Gandhi's "Inconsistent Pacifism"

By Namit Arora | Oct 2006 | Comments

Last week the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee made a rare and candid admission: "Our record is far from perfect . not giving Mahatma Gandhi the Nobel Peace Prize was the biggest omission" of its 106 year history, said Geir Lundestad, permanent secretary of the committee. "Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace Prize," he added wistfully. "Whether the Norwegian Nobel committee can do without Gandhi, that's a different question."

What is astounding is that Gandhi was short-listed for the prize in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and just a few days before his assassination in 1948, but was never deemed worthy of it. Lundestad attributes this to the Euro-centrism of the Nobel committee back then, and their scant appreciation for the freedom struggles in the colonies. In the case of Gandhi, he said, committee members cited minor reasons like his "inconsistent pacifism" to deny him the prize.

Later the award would go to folks like Kissinger, Peres, and Arafat (only consistent pacifism there). Another dubious recipient, Elie Wiesel, is on record for calling the US invasion of Iraq "a moral obligation". Too bad there is no provision for taking back a Nobel Peace prize!

From the FAQ's on the Nobel Prize website, it seems Gandhi could still have been awarded the Nobel posthumously until 1973, a technicality that Mr. Lundestad seems to have conveniently glossed over in claiming that Gandhi was all set to receive the prize in 1948 but didn't because of his assassination earlier that year.

From 1974, the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation stipulate that a prize cannot be awarded posthumously, unless death has occurred after the announcement of the Prize winners ... [Before then, the prize has] been awarded posthumously twice - to Dag Hammarskj÷ld (Nobel Peace Prize 1961) and Erik Axel Karlfeldt (Nobel Prize in Literature 1931)


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