President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, to former President Pranab Mukherjee, ANI reported. The award was conferred during a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.

The Narendra Modi-led government had announced the Bharat Ratna for Mukherjee on Republic Day this year. Mukherjee had said he accepted the honour with “deep sense of humility and gratitude”. “I have always said and I repeat, that I have got more from the people of our great country than I have given to them,” he had said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said Mukherjee is an “outstanding statesman of our times”. “He has served the nation selflessly and tirelessly for decades, leaving a strong imprint on the nation’s growth trajectory,” Modi had said. “His wisdom and intellect have few parallels. Delighted that he has been conferred the Bharat Ratna.”

The government also conferred the Bharat Ratna on Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader Nanaji Deshmukh and singer and musician Bhupen Hazarika, posthumously. Deendayal Research Institute Chairperson Virendrajeet Singh received the award on behalf of Deshmukh, and Hazarika’s son Tej Hazarika received it on his behalf.

Tej Hazarika initially rejected the honour in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which had sought to amend a 1955 law to grant citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from the Muslim-majority nations of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years.

But he later said it will be a “tremendous honour” and a “dreamlike privilege” to receive the Bharat Ratna on behalf of his father from the government, and claimed that his Facebook post rejecting the Bharat Ratna for his father was “misinterpreted”.