Meet Malala's Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Kailash Satyarthi

By AFP
Published: October 10, 2014
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Kailash Satyarth. PHOTO: KAILASHSATYARTHI.NET

Kailash Satyarth. PHOTO: KAILASHSATYARTHI.NET

NEW DELHI: Kailash Satyarthi, named co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, has freed tens of thousands of Indian children forced into slavery by businessmen, land-owners and others.

Born on January 11, 1954, Satyarthi has been at the forefront of the drive against child labour in India where the practice is rife.

Satyarthi, who was trained as an electrical engineer, founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolan or Save the Childhood Movement in 1980.

He lives modestly and keeps a low profile except for his causes.

The activist, born in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, said he was “delighted” by the Nobel award, according to the Press Trust of India, and described it as “recognition” for the fight for child rights.

He began his work by staging raids on Indian manufacturing, rug-making and other plants where children and their parents often work as bonded labour.

Under bonded labour, families often borrow money and have to work till the funds can be repaid. But often the money is too much to be paid back from meagre earnings and people are sold and resold.

Building on his initial activism, Satyarthi organised the Global March Against Child Labor in the 1990s, dedicated to freeing the millions of children abused worldwide in a form of modern slavery.

He and co-winner Malala Yousafzai  were honoured by the Norwegian Nobel Committee “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

“To employ children is illegal and unethical,” Satyarthi said on the Global March Against Child Labour website.

“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,” Satyarthi said, summing up his philosophy.

The activist is also founder of RugMark, a widely known international scheme that tags all carpets made in factories that are child-labour free.

He described the plight of children forced into the worst kinds of abusive work in a 2010 interview with the Robert F Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights.

“If they cry for their parents, they are beaten severely, sometimes hanged upside down from trees and even branded or burned with cigarettes,” he said.

He also spearheads the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude or SAACS, among other groups, and helps oversee a transition centre in Rajasthan where newly freed labourers learn fresh skills.

Satyarthi has said his social conscience was awoken when he was six and noticed a boy his age on the steps outside the school with his father, cleaning shoes.

Seeing many such children working instead of being educated, he felt an urge as he grew older to solve the problem , launching him on his career of activism.

“I think of it all as a test. This is a moral examination that one has to pass. … to stand up against such social evils,” he said in the Kennedy Centre interview.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Feroz
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:23PM

    Great to recognize someone who fights for the rights of the poor, oppressed and defenseless children, denied a childhood by circumstances. Congrats Sir !

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  • ModiFied
    Oct 10, 2014 - 5:32PM

    I must admit, I have heard for the first time about this gentleman. I am not alone. Not many know about him even in media. Now only people know how much he has worked and with how much dedication. He has been working tirelessly for 35 years. Malala is already a household name world over for last few years. I am very doubtful if many people even lobbied for Kailash to get the Nobel peace prize. I can say that he got it purely on merit. Well earned prize…Congratulations.

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  • Manish
    Oct 10, 2014 - 5:34PM

    The number of children rescued by him and his organization is in excess of 80,000. Congratulations to kailash and Malala.

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  • Stranger
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:10PM

    May your tribe increase.

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  • antanu
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:46PM

    ironic that we never heard a person who has done so much against child labour.Kudos to Mr.satyarthi you are a true BHARAT RATNA.. salutations.

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  • kdp
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:47PM

    Must watch this PBS documentary about Mr. Satyarthi’s work in rescuing poor Muslim and Hindu children in India

    http://video.pbs.org/video/2365056529/

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  • Truth
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:57PM

    @ModiFied:
    It’s because to create a inch of space in fast moving pace per second indian media requires strong hold amongst people specially in a multilinguaistic/race/relgious country. It’s the same reason why celebs have to take up causes and promote it. An ordinary hardworking guy talking on tv doesn’t motivate them so they don’t get much screen presence surely he gets indian govt awards and oldaye dd news govt channel interviews. But rich private sector etc only care of trp raking and competition to beat the rival channels so Hritik , Aamir, Kajol ,Sachin is the trend to take up causes and initiative. To motivate masses and well as rake trp.Recommend

  • Manjit singh
    Oct 10, 2014 - 10:03PM

    Congratulations Mr.kailash satyarthi and malala
    yusafzai for the noble peace prize. While malala
    is already a world figure but feel disturbed at the
    same time that how many of us new till date
    about the enormous and important task taken
    and accomplished by satyarthi in India and other
    countries. Shame on our media both print and
    electronic, particularly the English channels (as it
    will be foolish to mention the Hindi drab rubbish
    ones) including the one on which that
    bespectacled self styled judge of all matters sits
    that they failed to cover the campaign of satyarthi
    which he has been carrying for last thirty
    years.were these story hungry channel walas
    ignorant of this story untill today when every
    camera man is running after the achiever or was
    it conviniently ignored. This reflects what we are
    made to see, listen and believe. — with

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