling,” said Jamling, who had also conquered the world’s highest peak.
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was set up in Darjeeling following Tenzing’s achievement. The climber had been the director of the field training at the HMI since its inception in 1954 till 1976.
Tenzing was then made an advisor to the institution and held the post till he breathed his last on May 9, 1986 at the age of 71.
After visiting Jamling’s residence, Ghang-La, Ahluwalia attended a meeting of Morcha workers at Malidhura in Darjeeling. Morcha president Bimal Gurung was also present at the meet.