Mahatma Gandhi, a symbol of non-violence in the 20th century was nominated several times for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. But unfortunately, Nobel Committee was reluctant in giving this prize to Gandhi. Due to this, questions have been raised stating was the horizon of the Norwegian Nobel Committee too narrow? Were the committee members unable to appreciate the struggle for freedom among non-European peoples? Or were the Norwegian committee members perhaps afraid to make a prize award which might be detrimental to the relationship between their own country and Great Britain?
It may be mentioned here that, Gandhi was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and, finally, a few days before he was murdered in January 1948. The omission has been publicly regretted by later members of the Nobel Committee; when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Prize in 1989, the chairman of the committee said that this was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi”. However, the committee has never commented on the speculations as to why Gandhi was not awarded the prize, and until recently the sources which might shed some light on the matter were unavailable.
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948, two days before the closing date for that year’s Nobel Peace Prize nominations. The Committee received six letters of nomination naming Gandhi; among the nominators were the Quakers and Emily Greene Balch, former Laureates. For the third time Gandhi came on the Committee’s short list – this time the list only included three names – and Committee adviser Seip wrote a report on Gandhi’s activities during the last five months of his life. He concluded that Gandhi, through his course of life, had put his profound mark on an ethical and political attitude which would prevail as a norm for a large number of people both inside and outside India: “In this respect Gandhi can only be compared to the founders of religions”.
Nobody had ever been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. But according to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation in force at that time, the Nobel Prizes could, under certain circumstances, be awarded posthumously. Thus, it was possible to give Gandhi the prize.
On November 18, 1948, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to make no award that year on the grounds that “there was no suitable living candidate”. Chairman Gunnar Jahn wrote in his diary: “To me it seems beyond doubt that a posthumous award would be contrary to the intentions of the testator.” According to the chairman, three of his colleagues agreed in the end, only Oftedal was in favor of a posthumous award to Gandhi.
According to Øyvind Tønnesson, up to 1960, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded almost exclusively to Europeans and Americans. In retrospect, the horizon of the Norwegian Nobel Committee may seem too narrow. Gandhi was very different from earlier Laureates. He was no real politician or proponent of international law, not primarily a humanitarian relief worker and not an organizer of international peace congresses. He would have belonged to a new breed of Laureates.
But now, things have changed. Several individuals have received Nobel Peace Prize, who are neither Europeans nor Americans. But if we can closely look into the achievements and accomplishments of the recipients of Nobel Peace Prize during the recent decades, we shall possibly agree, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina well-deserves the prize for multiple reasons. She can be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for successfully ending the conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts making an end to decades of bloodshed. She can be awarded the prize for hosting over one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. By hosting this massive size of refugees, Sheikh Hasina not only has exhibited appreciable humanity, at the same time she has saved lives of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas from being marooned by Myanmar’s cruel military junta and their cohorts. Appreciating Sheikh Hasina’s decision of giving shelter to Rohingya refugees, experts of South Asian affairs said, “Sheikh Hasina has displayed enormous bravery and at the same time she has exposed monumental humanistic norms by providing shelter, food and healthcare to all the Rohingya civilians who have in the meantime entered Bangladesh territory”.
Two educationists of Ox Peace Dr. Liz Carmichael and Dr. Andrew Gosler have said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has set an outstanding example by extending her helping hand to the tormented Rohingyas who have entered Bangladesh to avoid atrocities by Myanmar army. Bangladesh, through Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has shown to the United States and different European countries how to work for the welfare of refugees, according to Dr. Liz Carmichael and Dr. Andrew Gosler. They both have termed Sheikh Hasina “Greatest leader of humanitarian world”.
On the other hand, three professors from Department of Peace Studies, Columbia University, USA have pointed at Sheikh Hasina as the envoy of global peace. Dr. Oldo Siviko, Dr. Deepali Mukhopaddhay and Dr. Judith Matloff have immensely admired Sheikh Hasina for her humanitarian efforts for Rohingyas.
Professor David N Hempton of Harvard University said Sheikh Hasina has added a new dimension to the idea of peace and humanity over Rohingya issue. Sheikh Hasina has done what Germany and other European countries could not perform, Professor David N Hempton has admitted.
Academics from Peace and Research Institute under Australian National University have also emphasized on paying due honor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her brave and generous standpoint regarding the Rohingya crisis.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina can also get the Nobel Peace Prize for her grand success in transforming an economically struggled Bangladesh into paragon of socio-economic prosperity. She also deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for her undeterred efforts towards empowering of women and ensuring education for the girls.
But still, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has not received the Nobel Peace Prize. The common public belief is that for a person to win a Nobel Prize, there must be a successful lobbying for them. However, the actual term they might be looking for is ‘effective public relation’. Sheikh Hasina, although is known to the world, is only known as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Her achievements have been underreported in the world media, especially in Western and Indian media. Covering her achievements exclusively in Bangla press may not bring any expected result, as those publications would fail to get any international attention, and thus keeping her achievements veiled from the international community. The policymakers of Bangladesh government should guarantee proper international coverage of Sheikh Hasina’s achievement, thus removing the consistent disadvantage she had been put in because of a lack of adequate coverage of her contributions in peacekeeping of the region.
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