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International Day of Peace: Here's a look back on India-based Nobel Peace Prize winners

Updated on: 21 September,2021 11:06 AM IST  |  Mumbai
mid-day online correspondent |

On International Day of Peace 2021, here is what you should know about India-based personalities who won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work. Mother Teresa was among the first working in this region to get the accolade, while the most recent recipient from India was social reformer Kailash Satyarthi. Some award decisions also met with criticism

International Day of Peace: Here's a look back on India-based Nobel Peace Prize winners

Every year, September 21 is celebrated as International Day of Peace. Image for representational purpose only. Photo: istock

The need for peace around the world is intensifying, as the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated global challenges in the last year and a half. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres had appealed for a global ceasefire in March 2020 while the world combatted the virus. While the success of the appeal is hard to measure, the intention to strengthen the ideal of peace remains on agendas proclaimed by most countries.

‘Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world’ is the theme for 2021's International Day of Peace. The day is marked on September 21 every year by the United Nations General Assembly by observing 24-hours of non-violence and ceasefire. During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people living in countries with conflict haven’t been able to get access to vaccine doses, according to the United Nations.

The definition of peace may be commonly associated with non-violence but it has now managed to evolve beyond war and transcend into efforts taken by people to make the world a better place. The Nobel Peace Prize, one of the many awards in the world for peace, is the most well-known accolade given internationally to such people. Over the years, many have worked towards bringing about peace through different means and some personalities living in India have been among them too. On International Day of Peace, here is a look back at India-based people who won or came close to winning the prestigious, and sometimes controversial, Nobel Peace Prize.  

Mother Teresa did not take the prize money of $192,000 and said it should instead be given to the poor people in India. Photo: AFP

Mother Teresa
In 1979, Mother Teresa, an Albanian-Indian nun, received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the poor and downtrodden, especially in Calcutta. The award was given “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress in the world, which also constitute a threat to peace”, according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Upon receiving the award, she did not take the prize money of $192,000 and said it should instead be given to the poor people in India.

Mother Teresa wasn’t born in India but became an Indian national, having made the country her home over the years. Born in Skopje in present day North Macedonia, she moved to India in 1929 and became a teacher before taking care of the poor. She founded the religious congregation, Missionaries of Charity, in Calcutta in 1950 and worked with it till her death in 1997 in the same city.

The 14th Dalai Lama received the Nobel Prize in 1989, 10 years after Mother Teresa had won the award. Photo: AFP

The 14th Dalai Lama
Ten years after Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize, the 14th Dalai Lama was given the award in 1989. The Dalai Lama was born in Tibet's Taktser but has been a resident of India since his exile in 1959. He arrived in Mussoorie first, before making Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh his home.

According to the Nobel Prize committee, the Dalai Lama received the award "for advocating peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people." It acknowledged his efforts, as a spiritual and political leader of Tibet, to bring about Tibetan freedom from China through non-violence.

Social reformer Kailash Satyarthi, who won the award in 2014, started the Bachpan Bachao Andolan movement in 1980. Photo: AFP

Kailash Satyarthi
In 2014, Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian social reformer won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, for his efforts to protect children from child labour and help them get an education. Over 41 years, he has been involved in various initiatives, starting with the Bachpan Bachao Andolan in 1980, which works towards building a child-free society by providing free education. The other organisations are Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, GoodWeave International and Global Campaign for Education.

Satyarthi received the award for his "struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education", according to the Nobel Prize committee. However, the winner received criticism from various quarters later, mainly as a 1997 lawsuit against him for misappropriating funds came to light. 

Five-time nominee
Indian freedom fighter Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi was nominated five times for the award -- in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and 1948 -- but did not receive it till the end. Interestingly, the award, which was given to the 14th Dalai Lama in 1989 was declared by the Norwegian Nobel committee to be "in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi". 

Criticism of the Nobel Peace Prize
While talking about the Nobel Peace Prize, it is hard to ignore the controversies surrounding it over the years. The accolade has been faulted for having political agendas and a predominant favouritism towards the West. Wins such as that of American politician Henry Kissinger in 1973 and former US president Barack Obama in 2009 met with heavy criticism.

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