Nobel Peace Prize for Indian Subcontinent: Kailash of India and Malala of Pakistan share the coveted prize

LONDON (TIP): History was made on October 10 when an Indian and a Pakistani jointly shared the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014. India’s Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “showing great personal courage” and their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Malala is the youngest to be awarded the globally prestigious annual prize.

The committee said Kailash Satyarthi maintained Mahatma Gandhi’s tradition and 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”. “Children must go to school and not be financially exploited. In the poor countries of the world, 60% of the present population is under 25 years of age.

It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected. In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation,” the committee said. Talking about Malala, it said “Despite her youth, Malala has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations. This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ right to education”.

Who is Kailash Satyarthi?

Satyarthi is an Indian child rights activist born in Vidisha, about 50km from Bhopal. He studied engineering at the Govt Engineering College, Vidisha and gave up his career as an electrical engineer over three decades ago to start Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or Save the Childhood Movement. Today, the non-profit organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan he founded is leading the movement to eliminate child trafficking and child labour in India. The organisation has been working towards rescuing trafficked children for over 30 years.

It receives information from a large network of volunteers. “My philosophy is that I am a friend of the children. I don’t think anyone should see them as pitiable subjects or charity. That is old people’s rhetoric. People often relate childish behaviour to stupidity or foolishness. This mindset needs to change. I want to level the playing field where I can learn from the children. Something I can learn from children is transparency. They are innocent, straightforward, and have no biases.

I relate children to simplicity and I think that my friendship with children has a much deeper meaning than others,” he said. Satyarthi, 60, admires Mahatma Gandhi and has likewise headed various forms of peaceful protests “focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,” the Nobel committee said. While announcing the historic Nobel peace prize to an Indian and a Pakistani jointly, the Nobel Committee said, “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.”

‘Honour to children in slavery’

“It’s an honour to all those children who are still suffering in slavery, bonded labour and trafficking,” Satyarthi said after he shared the prestigious award with Pakistani teenager Malala. “It’s an honour to all my fellow Indians. I am thankful to all those who have been supporting my striving for more than the last 30 years,” said Satyarthi. “A lot of credit goes to the Indians who fight to keep democracy so alive and so vibrant, where I was able to keep my fight on,” said Satyarthi. “Something which was born in India has gone globally and now we have the global movement against child labour. After receiving this award I feel that people will give more attention to the cause of children in the world.”

Malala Yousafzay: An idol to the world, outcast at home

Malala Yousafzay, who won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, is hailed around the world as a champion of women’s rights who stood up bravely against the Taliban to defend her beliefs. But in her deeply conservative homeland, many view her with suspicion as an outcast or even as a western creation aimed at damaging Pakistan’s image abroad. Malala, now aged 17, became globally known in 2012 when Taliban gunmen almost killed her for her passionate advocacy of women’s right to education.

She has since become a symbol of defiance in the fight against militants operating in Pashtun tribal areas in northwest Pakistan – a region where women are expected to keep their opinions to themselves and stay at home. “The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born,” she told the United Nations last year. “I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me.

I would not shoot him,” she said in a speech which captivated the world. Malala has also won the European Union’s human rights award and 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. The current Taliban chief, Mullah Fazlullah, was the one who ordered the 2012 attack against her. Yousafzai has enrolled in a school in Birmingham and become a global campaigner for women’s right to education and other human rights issues, taking up issues such as the situation in Syria and Nigieria.

In her native Swat valley, however, many people view Malala – backed by a supportive family and a doting father who inspired her to keep up with her campaign – with a mixture of suspicion, fear and jealousy. At the time of her Nobel nomination last year, social media sites were brimming with insulting messages. “We hate Malala Yousafzai, a CIA agent,” said one Facebook page.

She was a young student in the Swati town of Mingora in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province when she became interested in women’s rights. At the time, the Taliban were in power in the strategic valley after they took control over the region and imposed strict Islamic rules, including their opposition to women’s education. She wrote an anonymous blog describing her life under the Taliban controlled the region.

In October 2012, after the Taliban were pushed out of Swat by the Pakistani army, she was shot in the head on her way to school by a Taliban gunman. She survived after being airlifted to Britain for treatment and recovered from her lifethreatening wounds. “The wise saying, ‘The pen is mightier than sword’ was true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens,” she told the United Nations. “The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them.”

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