There’s a delicious irony in the wink and smile declaration that gave the 2014 Peace Nobel to Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi exactly at a time when Indo-Pak border woes have reached a fever pitch.
The prime ministers of respective countries have escalated their rhetoric, firmly announcing that it will be an eye for an eye, a bullet for a bullet. Yet the Swedish committee, in its characteristic quirk, picked a global human rights icon in Malala and paired the 17-year-old Taliban regime survivor with Satyarthi, a 61-year-old quiet champion of child rights in India. Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan had little renown beyond the ‘NGO circuit’, even though his initiatives have pulled out millions of children out of poverty, trafficking, illiteracy and other traps.
On the other hand, Malala, right after her firebrand advocacy of girls’ education in tribal reaches of Pakistan sent a bullet piercing her head, her tale of miraculous survival and transnational medical attention, catapulted her to the status of an overnight rock star of development and women’s lib. She was mature beyond her age: she even forgave those who tried to kill her. Here was a narrative both the West and South Asia had been waiting for, the girl with the dragon fire. The Nobel nod, while being a little kitschy, is actually deeply relevant, particularly in its intimate link with a rights activist from India, Satyarthi.
Nobel Peace Prizes have displayed leaps of faith before. The 2009 Peace Prize went to US president Barack Obama, then barely one year into his presidency. The 2007 Prize went to International Panel for Climate Change and Rajendra Pachouri. Yet much like Obama’s absolute inefficacy in brokering the Middle East peace deal, IPCC too has been battling a lost war with climate denying corporate behemoths.
Hence, the 2014 Peace Prize could be deemed as one that is pinned on hope: to put the Indo-Pak Line of Control, now out of control, in line. Moreover, it’s a scathing critique of what the two countries and their extensive military apparatus are up to: riding jingoistic narrow nationalistic waves all set to further debilitate the border situation. With Kashmir floods already having taken a toll on the region, the continued exchange of fire across the LoC is simply condemnable. Will the Nobel nod for Malala and Satyarthi make any difference? Or will we see this forged bond torn asunder by the sheer force of bullets and bigotry?