The Indian Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satayarthi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2014. As a Nobel Peace Laureate, his concern shall encompass issues of peace and burning conflicts, surrounding – if not the whole world, at least his home country India. From declining journalist freedom in India to the rape of tribal women in Bastar, violence by Cow vigilante and by police forces in North-eastern states, increasing religious nationalism and warmongering with our neighbour, and silencing of civil society by Indian government – his silence over contemporary conflict is questionable. Here’s Amit’s erudite observation, exclusively in Different Truths.
In a story published on June 13, 2017, in the Hindustan Times, Bobby Ghosh, the Editor-in-Chief of Hindustan Times, argued that Nobel prize must be rescinded from those who do not live up to Nobel standards, thus, an audit of the work and worlds of all living laureates must be scrutinised. Accordingly, Ghosh highlighted five undeserving Nobel laureates namely- European Union (2012), Barack Obama (2009), Mohammed El Baradei (2005), Kofi Anan (2001), Henry Kissinger (1973) – whose names belong to the Hall of Shame.
While I do support the idea that non-performing Nobel laureates’ prize must be rescinded, however, I wonder why Bobby Ghosh’s list did not include the name of the Indian Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satayarthi. Satyarthi was awarded Nobel Peace Prize, in 2014, “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”. As a Nobel Peace Laureate, his concern shall encompass issues of peace and burning conflicts, surrounding- if not the whole world, at least his home country India. From declining journalist freedom in India to the rape of tribal women in Bastar, violence by Cow vigilante and by police forces in North-eastern states, increasing religious nationalism and warmongering with our neighbour, and silencing of civil society by Indian government – his silence over contemporary conflict is questionable.
Furthermore, Satyarthi’s silence over the ongoing conflict in Kashmir is disquieting. His role to speak against the unfolding human rights crisis in Kashmir is almost negligible. As a Nobel peace laureate, he could have proactively called for peace and reconciliation in the burning conflict of Kashmir; he could have used his influence on the Indian government and Kashmiri people to engage in a healthy dialogue. He kept quiet while peace is being shattered. Adding disturbing example of his connivance is the ongoing violence against Dalits in India. Satyarthi, so far, hardly has spoken or criticised against the violence and prevailing discrimination against Dalits and minority community in India. His being non-confrontational make him appear complicit with the government action against Dalits and Kashmiri people.
A Nobel Peace Laureate must stand against all atrocities and struggle for peace in all situation, time and space irrespective of his political affiliation and religion. However, Satayarthi has been limiting himself only to the soft-tissue of child labour avoiding ongoing civil and political conflict which requires immediate attention.
In one case, speaking to RSS (Rastriya Swamswak Sangh) mouthpiece Panchjanya, Satyarthi criticised NGOs for turning welfare into a business. According to him, “NGOs are influenced by Naxalism”, some are involved in religious conversions, while others are “intoxicated with money and power”. He went on claim that the NGO sector had converted “social change and social welfare into a business”. His statement might have some truth; however, Satyarthi’s remark may have provided Indian government an excuse to restrict the funding of NGO and taking hostile steps to suffocate their freedom. Also, making such statement, Satyarthi ignored his own history of running NGO on government funding and made appear other NGOs corrupt and power-monger.
Nobel Peace Prize comes with huge responsibility-this is a well-known fact. Nobel Peace Laureates are the “architects of global peace”. They remind us of the good one human being can do. They inspire, educate and transform our world.
Satyarthi may win the faith of Indian government by appearing nationalist and making an anti-NGO statement, but he may lose the trust of global civil society particularly Nobel Peace Committee – who have elected him for promoting global peace and diffusing the conflict.
Thus, supporting Bobby Ghosh’s argument would make sense that, Nobel committee should conduct, every five years, an audit of the work and words of all living laureates, and the prize must be rescinded from non-performer and put their name in the Hall of the Shame.
This article is a modified version of the author’s article published in The Oslo Time in Aug 2016.
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Amit Singh is a human security and social justice expert. He is a doctoral candidate at University of Coimbra, Portugal; hold master degrees in history, human rights, and multiculturalism. He is a columnist for several newspapers in Norway and India.