By Vijay Darda | 13-10-2014
It is well-known that the Nobel Peace Prize is among the most controversial of the awards conferred by this committee. Its selections have often invited criticism, and the most durable one being its consistent refusal to honour the greatest apostle of peace and non-violence Mahatma Gandhi. The facts associated with this denial are also very interesting. He was nominated for the prize five times during his life. But never did he find favour with the jury. Even after his tragic assassination, the committee considered the idea of honouring him, but did not and curiously in that year withheld the award on the ground that there was no suitable candidate.
It is not difficult to fathom the reason behind this denial of recognition to him. The Nobel Peace Prize is often used to send political messages from the western world. The Mahatma was waging a war against western imperial forces. So what if he was not firing guns? His weaponry of truth and violence, coupled with civil disobedience had mobilized an army of millions of unarmed masses who collectively dethroned an imperial power. The western world could not honour this humiliation of its own ways. The Peace Prize can also be given to those who have waged the bloodiest wars like US president Barack Obama.
It is significant that the Nobel Committee that did not find it to honour Gandhi, has made a reference to his methods of struggle in its citation for this year’s joint laureate Kailash Satyarthi. More than that there is a reference to India and Pakistan and the two religions- Hindusim and Islam. These references have even invited sneering objections on the grounds that there is hardly any need to inject religion into a cause like children’s education or their right to be free from bondage. But then we can either frown at such references and ignore the ground realities or take the lesson that is embedded in the message.
The fact is that it is 67 years since India and Pakistan were partitioned and acquired freedom from imperial colonial rule. The two countries have charted their separate paths with whatever outcomes, but then jointly they have not been able to live in harmony as decent neighbours. There is no denial of the fact that there is always the possibility of relations among neighbours to be rocked by disputes, but when these remain unresolved and there are violent fall-outs then it is a cause for concern. The world is naturally concerned at the India-Pak hostility as these are two nuclear armed nations. Besides, the hostility with India has given Pakistan the rationale to raise a mighty jihadi force that poses a major threat to world peace. That the co-winner Malala Yousafzai is survivor from a deadly attack by this force adds to the poignancy of the message.
It helps to underscore the peace message that neither Kailash Satyarthi nor Malala are actually the darlings of the establishment in their own land. Satyarthi has not been honoured by the Padmashri award that goes to hundreds of activists every year,even though he has been working for more than three decades. Indeed, such is the situation about him that when the Nobel was announced,there was a question: Satyarthi Who? As for Malala, the 17 year old courageous teenager, she is an outcast in her home country.
So, when the western world honours them with the highest Peace prize, it also sends a message to India and Pakistan.Why don’t you act responsibly? Your individual citizens are going great guns with courageous and noteworthy actions, why don’t you as countries act with maturity and get the peace dividend from the west? The west is encouraged to send this message not just because of Satyarthi and Malala, but also because the skilled talent from both the countries contributes to the west in an impressive manner.
The point of Hindu-Muslim cooperation is the essence of the ancient Indian civilization. Through centuries of rules under different kings the two religious communities have lived in harmony and contributed towards its heritage. It was only under the British colonial regime that the concept of dividing the two communities to rule got encouraged, and culminated in the final act of partition. The reference to both the religions in the same breath is quite significant in this context.
In a way it is very good that the award came at a time when the two sides were engaged in the worst cross border exchange of fire in a decade. The last six decades have been a testimony to the utter wastefulness of these exchanges. It may sound as a blame game, but the fact is that after the 1971 break-up of East and West Pakistan, the army is nursing its wounds of humiliation by waging a low intensity war against India to bleed it by a thousand cuts. Unfortunately, this is an approach just for psychological satisfaction with no military or strategic gains. India is too much of a robust country to be impacted by these pin-pricks beyond irritation. These cyclical ups and dips have now become the new normal in the hostile neighbourhood.
But the impact on Pakistan is debilitating. For each passing day that Islamabad loses in the process of normalizing relations with New Delhi it renders the process of diverting its resources for peaceful purposes all the more difficult. Malala’s suggestion that both prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi should attend the award ceremony should not be seen merely as a child’s wish to enhance the glory of a personal landmark,but as an expression of the desire of the children in the sub-continent to see that their leaders cooperate even with their differences remaining unresolved.
Peace always has very rich dividends, and war always exacts a high toll. Children are the future in every sense of the word, and Nobel peace for the cause of Indian and Pakistani children would get an added meaning beyond Malala and Satyarthi if the two countries imbibe the spirit of these two individuals.