Kailash Satyarthi

Bikram Vohra comments on Kailash Satyarthi’s Nobel winning noble cause

Kailash SatyarthiI have to admit I have never heard of Kailash Satyarthi. Not even indirectly. That the Nobel prize committee has heard of him and thought it fit to give him the award is a testament to my ignorance… definitely… and the general muted response in India to this honour. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that it is shared and the 17 year old Malala from Pakistan has won it for promoting the rights of girls and children in general besides taking on the Taliban. Kailash Satyarthi

Perhaps also much of our lack of knowledge with reference to Kailash is because a guy running a number of non-profit schools or protesting the cost of education or leading some Child protection organization is not an exciting subject. While media and the public might now want to squeeze themselves into the frame and give tweets expressing their joy and pride, that is a lot of collywobbles. I am sure the two are hugely deserving of the peace prize but I am a little concerned by the fact that Kialash has been so low profile that even now I cannot quite fathom what he does, even by reading half a dozen articles on him this morning.

He leads a group called Save the Childhood movement and has Gandhian principles, a commodity that sort of raises you above reproach and I think as I write this I am angry that we have no rapport or awareness of this man and will now behave as if he was our best bud and trailblazer. Everyone will get in on the act and shuffle into the sun.I can visualize scores of media offices scurrying about trying to get a handle on the man.

The Nobel committee has also created ambivalence with its citation that reads; “The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”

Really? Religion and nationality play a role… maybe they do and this is an honest assessment not a PR exercise. But I believe it should have been better worded and had more grandeur. You get the feeling that there is a certain patronizing element that gives off a whiff of hypocrisy, almost letting down the child by supporting him because it is all so desultory.

The point then is; why are children unimportant to us per se. Not our own but as an entity? Pakistan has two attitudes to Malala and many believe she has been ‘used’ by the west as a symbol of its priorities. I don’t want to get into that. But in India Kailash epitomizes the indifference to children that is rife. From minors slaving away in sweat shops to slumdog slaves, from beggars to lives on the streets reminiscent of  Dickensian grimness our millions of kids get very little soup. How many folks in position to do so have stepped up to help the hundreds of Kailashs’ in India who do good work quietly and without setting it to music.

I am happy for Kailash and wish him great luck and Godspeed. I am proud that you are a fellow Indian and have done so much for so little (until now) but I will not pretend to be an authority on you or try and snuggle up to you in the splash of sunlight that illuminates your life today.

Instead I might just keep trying to discover what you did and are doing beyond the meaningless clichés that have been used to describe your success today.

If one child’s life is improved because you got this award you have my vote and my salute, Sir.  

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