Gandhi Peace Prize for Mujibur Rahman, late Sultan of Oman
India on Monday announced the Gandhi Peace Prize for the years 2019 and 2020 will be conferred on late Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said and Bangladeshi leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, respectively, for their contributions to social and political transformation through non-violent methods.
Both Sultan Qaboos, who died last year, and Rahman were unanimously selected for the prize by a jury chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 19. The award carries an amount of ₹1 crore, a citation, a plaque and a traditional handicraft or handloom item.
A special exception was made for the award to be conferred on the two leaders, as the selection procedure does not allow the Gandhi Peace Prize to be awarded posthumously, people familiar with the development said.
However, given the contributions of Sultan Qaboos and Rahman to peace, non-violence and amelioration of human sufferings and their special relationship with India, an exception was made as a special gesture to honour and celebrate them, the people cited above said.
The prize is given for social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods.
The Gandhi Peace Prize recognises the “immense and unparalleled contribution” of Rahman in “inspiring the liberation of Bangladesh, bringing stability to a nation born out of strife, laying the foundation for the close and fraternal relations between India and Bangladesh, and promoting peace and non-violence in the Indian subcontinent”, an official statement said.
The announcement came days ahead of Modi’s two-day visit to Dhaka from March to participate in celebrations marking the birth centenary of Rahman, the father of nation of Bangladesh, 50 years of the country’s independence and the golden jubilee of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
According to the statement, Modi said “Bangabandhu”, as Rahman is popularly known, was a champion of human rights and freedom, and a hero to Indians as well. He added that Rahman’s legacy and inspiration has made the “heritage of both countries more comprehensive and deep-rooted”, and the path shown by him has “laid a strong foundation for the partnership, progress and prosperity of both countries over the last decade”.
India is honoured to commemorate Rahman’s legacy jointly with the Bangladeshi government and people as the neighbouring country celebrates his birth centenary, the official statement said.
The Gandhi Peace Prize for Sultan Qaboos recognises his “unparalleled vision and leadership” in strengthening India-Oman relations and his efforts to promote peace and non-violence in the Gulf, the statement read.
Modi had recalled Sultan Qaboos’ contribution to India-Oman ties when he passed away in January last year, saying that he was “a true friend of India and provided strong leadership for developing a strategic partnership” between the two sides.
Sultan Qaboos’ twin policy of moderation and mediation in addressing international issues won him praise and respect across the globe, the official statement said. He played an important role in supporting peace efforts in various regional disputes and conflicts.
The sultan had studied in India and always maintained a special relationship with the country. India and Oman became strategic partners under his leadership.
“The Government of Bangladesh acknowledges with deep gratitude the decision of the Government of India to confer the Gandhi Peace Prize 2020 to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, posthumously for the first time. It is an honour for Bangladesh and its people for the Father of the Nation to be bestowed with this prestigious award,” Bangladesh’s ministry of foreign affairs said.
The other members of the jury were the Chief Justice, the leader of the single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, and Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation.
Past awardees include former Tanzania president Julius Nyerere, Gerhard Fischer of Germany, the Ramakrishna Mission, Baba Amte, former South African president Nelson Mandela, the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Chandi Prasad Bhatt and the Indian Space Research Organisation.