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Cross-border ‘Prize’ing and Unsung Heroes

Cross-border ‘Prize’ing and Unsung Heroes

By Anjana George

Edited by, Namrata Caleb, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist

Nobel Peace Prize 2014 and ceasefire violations. Kailash Satyarthi and child labour. Malala Yousafzai and militant attacks. In between all the contradictions that the world can show us, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize is one worth discussing about. In Malala’s words, “one is an Indian, one is a Pakistani. One is a Hindu and one strongly believes in Islam.”- this negation has brought the world’s attention to both the Nobel laureates and child rights but more importantly to the persistent Indo-Pak conflict. Even as the winners were announced Indians went wild as they googled ‘who is really Kailash Satyarthi?’(just as I the hangdog writer did), while our neighbours in Pakistan looked baffled as they contended the fact that their only two Nobel laureates are both under exile. And only few hours into this drama, the LoC was featuring its own daily-soap with shell mortars and incessant firing. Civilians injured and political leaders engaging in slugfests, there seems to be no lack of variance across the border.

Amidst all this, it is hard to judge whether this shared Peace prize should bring any amount of joy or affront. Each of the two laureates has been compared based on their religion, nationality and age but what binds them together is their common goal to achieve respect for child rights and education. But the reason why they are unsung heroes?- one is least known his nation and the other is deported from being known in her nation.

Kailash Satyarthi (as I have recently learnt) is a pioneer in the field of child rights in India. Unlike traditional activist groups, Satyarthi’s team followed a ‘barge-in and rescue’ policy by which they have rescued round 80,000 children forced into labour and in the process they have been harmed many a times in their encounters to rescue victims from circuses, factories and the like. At the age of 60 and after four decades of social service, Satyarthi has become a global citizen and won prestigious awards like the La Hospitalet Award (1999), Defenders of Democracy Award (2009), Robert. F. Kennedy Award (1995) and many more but never an Indian accolade.

He was hardly known in the Indian press but was featured in bestseller books like ‘Speak Truth to Power’ by Kerry Kennedy where he was named one among 50 human rights defenders alongside Elie Wessel, the Dalai Lama and the likes. He has contributed to pioneering activities like the Global March Against Child Labour, Bachpan Bachao Andholan, Goodweaves and currently chairs the International Centre on Child Labour and Education (ICCLE) apart from addressing human right issues in world forums.

Malala Yousafzai on the other hand has been a popular personality since the time of the news of her getting shot by the Taliban for voicing her rights on girl education. She had, prior to this, worked to spread awareness about the issue on a BBC Urdu blog and spoke at press clubs, all under the protection and initiation of a supportive father. Her actions have recently caused the Pakistan government to pass their first bill on Right to Education. She too has been a recipient of many awards and been an inspirational personality in the voice of her powerful speeches and her autobiography ‘I Am Malala’.

Both these personalities though, have achieved success in their field of work but ironically they have highlighted the same issues that have plagued both India and Pakistan. The shame of not being able to allow freedom of education for our girls, practicing child labour and not acknowledging the initiatives of our grassroots activists needs to be marked in our guilty consciences.

With this year’s pick for the Peace Prize, the Nobel committee has indirectly resorted to highlight the tensions between the two nuclear powers. Okay, the strategy is good but the award does not seem to be in line with Alfred Nobel’s idea for disarmament. Both the winners have championed child rights and education initiatives but none for global peace, as is in line with the awards concept.

Coming to think of it is the Peace Prize really a mark of achievement of two individuals or is it a subtle hint meant for the two subcontinent nations? Does the real underlying meaning of the Prize revolve around waking the two nations to actually leave behind conflicts of the past and embrace the message of Peace? Even if we can presume or construct a meaning and try to actually mend ties, it will possibly not lead to immediate results. It may take a very long time until both parties may decide to say atleast ‘hello’ again. It remains to be seen how the Prime Minister’s of these two nations meet and greet at the Nobel Prize ceremony.

We aren’t the only nations with differences but we could be the first ones to end the decades of debacle and start afresh. Taking a leaf out the inspiring lives of our laureates we should strive to eradicate societal evils and partake in basic human rights as we work together, hand-in hand, across the Line of Control. It is a distant dream but not an impossible one.

Malala’s win is an inspiring one of purpose, accomplishment and goodwill while Satyarthi has brought to light the fruit of hardwork and determination. Both the nations, without any politicizing, should rejoice in their newfound glory while still keeping an eye on the nations respective internal conflicts and work to amend ties.

PS: Mahatma Gandhi should be happy to know that his follower has been conferred with an award (alongside a Pakistani activist) which he himself was unable to collect, and pray that it brings a new spur in national prosperity and achievement, here and across the border, just like it did in the early 40’s.

Anjana George is a second year student pursuing Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from Christ University, Bangalore. She believes in the power of words and their magic to entwine people in thought and understanding. Her subjects of interest include politics, spirituality, architecture and movies among others. She is an avid reader and takes keen interest in writing, storytelling and photography. She aspires to be able to know people, places and lives and share her knowledge of experience with others. She can be contacted at the following email address- [email protected].

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