The Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for 1993 was conferred to the leader of Burma’s pro-democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, on November 14, 1995 by the Government of India. The award carried an amount of Rs 15 lakh and a citation. At a time when India is maintaining a ‘realpolitik’ silence over the Myanmar issue, we reprint the award’s citation that New Delhi had bestowed to the main opponent of the Myanmarese junta 12 years ago: the compassion, courage and integrity of Aung San Suu Kyi have given her a unique position in her country and its history and made her a worldwide symbol of human dignity and worth. Born into the family of General Aung San, the great liberator of Burma, and Daw Khin Kyi, Aung San Suu Kyi has personified steadfastness to a cause and has found a place in the hearts of not only the people of her country but of people around the world.
Aung San Suu Kyi lived for many years in India with her mother Daw Khin Kyi who was Burma’s Ambassador to India from 1960 to 1967. From her parents she imbibed the deep and ageless values of Buddhism, and its message of tolerance and enquiry. She has always carried with grace the legacy of her father who waged an unrelenting struggle for, and became martyr to, the cause of his country’s independence.
Her sojourn in India, where she completed school and undertook her college education, brought her many formative experiences. It was here that she first came in touch with Indian leaders and the philosophy of India’s freedom struggle. It was here, again, that she learnt of Mahatma Gandhi’s belief in truth and non-violence as instruments of social reform and political change.
Faith in human destiny and a sense of duty towards fellow humans have always animated her. While in Algeria, she joined in the work of constructing dwellings for the widows of freedom-fighters. When she was with the United Nations in New York, she found time to engage in voluntary work for the poorest in that city. Her courage, internationalism and sense of duty bring to mind the words of Jawaharlal Nehru who said: “In a world which is full of conflicts and hatred and violence, it becomes ever more necessary than at any other time for us to have some anchor to our faith in human destiny.” Aung San Suu Kyi symbolises the quest for such an anchor.
The ideals of peace and non-violence were sanctified centuries ago in India by Buddha. Mahatma Gandhi involved these ideals in India’s struggle for liberation from imperial rule. Amid the turbulence of an era in transition, Aung San Suu Kyi adhered strictly to a peaceful struggle in her espousal of democracy in her country Myanmar. Her belief in Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy has sanctified the campaign for democracy in her own country.
By conferring the Jawaharlal Nehru Award on Aung San Suu Kyi, India pays tribute to a courageous torchbearer of this tradition of peace and non-violence; and to a luminous example of the indomitable human spirit that can change the course of history.