Amongst all the Nobel Peace Prize winners, the two most deserving persons to receive it are women and both are from Asia, something we can be proud of. The first one is Malala Yousafzai, and the second is Aung San Suu Kyi of erstwhile Burma now Myanmar.
While India and Pakistan are exchanging fire at the border, each flexing its muscles threatening each other with destruction, comes the announcement of two persons, unknown to each other, being recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Whether this is just a coincidence or a planned thought-out decision on the part of the Nobel Committee we will never know, but this event is certainly one that should put leaders of both the countries to shame.
The 2014 Peace Prize is shared between the Indian recipient, Kailash Satyarthi and the Pakistani teenager, all of 17, Malala Yousafzai. The Peace Prize is given not only to those who work for peace per se, but also to those who generally work for the well-being of humanity and the development of the deprived. Malala is striving for peace while Satyarthi is working for the welfare of the children. In this sense Malala is the disciple of the Dalai Lama and Satyarthi’s is following in the footsteps of Mother Theresa and Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi founder of Grameen Bank [rural bank] in Bangladesh. None of the persons mentioned here is a foreigner; all belong of the same soil, and they all must be the spirits of this sub-continent. By giving a joint Prize the Nobel Committee is probably trying to communicate the same message to the Hindus and Muslims of both the countries.
No one outside the small village located in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had heard of Malala until 2012, when the 15 year Malala was shot at by the terrorists. The age of 15 is not the age for seeking fame and name, but is the time for playing, studying, and having fun. The fundamentalist Islamist had declared that according to the Sharia, girls cannot receive any education, but Malala had defied this ban and used to encourage girls from her village to attend school. The Islamists had warned her of dire consequences, but that had not shaken Malala’s intents. One day the terrorists assaulted her and shot her in the forehead. She remained in coma for a long time fighting for her life. She was taken abroad for treatment where she gradually recovered. She was felicitated by the United Nations on her 16th birthday in June last year. This honour was really recognition from the whole world. Her speech on this occasion received a standing ovation. Except probably the Dalai Lama no one has given such a speech at the UN. She called the terrorists her brothers and forgave them and requested them not to prevent girls from receiving an education. She dedicated herself to the cause of female education.
Where does such will power or soul force come from? Gandhi had said the power of human will and determination is a thousand times more powerful than the power of guns of the State. This power is strong enough to throw out an established order. Without the help of any outside powers, this 15-year old girl has made armed terrorist powerless. Malala has been far more successful in promoting the cause of female education than the terrorist have been in banning it. Gandhiji used to say that every human being possess will power or soul force. Some extraordinary persons can recognise this force in themselves, while some have to be made aware of this power in them. Gandhiji awakened this force in billions of people. To fight injustice and untruth with non-violence is a unique gift given to us by Gandhi. Malala is a unique heir of Gandhi. Nobel Peace Prizes are being given since 1901 and of all the persons who have received this prize, Malala is the most pre-eminent. By giving her the prize, the Nobel Committee has raised the respect of all Nobel laureates.
Millions of people all over the world are today raising their voices against the established order using Gandhian methods. Under pressure from the colonial British rulers, Gandhi was not given the Peace Prize and by the time the colonial rule ended, Gandhiji was assassinated. Since Nobel prizes are not given posthumously, Gandhi could not be given the Nobel Peace Prize. There is no regret in Gandhi not receiving the Peace Prize because after his death, so many inspired by Gandhiji’s non-violent methods have received the Prize. This just proves how successful and acceptable is Gandhi’s non-violence as a tool to resist established orders.
Kailash Satyarthi, born in a small town of Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh is one such soldier inspired by Gandhi. He trained as an engineer, but instead of settling down to a secure life with a high-paying job, he preferred to fight for children’s rights through non-violent means. This 60 year old Kailash started his work with Swami Agnivesh for the release of bonded labour in Haryana. During this period, he saw that child labour was used to make bricks used for construction in Delhi. On the one side the opulence of the cities and on the other side children without a childhood. So he undertook the task of obtaining the rights of these children working in the brick kilns. Today he is active in a movement called ‘Bachpan Bachao” [Save childhood]. Malala risked her life in childhood to fight terrorism and Satyarthi is fighting to save the childhood of the poor children.
Saytarthi is low profile, shy of publicity, does not talk too much, and avoids the media. Therefore, when his name was announced it came as a surprise to most people. His name was not even known to many people. He has not even received a simple Padma Shri in this country or even the Magsaysay Award or any prestigious awards. So suddenly receiving the Nobel surprised many. Many will also look for some hidden meaning on his being selected for this award, but that should not detract from the honest and selfless work he is doing.
There are several Satyarthi is in this country each devoted to his /her own cause. It may also be true that some people may be doing more extensive work and risking more than he is doing. They are all soldiers of humanity and of them Satyarthi was selected for the Prize, so we should look up this honour as a recognition for the work and not for the individual per se. There is no sense in discussing why Satyarthi and not any other person got the award. The important thing is the cause and the motivation behind the work for which the award was given. Satyarthi is only a representative of such movements. There are many soldiers fighting for justice in this manner all over the world, and it is not possible of each of them to receive an award.
There are many cases when the Peace Prize has gone to undeserving persons. In 1973, Henry Kissinger received the Peace Prize assuming that improvement of relations between China and the USA would lead to world peace after Kissinger had made a secret visit to China and relations between the two was put on better footing. In reality Kissinger and Peace were not even remotely related by any stretch of imagination. America and China have made no efforts of any kind for world peace.
In 1978, Muhammad Anwar Sadat, the then President of Egypt and Menachem Begin, the Prime Minister of Israel, were the joint recipients of the Peace Prize for commencing a dialogue to bring about peace in the region. There is a long list of Begin having indulged in violent acts as well as having led violent campaigns.
In 1994, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of Palestine Liberation Organisation, Yitzhak Rabin, the then Prime Minister of Israel and the Foreign Minister Shimon Peres jointly received the Prize for the peace treaty between the Israel and Palestine. How much these three believed in peace can be easily gauged from their actions. How hollow was this peace treaty and the intentions of Israel is visible in Gaza today.
In 2009, Barack Obama, the President of the USA received the Peace Prize within six months of taking office. For what efforts in peace-making he received the award was not clear and that he accepted the Prize was a mystery.
It has also happened that a deserving person has received the Peace Prize but there were some political calculations behind the move. In 1975, Andrei Sakharov was given the Prize to embarrass communist Soviet Russia, and the Dalai Lama was given the Prize to put China in an awkward position. These prizes were given more for its political agenda than for recognition of the individual’s efforts in bringing peace.
The two most deserving candidates for the Peace Prize are two women and both are from our region, the first one is Malala Yousafzai, and the second is Aung San Suu Kyi of erstwhile Burma now called Myanmar.