Why the unseemly Nobel obsession needs to stop

Afsan Chowdhury
Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 12 September 2017 went to Kutupalong Refugee Camp at Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, to see the condition of Rohingyas who have recently taken refuge in Bangladesh. PID photo.


The kind of award, reward and honorific obsession we display should be explored by sociologists. We seem to want to be recognized by official agencies, national or international, at all costs which includes self respect and dignity. The favourite one is the Nobel prize, an award which is still useful as an accolade in a scientific category but is hardly at par in the two fields that matter to us, literature and peace.


The latest round on the Nobel Prize for Sk. Hasina is quite interesting because she has no one to prove what she has done which was to give refuge to the suffering Rohingya people.  Just when the Myanmar ruling power was committing genocide, Bangladesh was providing relief and sanctuary. This has been noted by the world press and since Suu Kyi and Sk. Hasina are both national leaders who have acted so differently, the comparisons are inevitable. And since the Myanmar leader has a Nobel hence the argument went, Sk. Hasina also deserves one.


In fact, Sk. Hasina, by opening the borders has saved more lives than Suu Kyi will ever save. So the role of the two leaders should never be even compared. Sk. Hasina is far significant in humanitarian terms than any international leader in today’s world going by their positions relating to what has transpired in Myanmar. However, we lack the confidence to believe that our assessment is as important as that of the West.


Peace and political party politics


Part of the resentment lies perhaps with Prof. Yunus getting a Nobel, the first for a  Bangladeshi which made him world famous. But what Yunus was doing around the same time was trying to float his own political party with the help of the martial law regime. Since Hasina was interned and facing a trial under the same martial law government it’s only natural that she would take a dislike towards this person and academic –cum-money lender who was very popular in the West.


Some of Sk. Hasina’s supporters even supported a lobbying campaign and spent a fair bit of money holding meetings in different parts of the Western world which were not taken very seriously by anyone except NRB AL activists and those enjoying those paid for foreign trips.


Even this time around, the expat activists were very active and the EU AL committee even threatened to gherao the appropriate EU offices in protest of Sk. Hasina not getting a prize. The Nobel Prize lobby media in Bangladesh even published regular updates leading to the declaration of the prize and one story ran that she was on the short list and had been asked to be stay close to the telephone.


Interestingly, Sk. Hasina didn’t get it but it went to ICAN, a coalition of NGOs and CBOs working against  nuclear weapons and two Bangladeshi organizations are even part of it. So in effect the country did get a share of the glory. The response of the recipients were measured and dignified.


The point is simple. Sk. Hasina is Bangladesh’s public leader and she doesn’t need the Nobel to establish legitimacy and acceptance. Her approval is given by her people and not a committee. By seeking a Nobel so desperately, her supporters are diminishing her high status.


The Peace prize is a highly politicised one which is given to serve a political objective. Very few of the Peace prizes have any impact in today’s instant world where one needs to remain significant every day. Sk. Hasina is an active politician and her cause will not be served by any prize. Her best prize is to win a credible election and not a prize which has diminished in value since when it was instituted.


Given the status she has, Sk. Hasina could well serve her people’s self esteem building project by declaring that she doesn’t need a prize to prove what she has achieved so much. That will make many people feel confident and will teach them self belief. That is very needed.


And in the final breadth, let’s remember that Kissinger got the prize but Sk. Mujib didn’t. That is a big enough argument for all to stop chasing the prize.

Leave a Reply

  • National
  • International