The 5-member Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee, with election for three out of its five spots slated later this year, chose to play it safe by awarding two names no one would criticize, at least the names who made for the headlines and generate subsequent rounds of controversy. Malala Yousafzai, who makes for headlines and is a favourite of the Western media, has become a ‘celebrity’ activist in just two years symbolizing aspirations of millions of girls in her country Pakistan. Her name was among the most debated ones even the last year and the Nobel committee had to award the 17-year old activist, now residing in Britain, sooner or later. The other, Kailash Satyarthi from India, has had an impressive track record spread over decades working for children’s rights.
Yes, it was known that Bachpan Bachao Andolan’s Kailash Satyarthi was nominated but he was nowhere even remotely near to figure in the intense debates and discourses that precede the Peace Nobel announcement every year.
No Peace Nobel commentator in news spoke on his chances. No Peace Nobel expert on the block analyzed his work to speak on his claim. No Peace Nobel bookmaker in business placed stakes on him.
So, it came as a pleasant surprise when the five Norwegian politicians decided on Mr. Satyarthi’s name recognizing decades of tough, real ground work bringing change to the lives, saving children from bonded labour and inhuman working conditions, and sincerely trying to give them a future.
And thankfully, in India, the youngest nation demographically, a nation with still worrying literacy and health parameters, there are many silent crusaders and champions of humanity like him – Sindhutai Sakpal, Dr. Binayak Sen, Ela Bhatt, Deep Joshi, Sunitha Krishnan, to name a few.
So, it’s a well deserved due that an activist working for the children’s rights in the world’s youngest nation but also with maximum number of poor has got. And it will certainly motivate the others in the fraternity.
Yes, some of them are celebrity names in ‘cause-based’ activism but they never carry that celebrity aura that makes many ‘celebrity activists’ ‘news worthy’ with ‘celebrity fighting for a cause’ tag. They work consistently. And they work silently.
That silence is only broken whenever some big news event like an award like the Peace Nobel or Ramon Magsaysay happens or when there is confrontation with parties involved that obstruct the activists from realizing the outcome of their rightful ‘causes’.
And awarding Mr. Satyarthi the Peace Nobel jointly with Malala Yousafzai makes sense.
After the Taliban attack for defying the dictat of not going to school that almost killed her, she has become the symbolism of girls’ right to education in poorest and most orthodox societies commoditizing and exploiting women as objects. She symbolizes the undying spirit of persisting for the opportunities to make a life of dignity and social parity the foundation of which is laid in the childhood, something that is a must for to propel through the adolescence to the formative years of early adulthood. Hope, someday, she would be able to go back and work in the field for the deprived girls in her country.
Recognizing Mr. Satyarthi’s groundwork with Malala’s symbolism draws attention to the known, dark but largely ignored aspects of child-rights across countries and across societies that need enhanced priority in a world where over 60% of the population in the poorest countries is below the age of 25. And remember, the girl child is considered a discarded entry in many of these societies.
It is not for the India-Pakistan or the Hindu-Muslim rhetoric of the Nobel Peace committee, but for this combination of fieldwork and symbolism that makes this year Peace Nobel decision worth the name of Peace Nobel, the world’s still most prestigious recognition that is increasingly regularly attracting criticism, something that has forced the government in Norway to work on the structure of the ‘committee’ .
Yes, to be honest of the realities and true to be true to the global politics, it is not going to change anything on the ongoing border hostilities between India and Pakistan and it is not going to stop the Hindu-Muslim riots , until the mindset changes, the mindset of the billions who don’t even know don’t care for what a Peace Nobel is, people who force the children in bonded labour, people who traffic children, people who force girls into prostitution, people who shot Malala.
The Peace Nobel is still the most prestigious recognition because it draws worldwide attention to an issue, a problem area, and therefore a symbolic win for the people working to address it and for the humankind that says, yes, there is an urgent need to attend to that problem.
Yes, it does motivate the people acting for the cause to uproot the problem or to address the issue, but it does little to affect the mindset of those behind the issue or the problem.
Did Liu Xiaobo’s 2010 Peace Nobel change anything in China? No, in fact China has become more ruthless and has increased its crackdown on activists and democratic voices of dissent.
Did the 2012 Peace Nobel to the European Union made the Union more cohesive? No, its future is still as threatened as was in 2012.
Is the Peace Nobel to Malala going to change the way Taliban see the women and their position in the societies controlled by them? No.
Yes, but it does motivate the fraternity of activists to do more, to seek more from the society for their ‘causes’.
Mr. Satyarthi, whose two colleagues were killed while saving children from inhuman working conditions, said in an interview that there are 168 million children forced into child labour globally and there are 200 million adults jobless and it would be a great service to humanity and to the humankind if Peace Nobel 2014 could push (or for that matter, motivate) the world powers, engaged in geopolitical maneuvering to promote self-interests abashed, to give a sensitive ear to this harrowingly imbalanced linkage of human lives to the need and denial of livelihoods.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/