The Nobel Peace Prize committee should immediately intervene and strip a children’s rights activist of the prize given to him in 2014.
Kailash Satyarthi not only attended the annual event of Hindu supremacist group Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) at its headquarters in Nagpur, India, but went to the extent of praising the organization. He even suggested that the RSS branches all over India could serve as a “firewall” to protect children, particularly girls.
The RSS, of which the ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is a part, aspires to turn India into a Hindu theocracy. The organization was banned in the past following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, a world renowned leader of the passive resistance movement in 1948. Gandhi was opposed to the religious partition of India in 1947 and was targeted for standing up against violence against Muslims by the Hindu fanatics. His assassin Nathuram Godse previously belonged to the RSS.
The RSS is also known for its anti-Muslim and anti-Christian stance. Its cadre have been involved in violence, not only during partition but also in post independent India.
Ironically, Satyarthi is a known Gandhian, and was given the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his work to save children from exploitation. In complete contradiction to what Satyarthi claims to stand for, the RSS through its drills poisons young minds and has reportedly transported tribal girls to far away schools in order to Hinduise them, on the pattern of Indian Residential Schools in Canada.
That Satyarthi spoke as a Chief Guest at the RSS event has shocked many, including myself. Being a publisher of Radical Desi magazine, I had put him on the cover of its November, 2014 edition, which was dedicated to 30 years of the anti-Sikh massacre. Satyarthi had saved many Sikhs during the violence that followed the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh body guards on October 31, 1984. The mobs, instigated by activists of the slain leader’s Congress party, lynched innocent Sikhs with police connivance. However, the mainstream overlooked this important aspect of Satyarthi’s story, and Radical Desi believed that it was necessary to amplify it, so that people should know that many Hindus also tried to save the Sikhs from bloodshed. Some activist friends had expressed their outrage over this decision, citing that Satyarthi is a corporate media creation, but I tried to defend myself, saying that the choice was made only because the Radical Desi edition was dedicated to the anti-Sikh pogrom, and by putting Satyarthi on cover, we were only trying to showcase an act of humanity and compassion in the time of crisis.
Today, when I look back I feel ashamed and let down by Satyarthi, who has failed to stand up against the forces of bigotry. He may have done a great job by saving the lives of Sikhs in 1984, but Muslim and Christian lives are also important. For the record, RSS considers Sikhs as part of the Hindu fold, something strongly resisted by the Sikh activists, who maintain that RSS has an agenda to assimilate them. That the BJP-RSS supporters were also complicit in anti-Sikh massacres has been well documented.
If Satyarthi has any shame, he must apologize for attending an event organized by those who are bent upon destroying humanity and the secular fabric of India. In the meantime, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee must take away the prize given to someone who has tried to give legitimacy to a group whose founders saw men like Hitler and Mussolini as their role models and supported the holocaust.
Gurpreet Singh is a Canada- based journalist who publishes Radical Desi- a monthly magazine that covers alternative politics.