The verdict is still out on Satyarthi but we should take our newly minted hero with a grain of salt.
The announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize for Kailash Satyarthi was somewhat of a shock. Firstly he was practically unknown within India with journalists and others all shaking their heads and asking “Satyarthi who?” Secondly, the announcement from the Norwegian Nobel Committee was both politically charged and condescending:
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. Many other individuals and institutions in the international community have also contributed. It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today. In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labour.
The announcement draws on the old theme of Western “parity” between India and Pakistan, and then calls out the purportedly “Hindu” and “Muslim” affiliations of the awardees. Now, going back at least 10 years we did not find the religion of the awardees mentioned in the Nobel Peace Prize announcement. Barack Obama is not called out as a Christian, nor are the affiliations of Marti Ahtisaari, Al Gore, Mohammad Yunus, or any of the other awardees called out. Why the necessity to call out Satyarthi as a Hindu?
Not that Satyarthi is, by any stretch, a Hindu leader. In fact, Ellen Barry, writing in the New York Times, explicitly points out that he is a Marxist. Here is my exchange with her: