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Sherpas want Bharat Ratna for Norgay

Amid the raging debate on whether Hockey Wizard Dhayan Chand should be conferred Bharat Ratna before Sachin Tendulkar, Darjeeling's Sherpa community feels that Late Tenzing Norgay Sherpa should be the recipient of the highest civilian award of the country for the then impossible feat of summiting Mount Everest on 29th May 1953.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2011 23:24 IST
Amitava Banerjee
Amitava Banerjee
Hindustan Times

Amid raging a debate on whether Hockey Wizard Dhayan Chand should be conferred Bharat Ratna before Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar, the Sherpa community of Darjeeling feels that Late Tenzing Norgay Sherpa should be the recipient of the highest civilian award of the country for the then impossible feat of summiting Mount Everest on 29th May 1953.

Initially the Bharat Ratna was considered only for those, who excelled for "exceptional service towards advancement of Art, Literature and Science, and in recognition of public service of the highest order". However a notification by the Prime Minister's Office on recommendation of the home and sports ministries in July 2011, brought an amendment whereby the Bharat Ratna would be conferred "in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavor" - which now brings almost all fields including sports that had earlier remained out of the purview of this award.

"Late Tenzing has been recognized by almost over two dozen countries of the world with their highest honour and awards. He has been selected as one of the 10th best athletes of the world by Life Magazine in 2000 and declared as one of the most influential people of the world by Time Magazine in 1999. It is apt that the person who made by India proud in the global arena should be conferred the Bharat Ratna," stated Phurtemba Sherpa, joint secretary of the United Sherpa Association.

The Association has nominated Tenzing Norgay for the Bharat Ratna and has demanded that a committee should be constituted comprising of academicians, historians, stalwarts of various fields including sports to carefully weigh as to who should be conferred the highest civilian award. "Let the achievements of all the nominees be weighed carefully before a decision is reached" stated the Joint Secretary of the Association.

The Sherpa Association will be sending faxes to the President of India, Prime Minister, Union Home minister, Union Sports Minister, Leaders of the opposition of the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha and the West Bengal Chief Minister with this demand.

Reacting to this Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of Late Tenzing Norgay, said, "Our family is honoured that the Sherpa community has decided to recommend my father for the Bharat Ratna. My father had made our nation proud when our nation was still in infancy (having gained freedom in 1947.) He still continues to inspire the youth of our nation. He was the first Indian and Asian to rise from a humble beginning to become an instant icon worldwide. His iconic image atop the summit is an enduring symbol of the human spirit."

The family and the Sherpa community however feel that the Indian Government has neglected this legend. "Tenzing Norgay had been conferred the George Medal- the second highest civilian award of UK in 1953. He had then been conferred the Padma Bhushan- the third highest civilian award of India in 1959. In 2008, late Sir Edmund Hillary was awarded the Padma Vibhushan- the second highest civilian award of India becoming the 13th foreigner to receive this award. However my father is not a recipient of Padma Vibhushan," said Jamling.

Tracing history, Tenzing Lhatoo Sherpa, Vice President of the Association stated that a tug of war had taken place between India and Nepal to claim Tenzing as their citizen immediately after his ascent of Mount Everest. "While the Nepal Government was all out wooing Tenzing as a Nepal citizen, the then Prime Minister of India Pundit Nehru had sent two emissaries to Kathmandu- the Nepali capital to woo Tenzing and bring him back to Darjeeling, India."

Passang Phudar and Thackpa, both Sherpas from Darjeeling and close associates of Tenzing were sent to Kathmandu by Pundit Nehru and were successful in getting Tenzing back to Darjeeling, whereby Nehru embarked on a world tour proudly introducing Tenzing to the world. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was also built in 1954, to honour Tenzing and to promote mountaineering.

Tenzing served as the Director and Advisor till his death in 1986 in Darjeeling. During his spell at the HMI he kept his promise to Pundit Nehru of "Producing a thousand Tenzings" thus elevating mountaineering in India.

So far, 41 people have been conferred with Bharat Ratna including Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Amratya Sen, Jawaharlal Nehru. The first three Indians, who received the prestigious award, were Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and Sarvapali Radhakrishnan in 1954. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was the last recipient of the award in 2009.

Legendary mountaineer Tenzing Norgay
1914 – Born in Solo Khumbu region in Nepal on May 29. Later migrated to Darjeeling, India.
1935 – Accompanied Eric Shipton’s reconnaissance expedition to Everest.
1936- Went with Hugh Rutteledge’s expedition to Everest and reached North Col.
1938- Accompanied HW Tillma’s expedition to Everest and reached Camp 6 (27,330 ft).
1952- Accompanied two Swiss expeditions to Everest reaching the heights of 28,210 ft and 26,560 ft without supplement oxygen with Raymond Lambert.
1953- Accompanied the British Everest expedition led by Col. John Hunt and climbed the summit of Everest along with Sir Edmund Hillary on May 29.
1986- Died in Darjeeling on May 9.

Important Decorations and Awards

Padma Bhushan, President’s Gold Medal, Nepal Tara, Nepal Pratap Vardak, Iran Shah Medal, George Medal, Coronation Medal of Queen Elizabeth II, Tiger of the Snows medal, Hubbard Medal of the National Geographic Society, USSR Sports Special Medal, Special Olympic Medal, French Sports Special Medal, Italian Sports Special Medal, Doctor of Law Northland College- Wisconsin, IMF Gold Medal.

First Published: Dec 19, 2011 22:54 IST