- The Nobel Prize has often been awarded to undeserving recipients, such as Malala Yousafzai, whose hypocrisy on Hindu versus Muslim issues is legendary.
- Even highly controversial figures like Henry Kissinger and Yasser Arafat have been honored with the Nobel Peace Prize
- Yet, notable figures like R.K. Narayan, Mohandas Gandhi, Dmitri Mendeleyev, Leo Tolstoy, U. Thant, and Anton Chekhov were overlooked for Nobel Prizes.
- European ethnocentrism, bribery, sex scandals, and Norway’s geopolitical interests have influenced Nobel Prize selections, leading to questionable choices.
In 1964, when Jean-Paul Sartre was given the Nobel Prize for literature, the French author and leftist icon rejected the award, saying it was “an honour restricted to Western writers and Eastern rebels.” Sartre understood the underlying intent of the Nobel awards as a tool of co-option. His other objection to the Nobel was that the winner of the prize is “in a way inevitably co-opted by simply being crowned. It’s a way of saying, finally, he’s on our side.”
Just as entry to elite universities is not always based on merit, the winners of the Nobel Prize are not always deserving of honor and recognition. The unfortunate mutation of Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai from a diehard critic of the Pakistan Taliban’s misogynistic laws to a Hinduphobic mouthpiece of the very Islamist forces that tried to kill her is a pointer to the bad picks – and misses – of the Nobel Academy. Not only has she remained silent on forced abductions of Hindu girls in Pakistan , but she has also resorted to lies about India’s handling of Kashmir.
Here’s a short list of people that even a blind judge could not have missed: R.K. Narayan (the most prolific Indian author of the modern era), Mohandas Gandhi (who rejected all forms of violence), Dmitri Mendeleyev (the Russian scientist famous for the Periodic Table), Leo Tolstoy (the greatest novelist of all time), U. Thant (played a crucial role in defusing the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis) and Anton Chekhov (one of the world’s greatest writers).
For all his failings as a political leader, Gandhi should have been a shoo-in for the peace prize. Many people of British origin living in different parts of the world today owe their existence to Gandhi because he prevented the Indian revolutionaries from carrying out a massacre of their forefathers – the 100,000-odd British soldiers, bureaucrats, and civilians ruling India.
The entire world knew that the British were committing genocide in India , but Norway – which annually awards the Nobel Peace Prize – did not want to ruffle any feathers in Britain by honoring Gandhi. It was a clear case of racial solidarity. Norway has close relations with Britain as Nordic ties unite both.
The entire world knew that the British were committing genocide in India, but Norway – which annually awards the Nobel Peace Prize – did not want to ruffle any feathers in Britain by honoring Gandhi. It was a clear case of racial solidarity.
In 1972, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi should have won the Peace Prize. Firstly, she had stopped the genocide in East Pakistan, where the Pakistan Army had killed three million Bengalis in just eight months during the previous year.
Time magazine Correspondents quoted a US official admitting that what the Bengalis had endured was “the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland.” Genocide researcher Professor R.J. Rummel said: “These ‘willing executioners’ were fuelled by an abiding anti-Bengali racism, especially against the Hindu minority. Bengalis were often compared with monkeys and chicken …. And the soldiers were free to kill at will.”
Secondly, Mrs. Gandhi prevented the massacre of 93,000 Pakistani soldiers who had surrendered before the Indian Army by mass evacuating them from East Pakistan, thereby preventing their killings by vengeful Bengali soldiers of the Mukti Bahini guerrilla army. But India was arrayed against the West during the Cold War, so Mrs Gandhi didn’t get the prize.
However, Norway had no problems awarding the Peace Prize to US presidential adviser Henry Kissinger in 1973, the year after he okayed chemical warfare against Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. There is a special place in hell for Kissinger. During the 1971 Christmas bombing – Operation Linebacker – American bombers dropped 20,000 tons of explosives on North Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. During Linebacker and a bombing campaign preceding it, the US dropped 155,237 tons of bombs on North Vietnam, killing thousands.
American satirist Tom Lehrer commented: “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Kissinger was a serial offender. Just two years earlier, he had winked at Pakistan’s massacre of nearly three million Bengalis, mostly Hindus, in East Pakistan or modern Bangladesh. He had described Indians as “bastards” for ending the genocide.
The Norwegians were left red-faced when North Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho, who was jointly awarded the prize, declined it, saying peace in Vietnam was a big lie. Kissinger had no such scruples and accepted the prize “with humility.”
In 1994, the Peace Prize was awarded to three people jointly – Yasser Arafat, the head of the terrorist outfit Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. One Nobel Peace Prize committee member, Kare Kristiansen, resigned in protest at the honor given to Arafat, whom he described as “too tainted by violence, terror, and torture.”
Have you ever wondered why famous Indian authors such as Munshi Premchand, Amrita Pritam, and Narayan never received the Nobel? Whether it is the raw, primal emotions in a short story like ‘Kafan’ or the decadent sensuality of Nawabi Lucknow in ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi.’ Premchand was both master stylist and storyteller and an obvious candidate for a Nobel, says Swarajya magazine.
Narayan was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature multiple times but never won. In an illustrious career spanning six decades, he produced classics such as ‘Swami and Friends’ that introduced Indian writing to the world. Narayan won fans worldwide, of whom author Graham Greene was the greatest, but the Nobel committee ignored him right through his extended career. India’s opposition to the West during the Cold War was a factor in Narayan getting the 20th-century version of ‘shadow banning.’
But there could be an even more insidious factor at work. According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the Nobel Academy prefers to pick European authors. ‘‘Since 1995, 85 percent of the winners have been Europeans,’’ it said in a 2008 article.
