Ruth Manorama, Indian activist for Dalit women's causes, has bagged the 2006 Right Livelihood Award, better known as Alternate Nobel Prize, it was announced in Stockholm on Thursday.
Manorama becomes the 11th Indian to receive this prestigious award since its inception in 1980.
Other distinguished Indian laureates include Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (1991) and Baba Amte of the Chipko Movement (1987).
Manorama shares the award of two million Swedish Krona ($275,000) with Chico Whitaker of Brazil and Daniel Ellsberg of the US.
"Ruth Manorama is the Indian subcontinent's most effective organiser of and advocate for Dalit women, belonging to the 'scheduled castes', sometimes also called 'untouchables'," Jakob von Uexkull, the founder of the awards, declared during a ceremony at the Swedish Foreign Ministry's press room.
"The jury honours Manorama, a Dalit herself, 'for her commitment over decades to achieving equality for Dalit women, building effective and committed women's organisations and working for their rights at national and international levels'. The 2006 Right Livelihood Awards honour pioneers for justice, truth and peace building."
He added: "The recipients demonstrate how individual courage, even in the face of powerful interests and repression, can bring about remarkable changes."
The Right Livelihood Awards, presented annually in the Swedish parliament, were introduced "to honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today".
Von Uexkull, a Swedish-German professional philatelist, sold his business to provide the original funding. Since then, the award has been supported by individual donors.
Manorama and her co-laureates will be awarded the diploma and their share of the prize-stipendium by the speaker of the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament, in the parliament's main hall, on December 6, 2006.
Explaining the spirit of his endeavour, von Uexkull told IANS: "Everybody in the world can nominate anyone for the award. Over the years, we have received nominations from more than 95 countries."
"It is fascinating to see how people all over the world take action to build a positive future for mankind. Those whose work has the greatest importance and impact are chosen by our international jury to receive the award."
"Our sole aim is to honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today," he said.
Apart from von Uexkull, members of this year's jury included Ahmedou Ould Abdallah (Mauritania), special representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa, Marianne Andersson (Sweden), former MP, Monika Griefahn (Germany), MP, Frank Bracho (Venezuela), former ambassador to India, Anuradha Mittal (US), executive director of the Oakland Institute, Vithal Rajan (India), founder of the Deccan Development Society.