In controversial remarks, Press Council Chairperson Justice Markandey Katju on Tuesday said that giving Bharat Ratna to cricketers and film stars, who have "no social relevance", is making a "mockery" of the award.
"People are talking of giving Bharat Ratna to cricketers and film stars. This is the low cultural level to which we have sunk. We ignore our real heroes, and hail superficial ones," he said against the backdrop of the demand for conferring the coveted award to batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar and hockey legend Dhyan Chand.
"Today our country is standing at a cross road. We need persons who can give direction to the country and take it forward. It is such people who should be given Bharat Ratna, even if they are dead," Katju said in a statement.
"Giving it to people who have no social relevance like cricketers and film stars is making a mockery of the award," he said.
Katju said that he had been criticised for demanding Bharat Ratna for Mirza Ghalib and Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya.
"In reply I wish to say that there is nothing wrong in giving awards posthumously provided they are given to the right persons, and Bharat Ratna has been often conferred posthumously in the past e.g. to Sardar Patel and Dr Ambedkar," he said.
Katju said that Mirza Ghalib was the the foremost figure in Urdu while Sharat Chandra dared speak against casteism, superstitions and women's oppression in a feudal society.
The former Supreme Court judge said that that when he had first appealed for award of Bharat Ratna to Ghalib in the Jashn-e-bahaar Mushaira in Delhi in April 2011, his appeal was seconded by many prominent persons Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Union minister Salman Khurshid and Chief Election Commissioner S Y Qureishi.
"I regret to say that the present generation of Indians has been almost entirely deculturised, and all they care for is money, film stars, cricket, and superficialities," Katju said and demanded that Tamil poet Subramania Bharti should also be awarded the Bharat Ratna.