According to American author Burton Feldman, the Swedish Academy lacks the linguistic competence needed for a truly international jury, which is not surprising. “Unprepared to read fluently and directly in major and populous languages such as Chinese, Arabic or Hindi, not to mention minor ones, the Nobel committee is overly dependent on translations . . . ”
European prejudice was evident in the very first prize in medicine. In 1901, the Nobel was awarded to Emil von Behring for the discovery of antitoxins but not to his close collaborator Shibasaburo Kitasato, the legendary Japanese physician.
The Nobel judges aren’t above bribery and corruption either. In 2008, Harald zur Hausen bagged the Nobel Prize for medicine for discovering that HPV causes cervical cancer. But even as the Swede was basking in his newfound glory, he was being investigated by the police. It emerged that AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company with stakes in HPV vaccines, had close links with key selection committee members. Further investigations revealed AstraZeneca was also sponsoring the Nobel website.
A sex scandal canceled the Literature Prize in 2018. The previous year, the Swedish media had revealed that the husband of one of the academy members had been accused of serial sexual abuse in assaults alleged to have taken place over more than 20 years. The accused man was Jean-Claude Arnault, a French photographer and cultural entrepreneur, married to the poet and academician Katarina Frostenson.
During the investigations, it was discovered that “there had been heavy and well-informed betting in advance of the prize in several of the early years of the century.” Frostenson was accused of leaking the names of seven prizewinners to her husband before the announcements. The names of prizewinners are the subject of intense speculation and on which many people place bets with betting firms.
Causes of bias
While European ethnocentrism is clearly at work in science and literature, in the Peace Prize, Norway’s geopolitical tilt is a deciding factor. As a NATO member, Norway reflects the prejudices that are inevitable because of the country’s entanglement in the military alliance.
Francis Sejersted, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in the 1990s, said without mincing words: “The Prize … is not only for past achievement…. The Committee also takes the possible positive effects of its choices into account… Awarding a Peace Prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act.”
In fact, in a rare moment of candor, the Nobel Academy questioned its own competency: “Is a committee that is constituted only by members of the political establishment in one small West European nation really capable of assessing who – in the whole world, in the preceding year – has done the most for peace? Is it not likely that their decisions will be marked by ethnocentricity or by some kind of ideological bias?”
Tools for subversion
India has always been a target of the West’s propaganda apparatus. In 2014, when child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi was awarded the Peace Prize, author Sankrant Sanu wrote: “The verdict is still out on Satyarthi and the Nobel on whether he is a hero manufactured by Western institutions for their own interests or a simple, unassuming human rights worker. Given the pattern of funds…and relationships with evangelical organizations such as World Vision, we should take our newly minted hero with a grain of salt.”
Malala, who was jointly awarded the prize with Satyarthi, could have been a credible voice against the ongoing radicalization of her country’s society by the Pakistan Army and the Islamist parties. Instead, she has kept up a steady stream of tweets against India while not saying a word against the killings and mass disappearances of Hindus, Pashtuns, Balochs, Sindhis, Waziristanis, and Swatis in Pakistan.
Her constant tweets on Kashmir have exposed her true intentions as a front for the Pakistan Army, says Canada-based journalist and TV anchor Tahir Aslam Gora. “The girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban has become the voice of the jehadi Taliban, Kashmiri militants, and ISI.“
The girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban [Malala] has become the voice of the jehadi Taliban, Kashmir militants, and ISI
Gora points out that Malala’s transformation started soon after winning the Nobel. That’s when she decided to use her celebrity status to advance the agenda of the Pakistani establishment by cherry-picking facts. “The aim of the Malala Foundation is to talk about issues facing young girls around the world, but she never talks about home. She has never spoken about the forced conversion of Hindu girls in Pakistan.”
According to Gora, however, Malala’s real credibility loss happened with her tweets on Kashmir after India scrapped Article 370 and ended the State’s special status. “You say, ‘Let Kashmir speak.’ But have you ever said, ‘Let Balochistan speak’? You don’t care about Hindu and Christian girls, but do you care about the sufferings of your Pashtun sisters? Thousands of Pashtuns have been killed because of the brutalities of the Pakistan Army. But you have no shame.”
Impact of the Nobels
Aside from the fact that warmongers like Kissinger and Barack Obama have tainted the Peace Prize,  the award’s utility is questionable. In a detailed study, University of Minnesota professor Ronald R. Krebs says the Peace Prize has more often brought the heavy hand of the State down on dissidents and has impeded, rather than promoted, conflict-free liberalization.
For instance, awarding the Nobel to pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, women’s activist Shirin Ebadi, and the Dalai Lama only strengthened the hand of hardliners in Myanmar, Iran, and China, respectively. It brought zero benefits to the awardees or their cause.
The Dalai Lama was awarded the prize in October 1989. Krebs shows what happened next: between November 1989 and April 1990, the Chinese executed 2,000 Tibetans, imprisoned countless more, banned religious processions, and forbade even incense burning in Tibet.
Once upon a time, the Nobel Prize enjoyed iconic status. But in today’s world of instant communications, where people can figure out the manipulation and the bias behind the awards, people are less willing to buy the reasons behind the picks.
People are also questioning the very raison d’etre of the Nobels, which ironically rests on the foundations of war. The awards are the legacy of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish weapons magnate and the inventor of dynamite. Among the tens of millions that his invention killed include his own brother. Therefore, Alfred’s primary motive in establishing the academy was to repair his family’s dented image with a huge show of philanthropy.
And if you are still here, here’s something to chew on – no black scientist has ever won the Nobel.
- Burton Feldman, The Nobel Prize: A History of Genius, Controversy, and Prestige, page 78
- Burton Feldman, The Nobel Prize: A History of Genius, Controversy and Prestige
- Ronald Krebs, The False Promise of the Nobel Peace Prize, University of Minnesota