Posts Tagged ‘Sandeep Pandey’

Former Magsaysay laureate Sandeep Pandey is in two minds about this award

August 5, 2019

Award a protection against autocratic tendencies, but Magsaysay is ‘not infallible” says Sandeep Pandey, a social activist and academic, a Magsasay recipient, who returned his award in 2002.

There could not have been a better choice than Ravish Kumar for this year’s Magsaysay Award. Ravish has demonstrated exemplary courage in questioning the sectarian, communal, jingoistic and irrational politics which has dominated the narrative in this country over the last five years when one by one most of the saner voices were made to disappear, some made compromises or simply surrendered and worst there were others who decided to collaborate with this insidious project of right wing fundamentalism. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/03/magsaysay-awards-2019-honor-4-outstanding-asians/]
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The Magsaysay Award will definitely bring more credibility to his work and hopefully some of the opposition from right wing forces, who are known to troll in an organised manner any sane voice in support of human rights, democracy, justice, communal harmony, peace and friendship, especially with Pakistan, and who’ve targeted Ravish in the past, will subside.
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However, the aura of Magsaysay is quite exaggerated in India than other countries of Asia, and outside of Asia very few people have heard of it, probably because there are many well known Indians who have won it. Part of the reason for its popularity in India is that it and its winners feature prominently in most General Knowledge books which are used by students preparing for competitive examinations. But the Magsaysay Foundation itself is not infallible, unlike its reputation.

I went to Manila in 2002 to receive the Magsaysay Award as well as participate in a Peace conference organised at the University there in the wake of impending US attack on Iraq. It was a mere coincidence that both events were happening on same dates. There was a demonstration outside the US Embassy the day after the Award ceremony. The chairperson of the Foundation asked me not to participate in the demonstration as it could tarnish its image. ..
I argued that US was a bigger culprit in the game of warfare and I considered it part of my activism to oppose the US policy. Before landing in Manila I had little idea that the Foundation was completely US funded — by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. Obviously the Magsaysay Foundation was quite uncomfortable with my stand. The fears of Magsaysay Foundation came true. Even the Hindi Indian media back home covered the demonstration outside US Embassy in Manila highlighting my participation. An editorial in a Manila newspaper asked me to return the $50,000 Award money to the US Embassy before I returned to India if I was the principled man I wanted them to believe. I returned the cheque from the airport to the Magsaysay Foundation before embarking the plane out of Manila.
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But the Award is prestigious and definitely is a protection against autocratic tendencies of the state and its cronies in India, especially for human rights defenders and upright journalists like Ravish Kumar. We hope that the right-wing fundamentalists will take his viewpoint more seriously and the media fraternity will start considering him as an ideal rather than an exception. He has now emerged as the hope for a free media in India and by extension a democratic polity. This is a victory of progressive forces, sanity and humanity and we must celebrate it. Most of all it is a victory for truth which has become a casualty in the era of post-truth. The post-truth has created only strife and conflicts. If we have to return to the human endeavour of making this world a better place for everybody, there is no option but to go back to recognizing truth as the most important values. In spite of Nathuram Godse having become a hero for a fringe group in this country, the universal ideal continues to be Mahatma Gandhi.