World recognises struggle of an Indian and a Pakistani in a common cause
By Russell C. Chitty
It was not long ago that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jeyaram was convicted and sentenced to a four-year jail term in a disproportionate case. It was lauded by many the world over as a loud and clear sign which shows what an independent, robust and vibrant judiciary could do in meting out justice, irrespective of status, station or standing of the person found guilty of crimes against the country and its people.
Against this background and soon after the world marked Children’s Day and on the eve of the International Day of the Girl Child came the refreshing, inspirational and uplifting news that the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to India’s 60-year-old Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan’s 17-year-old Malala Yousafzi – the first Pakistani and youngest ever Peace Prize winner -- for their struggles against the suppression of children and for young people’s rights, including the right to education.
Malala came to global attention after she was shot in the head by the Taliban two years ago for her efforts to promote education for girls in Pakistan. After a miraculous recovery she took her campaign to the world stage with a speech last year at the United Nations.
"What can Sri Lankans learn from the selfless service to humankind by MalalaYousafzi and Kailash Satyarthi?"
Malala, who was at her chemistry class in England at the time the award was announced, was conveyed the good news by a teacher. She said it was a great honour for her to share the prize with Satyarthi. She said the award would not mark the end of her campaign for the education of girls but was really the beginning. “Children around the world should stand up for their rights and not wait for someone else,” Malala said adding that awarding the Peace Prize to a Pakistani Muslim and an Indian Hindu gives the people the message of love between India and Pakistan and between different religions.
Satyarthi is known to have shown great personal courage in heading peaceful demonstrations focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain.
He said the award was about many more people than him and that credit should go to all those who sacrificed their time and their lives for the cause of child rights. What can Sri Lankans learn from the selfless service to humankind by MalalaYousafzi and Kailash Satyarthi? The Nobel Committee sees this as an eye opener where a Muslim and a Hindu join in a common struggle for children’s right to education and against extremism. It says that today there are 168 million child labourers the world over, 78 million less than what it was in 2000.
Are we doing enough for children in Sri Lanka apart from spewing out slogans and organising marches on Children’s Day? Are we doing enough to provide a proper education to children tied down by poverty and are compelled to seek employment for a pittance often in difficult and dangerous circumstances to earn something more for their families? These are questions that the authorities need to focus their attention on and provide tangible answers to.
Malala and Satyarthi shine as beacons in a world filled with hatred, wars and the greed for power and filthy lucre at any cost. They show us that to make a change we do not need politicians most of who enter Parliament vowing to serve the people but end up serving themselves.
The hype about the rising GDP and the economic growth rates mean little or nothing to the vast majority of Sri Lankans living below the poverty line and struggling against all odds to survive while political leaders, rulers and their sycophants serve themselves with what rightly belongs to the people. Empty rhetoric and lip service to high ideals will take us nowhere other than to keep wondering around imagining that this is the Wonder of Asia.