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Mahatma Gandhi and Nobel Prize

Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize, though he was nominated for it five times between 1937 and 1948. Decades later, though, the Nobel Committee publicly declared its regret for the omission. The Nobel Committee may have tacitly acknowledged its error, however, when in 1948 (the year of Gandhi’s death), it made no award, stating "there was no suitable living candidate" though they awarded it posthumously to fellow Scandinavian Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961. Similarly, when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Prize in 1989, the chairman of the committee said that this was "in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi". The official Nobel e-museum has an article discussing the issue.

Why Was Gandhi Never Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?

Up to 1960, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded almost exclusively to Europeans and Americans. In retrospect, the horizon of the Norwegian Nobel Committee may seem too narrow. Gandhi was very different from earlier Laureates. He was no rea politician or proponent of international law, not primarily a humanitarian relief worker and not an organiser of international peace congresses. He would have belonged to a new breed of Laureates.

There is no hint in the archives that the Norwegian Nobel Committee ever took into consideration the possibility of an adverse British reaction to an award to Gandhi. Thus it seems that the hypothesis that the Committee’s omission of Gandhi was due to its members’ not wanting to provoke British authorities, may be rejected.

In 1947 the conflict between India and Pakistan and Gandhi’s prayer-meeting statement, which made people wonder whether he was about to abandon his consistent pacifism, seem to have been the primary reasons why he was not selected by the committee’s majority. Unlike the situation today, there was no tradition for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to try to use the Peace Prize as a stimulus for peaceful settlement of regional conflicts.

During the last months of his life, Gandhi worked hard to end the violence between Hindus and Muslims which followed the partition of India. We know little about the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s discussions on Gandhi’s candidature in 1948 – other than the above quoted entry of November 18 in Gunnar Jahn’s diary – but it seems clear that they seriously considered a posthumous award. When the committee, for formal reasons, ended up not making such an award, they decided to reserve the prize, and then, one year later, not to spend the prize money for 1948 at all. What many thought should have been Mahatma Gandhi’s place on the list of Laureates was silently but respectfully left open.

Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination denied him Nobel Peace Prize :

Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948 forced the Nobel Prize Committee, who had "unanimously" decided to confer him with the top honour after short-listing the Indian leader for the five times, to abandon the plan.  "(Mahatma) Gandhi was short-listed for the Nobel Prize five times," Norwegian Nobel Committee chief Ole Danbolt Mjos has revealed.  "For the first four, majority opinion made sure he did not come by the prize. But then, at the end of 1947, the Nobel Committee finally reached a unanimous decision that, come 1948, the Indian nationalist leader would be the recipient of the prize," he told.

But, Mjos said, as events were to turn out Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948 upsetting the Nobel Committee plan at the last moment.

Nobody was conferred with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948, the website of the Committee shows.

The Nobel Committee chief was asked why Gandhi, the man from whom Martin Luther King Jr. And Nelson Mandela learnt about non-violence, never deemed qualified to be a Nobel laureate.

Asked could he not have been honoured posthumously in the way former UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjoeld was in 1961, Mjos did not give a clear answer, the report said.

But, he added that the posthumous honour for Hammarskjoeld was "a one-time affair and is not likely to be repeated.


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