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Gandhi Peace Prizes for 2019, 2020 awarded to Sultan Qaboos and Mujibur Rahman

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 22-03-2021 HT Correspondent
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India on Monday announced that the Gandhi Peace Prize for the past two years will be conferred on late Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said and Bangladeshi leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for their contributions to social and political transformation through non-violent methods.

A special exception was made for the award to be conferred on the two leaders, as the selection procedure for the prize does not allow it to be awarded posthumously.

The jury for the prize, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, met on March 19 and unanimously selected Rahman as the recipient of the prize for 2020 and Sultan Qaboos, who died last year, as the recipient for 2019.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that the selection procedure does not allow the Gandhi Peace Prize to be awarded posthumously.

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 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 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 award for Rahman, the father of the nation of Bangladesh, was announced days ahead of Modi’s visit to Dhaka during March 26-27 to participate in celebrations marking the birth centenary of Rahman, 50 years of the country’s independence and the golden jubilee of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Modi said “Bangabandhu”, as Rahman is popularly known, was a champion of human rights and freedom, and a hero to Indians as well. He said 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.

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, an 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. Under his leadership, India and Oman became strategic partners.

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.

The award includes an amount of 1 crore, a citation, a plaque and a traditional handicraft or handloom item.

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.

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