Gandhiji would have been proud of you, Kailash Satyarthi

Published: October 11, 2014

Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi gestures to journalists at this home office after the announcement of him receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, in New Delhi on October 10, 2014. PHOTO: AFP

Mr Kailash Satyarthi has come a long way since his engineering days at Samrat Ashok Technological Institute, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, literally.

My father, who was one year senior to this electrical engineering student, vividly remembers him as that shy, reticent, modest young man, from a middle-class background, who would come to the college in his staple kurta-payjama with a muffler tied around his neck.

“Simple living, high thinking,” was his philosophy, recalls my father, a civil engineering student in 1970, adding that “he was different”. Mr Satyarthi would be aloof and would rarely mingle with others.

One thing was clear to my father that Satyarthi was a true follower of Gandhiji and was ‘famous’ in college by virtue of his revolutionary views. This is the reason, perchance, why he also tried his luck in student elections in college, but unfortunately lost.

Nonetheless, he would not give up. He founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (save the childhood movement) to fight the scourge of child labour in 1983. But, it was perhaps the Bhopal gas tragedy – which led to the death of hundreds of innocent people – that broke the camel’s back. It was at this point of time that he decided to quit his job as an electrical engineer and dedicate his whole life for the protection of child rights, my father recollects.

Since then, he has not looked back, rescuing more than 70,000 children from slavery and the clutches of child traffickers. Moreover, with the help of NGOs and activists, he has organised a great many raids on factories and warehouses where children were being forced to work in deplorable conditions.

“Whenever I would hand over a rescued child to his or her parents, the first smile on their visage would seem like that of God. I do not know where God dwells. But, I see God in children,” says an emotional Satyarthi to a journalist.

After years of struggle, his efforts seem to have paid off, finally. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2014 peace prize to this child rights activist from India along with Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan.

Thorbjorn Jagland, the committee’s chairman, whilst announcing the peace prize said:

“The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.

Children must go to school and not be financially exploited. It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected. In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation.

Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain. He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.”

This is no duck soup. Only a Gandhian endowed with an indomitable will and a passion to bring change could achieve this feat.

In Satyarthi’s words:

“If not now, then when? If not you, then who? If we are able to answer these fundamental questions, then perhaps we can wipe away the blot of human slavery”.

Today, my father is proud of you, sir. Gandhiji would be proud of you

Sapan Kapoor

Sapan Kapoor

A history buff and India-based journalist, the author has worked with the Press Trust of India. He blogs at and tweets as @dRaconteur.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • BlackJack

    What a relief – a blog by Sapan Kapoor that one can actually read all the way through, and agree with at the end :). Thanks for sharing the personal story about Kailash Satyarthi, and proud that his efforts have been acknowledged.Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was informative……and a worthy read.Recommend

  • anil

    We don’t need such people . We need Nobel laureates in Physics , chemistry ,life science and literature . Gandhi like people are of no use now a days .Recommend

  • kdp

    He deserved 100% of the prize. He is the one who did the REAL work and not give speechesRecommend

  • Imran Ahmed

    People who dedicate their lives to helping the weak deserve the highest honours we can give them.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “Gandhiji would have been proud of you, Kailash Satyarthi”

    An award which stands for global peace has not yet been given to Mahatma Gandhi, those people who believe in Noble academy being a neutral party without having any biases would be proud if this award was given to Mahatma Gandhi, I am not one of those who believe in the Noble academy’s neutrality.Recommend

  • mhkaz

    . All Pakistanis and Indians would salute these two great individuals from Indo-Pak sub continent to have earned this honour for themselves and for the people of their respective countries. Both Qaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi wlil be proud of these great human rights activists.Recommend

  • Dipak Mehta

    Gandhiji would have been equally proud of Kailash and Malala.Recommend

  • Anti-WAR

    Very pleased to see people with such high calibre,humanity & courage.
    The father of our nation would have been proud.Your life inspires, humanitarians from around the world. Many more will take up causes for peace,justice & mercy after this.Recommend

