Politics of the Peace Prize

By Ranjit K. Sahu

Apart from being the only award conferred on the winners in Oslo, the peace prize is perhaps the only one that can be adorned on a person with no scientific or academic output but with significant contribution to the welfare of people and society. It has been awarded to a wide spectrum of people and organizations from different backgrounds, continents and for different kinds of activities, the latest award expanding its horizons to include the youngest recipient. Interestingly it is also the one with more controversies, probably because of its association with people of political hues, who were honored with it.

There has been a flood of congratulatory messages to the joint winners of this year midst some criticism of the relevance of the award and the way it has been projected in the social media. The most bizarre among which is the interpretation of it being conferred to a “Pakistani Muslim and an Indian Hindu”. When was religion specified as a criterion for the Nobel prize?

While speculations are strife about the intention of conferring these awards on these two individuals with very different contributions and the raging border escalations between the two countries, what is noteworthy is that the prize would in no way affect the political scenario in the sub continent. It is naïve to imagine or expect that the award of a prize (whatever its importance to the world maybe), would be able to dictate terms to the strife ridden entities of the subcontinent, be it the Pakistan army, the Taliban or the Kashmir separatists, let alone the more aggressive of their kind like the ISIS and the Al Qaeda. It is therefore a bit funny to read media reporting the award as “a slap on the face of the Taliban”. To be a bit more precise, the Taliban is least bothered about how the world treats Ms. Yousafzai and would have little regards for the medal which in its view would be yet another western method of trying to influence and manipulate the psyche of the subcontinent.

However examination of the two individuals does bring into question the selection of two persons with such diverse attitudes being conferred the award, the single common point of their different approaches to their works being ‘Child welfare’. Here again comes a difference. While Shri Satyarthi was involved in pursuit of children welfare crusading against child labor for several decades, Ms Yousafzai is a new comer with her objections to the dictum of Taliban forbidding education and rights of the female child.   Similarly there has been direct effect of Shri Satyarthi’s efforts which is quantifiable in terms of the number of children rescued. On the contrary the effect of Ms. Yousafzai’s call for standing up against the Taliban cannot be measured in real terms though the effect may be inferred to be more a morale booster and catalyzing a change in the thought process of the gentry in and around Taliban infested areas. Yet another glaring difference is that while Shri Satyarthi is a resident in his own country and works for people there, Ms. Yousafzai has for the present taken up asylum in the United Kingdom. How effective her efforts will be in eliciting a change in a land that is thousands of miles away is a big question and disregarding what the media projects (and speculates), her undertakings will bloom into. The final difference being that while Ms Yousafzai, technically a minor is susceptible to parental influences, Shri Satyarthi is an adult both in legal terms as well as chronologically and intellectually to be fully accountable for all his actions and his visions. So while every success of Shri Satyarthi is attributed to him, the contribution of Ms. Yousafzai’s parents or other intellectuals associated with her in the back ground cannot be ignored. Let us not forget she hails from a sub continent where parents can go to any extent to project their children as the greatest, partly because they link their ambitions and their social images with the standing of their children in the society.

This differences not being considered, examining the purpose of the award itself brings into the fore some questions. The purpose of the peace prize is supposed to bring a radical change in the social set up. Let us take an example of Mr. Mandela. His fight against apartheid has resulted in the emancipation of the blacks in South Africa. While the consequences of Shri Satyarthi’s actions are visible, the results of Ms. Yousafzai’s media presentations (including her suggestions to the two prime ministers of the subcontinent to attend the Nobel peace prize ceremony) are yet to be evaluated on the ground, this being taken in consideration that the Nobel Prize maybe an attempt to highlight individuals whose work may in future create a sea change in the life of people. Let us recall that laureates of the peace prize may have their own compulsions in future to undertake actions that may have connection with wars, the examples being Mr. Yasser Arafat. Let us not at the same time ignore that the award of the Nobel peace prize to Ms Karman and Ms. Ebadi has had little perceptible consequence for the voiceless Middle East woman.

As we proceed towards the ceremony of the Nobel peace prize, we can just hope that the world does not wait on people to be awarded with a Nobel to use them as a role model or inculcate their values. There would be many who would be contributing silently towards welfare of nations and people and who may never be recognized with formal awards and recognitions. Such people may never come into limelight or be on the radars of media or in the minds of common people. To be more positive about the award, it shows that people with benevolence and philanthropic inclinations exist in the society and it is duty of every citizen of every country to promote the actions of such individuals. If that does not happen as the end point, the Nobel Prize would be without luster; its very purpose would be negated. And till such a change occurs and finds its way into the minds of the subcontinent creating an atmosphere of common development and mutual understanding between nations and people, the Nobel Prize can at best be another award and a statistical entry. But for now let the subcontinent rejoice that it has created at least one more positive image in the eyes of the world.

About The Author: Ranjit Sahu, was born in India and is a doctorate in biotechnology. He has published two books in poetry ( 2005: A Year of Love and Drunk )and his poems have appeared in the website of Presently, he is working on several volumes of poems with different themes.


  1. critical review. common or lay man knows none other than mr sathiarthi and ms yousufzai courtesy media. ask a farmer in UP he does not know whp is PM of India or CM of UP. So awards are awards and such extraordinary pple come & go.

  2. Nice thoughtful article. While I agree that giving Nobel Prizes to people in the Middle East/Arab/Other Muslim countries will not make a tangible difference to the maniacal terrorist organizations in those areas…there is still a need to highlight such people just to prove that the entire Muslim world is not maniacal and that there are voices of sanity within it that need to be brought out, and brought out forcefully and convincingly

  3. A very critical analysis over this nobel prize..great writing..