`Death deprived Mahatma Gandhi of Nobel Peace Prize’

July 22nd, 2008 - 9:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, July 22 (IANS) Mahatma Gandhi did not get the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948, the year he was supposed to after being shortlisted five times, because he was assassinated, said Ole Danbolt Mjos, the chairman of the Nobel Prize Committee. Mjos confirmed this matter, on the committee’s records, during his current visit here as the guest of Bangladesh’s Nobel Peace Laureate and rural banking pioneer, Muhammad Yunus.

His reply as to why Gandhi did not get it posthumously was “not unequivocal”, said The Daily Star Tuesday.

Nobel is not generally given to anyone posthumously, he said in an interview, explaining that the one given to a former UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjoeld in 1961 was “a one-time affair and is not likely to be repeated”.

He said the committee had decided ‘unanimously’ on awarding Gandhi in 1948, but did not give it after he was assassinated Jan 30, 1948. The plan was abandoned, the newspaper said.

“For the first four, majority opinion made sure he did not come by the prize. But then, at the end of 1947, the Nobel Committee finally reached a unanimous decision that, come 1948, the Indian nationalist leader would be the recipient of the prize,” he told The Daily Star here.

Reports of that era pertaining to the short-listing say that India was then under the British rule and the British Viceroys lobbied against the Nobel being given to the foremost adversaries fighting for India’s freedom.

Nobody was conferred with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948, the website of the committee shows.

The Nobel committee chief was asked why Gandhi, the man from whom Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela learnt about non-violence, was never deemed qualified to be a Nobel laureate. While defending the sincerity and the transparency of the selection process of the awards over the years, Mjos conceded that there had been controversies surrounding many choices.

In 1936, the Nobel for a German caused fury to Hitler; and in 1975, Andrei Sakharov’s winning the prize pushed the Soviet leadership into apoplectic mode. And then you remember that much similar a reaction came from Nikita Khrushchev when in 1960 Boris Pasternak won the Nobel for Literature. In the end, Pasternak declined to accept the award and died heart-broken not much later, Mjos told the newspaper.

Mjos also accepted the “terrible reality of the state sometimes coming down hard on the individual whom the Nobel Committee honours”.

He cited the case of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has not travelled to Oslo to receive the prize and so has never delivered an acceptance speech. Perhaps the junta in Myanmar would have permitted her to leave the country and go to Norway?

However, Mjos said that unless she was to have a guarantee that she would be allowed back into the country after receiving the Nobel, Suu Kyi would not leave her homeland.

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