Kailash Satyarthi, a child rights activist, has become the seventh Indian citizen to win a Nobel and the second after Mother Teresa to be picked for the peace prize. Sixty-year-old Satyarthi was named by the Nobel committee Friday as the joint winner of the prestigious award for 2014, along with Pakistani teenager and women rights icon Malala Yousafzai.
The New Delhi-based Satyarthi, who hails from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh, is the founder of the the grassroots NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan and Goodweave, a rug trademarking organisation against child labour.
Malala, now 17, become a symbol of defiance in the fight against militants operating in the Pashtun tribal areas in northwest Pakistan. She became globally known in 2012 when Taliban gunmen almost killed her for her advocacy of women’s right to education.
Announcing the award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a press release that Satyarthi and Malala were being awarded for their “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”. The two will split the Nobel award of US$1.1mn.
Incidentally, the release also noted, “The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”
Reacting to the award, Satyarthi said, “I am thankful to the Nobel committee for recognising the plight of millions of children who are suffering in this modern age. The honour is for all the citizens of India. I will continue my work for the welfare of children.”
Satyarthi, a former electrical engineer who is married with two children, has spearheaded a campaign over the years against companies where children are still illegally employed as bonded labourers, setting thousands of them free.
Among the other awards he was won include the Aachen Peace Prize (1994), the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award (1995), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Human Rights Award (1999), and Parliamentarians for Global Action’s Defender of Democracy Award (2009).
Elaborating on Satyarthi’s work, the Nobel committee said, “Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain. He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.”
The other Nobel laureates from India are: Rabindranath Tagore (Literature), CV Raman (Physics), Har Gobind Khurana (Medicine), Mother Teresa (Peace), Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (Physics) and Amartya Sen (Economics).
Malala was one of the favourites to win the Nobel Prize last year. Now based in Britain, she is unable to return to her homeland because of Taliban threats to kill her and her family members — she had been shot in the head in 2012. She has also won the European Union’s human rights award.
(With inputs from agencies)