Mahatma Gandhi never won the Nobel Prize for Peace, but the apostle of truth and non-violence continues to inspire people around the globe who go on to win the coveted honour — U.S. President Barack Obama being the latest among them.
Mr. Obama had called Gandhi the “real hero of mine.”
The committee that picks the winner has apologised for missing out in honouring Gandhi and, as if to compensate for it, has often chosen to bestow the prize on those inspired by the Mahatma.
When Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama was awarded the peace prize in 1989, the Nobel Committee chairman had said this was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi”.
Before the Dalai Lama, of course, was Martin Luther King, Jr. The 1964 laureate had acknowledged Gandhi as one of his inspirations.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the resistance leader from Myanmar who won the prize in 1991, as well as Nelson Mandela of South Africa who shared the 1993 prize with Frederik Willem de Klerk, too found inspiration from the life and works of Gandhi — to fight injustice and strive for a more equal society while abjuring violence.
On Friday, the Gandhian club among the Nobel laureates got one more member.
Mr. Obama has talked about how Gandhi’s thoughts and his autobiography impressed him deeply.
On October 2, as the world celebrated the International Day of Non-Violence on Gandhi’s birth anniversary, Mr. Obama said: “Gandhi’s teachings and ideals, shared with Martin Luther King Jr. on his 1959 pilgrimage to India, transformed American society through our civil rights movement.
“The America of today has its roots in the India of Mahatma Gandhi and the non-violent social action movement for Indian independence which he led. We must renew our commitment to live his ideals and to celebrate the dignity of all human beings.”
These remarks came a month after Mr. Obama told a gathering of pupils that Gandhi would be his ideal dinner guest.
When a student at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, asked him which person, alive or dead, he would like to dine with, the U.S. President said: “I think it might be Gandhi, who’s a real hero of mine. It would probably be a really small meal because he didn’t eat a lot.”
The Nobel committee has acknowledged that Gandhi had been nominated several times — finally days before his murder in January 1948. The omission has been publicly regretted by later members of the Nobel Committee.
In 1948, the year of Gandhi’s death, the Nobel Committee declined to award a prize on the ground that “there was no suitable living candidate” that year.