  • Someone

    So easy to admire the work of humanitarians- so hard to follow their example (even for 35 days,let alone 35 years ) So easy to hate .Recommend

  • abhi

    All the best to Kailash and Malala.Recommend

  • Disgusting

    You sound like a national treasure yourself & an asset to our country !Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Would you have the grace to at least agree that we need him more than we need you? Amazing how people can be petty about someone who spends his life righting our wrongs.Recommend

  • an indian

    You speak as if your money mistakenly went to malala instead of kailashji .What real work have you done ?Recommend

  • L.

    Same. And guess who else has received one? Obama :L
    And Putin, yes Vladimir Putin, was nominated this year!

    From my knowledge, a noble award cannot be presented after the death of a person. For eg. it was not given to Rosalind Franklin after her death; she is the one who discovered that DNA existed in a double helix.Recommend

  • lemonade

    Good to know that atleast some regular commenters are still around. Many others who were once regular visitors of ET seem to have stopped visiting the website. Recommend

  • Hmm…

    The beloved father of our nation is refered to as the ‘missing laureate’.I do believe they regret missing him out…maybe it’s not awarded post-humously ? Anyway,he doesn’t need a nobel prize- he’s already a towering figure : ) Recommend

  • Hmm…

    An rss man murdered,modern indians are so saffronized,that they find it fashionable to bash the non-violent,father of our nation.Shame.Recommend

  • siesmann

    How many times everyday you see(ANY Indian will) children working various petty jobs,and have helped one,just one of those children.Per chance you and your family are employing/slaving children in your home?!Gandhi remains as relevant today as he was before.His principles have inspired many leaders who have made and are making a difference.Recommend

  • Gp65

    When India shows its technological prowess and goes to MARS, you will say, how come the disadvantaged are not being served. When the disadvantaged are being served you will say why not invest more in science. Never happy are you?

    If a person contributes in one area, we should acknowledge that rather than grumble about why they did not do so in a different area.Recommend

  • Gp65

    Why did you drag RSS into this? In any case, Godse had left RSS long before he assassinated Gandhi. Moreover there was nothing in the RSS doctrine that motivated Godse to assassinate Gandhiji. Godse was also a Brahmin so will you say all Brahmins are Gandhi killers? Stop stereotyping.Recommend

  • Gp65

    Thanks for giving a personal insight into the man that all Indians should be proud off.Recommend

  • Gp65

    I would imagine that his eforts have been acknowledged at least 70,000 times in a manner that probably meant more to him. But yes, the money and fame will be force multipliers in his effort.Recommend

  • Hmm…

    Godse & all his brothers were RSS men-his own brother said this after the assassination. The rss/sangh parivar etc have long been trying to whitewash this and change history-it’s not fooling anybody.
    Anyway,what difference does it make ? The bajrang dal,is an off shoot of the rss and both have a long history of inciting anti-minority violence & crimes in India.So either way,they are a stain on our secular country & its great constitution.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    I didn’t mean acknowledgement from people he helped (I imagine that any social worker would receive the gratitude of those he helps), but from the larger public that did not know he existed. Further, I didn’t say that HE was proud that his efforts were acknowledged, so I don’t see the relevance of your comment (in context of mine) at all.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    I didn’t mean acknowledgement from people he helped (I imagine that any social worker would receive the gratitude of those he helps), but from the larger public that did not know he existed. Further, I didn’t say that HE was proud that his efforts were acknowledged, so I don’t see the relevance of your comment (in context of mine) at all.Recommend

  • Sara Barcha

    He deserve for his efforts and these are basically legend persons. so to appreciation in ways is quite well.Recommend

  • nust

    The thing with humanity and men who work for humanity is – no matter what their cast, creed, religion, color or nationality be – they are heroes for all the world.Recommend