Don’t blame the Nobel panel for ignoring Gandhi

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Why didn’t Mahatma Gandhi get the Nobel Peace Prize?

To answer this question, the Nobel Prize Foundation has released documents to prove to the world how hard it tried to give the Prize to Gandhi but how unlucky he was to miss it each time.

Advising against giving the Prize to Gandhi, Dr Jacob Wormuller wrote in his diary:

“He is a freedom fighter and a dictator, an idealist and a nationalist. He is frequently a Christ, but then, suddenly, an ordinary politician.”

Over the years, members of the Wormuller family have made valiant efforts to make amends and somehow land a Nobel on Gandhi. All the time, fortunately, members of the Wormuller family maintained their own dairies, the collection of which is called Worm Papers.

A spokesman of the Nobel Foundation and an authority on the Worm Papers was in India on Friday shortly after Barack Obama‘s name was announced.


“I am happy you are here to clarify to the world about Gandhi and the Nobel Peace Prize,” I started off.

“I am glad we have this opportunity. You are aware he was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1942 and a few days before he was assassinated in 1948?” the spokesman said.

“Yes, of course.”

“The people of India should know that since Gandhi had made it a habit of missing the Prize so many times, we at the Nobel committee had decided to track him down wherever possible and give it to him no sooner an opportunity presented itself.  Did you know we were almost ready to give him one when he came to London to attend what you people call as “Round Table”conference? A small issue of dress code came between Gandhi and the award. Gandhi was dressed in a kind of tribal dress, a single loincloth large enough for two or a mob of three. Our chairman wanted to dress like Gandhi but it would have been too much in the cold weather. He would have caught pneumonia or something.”

“No point in taking such a risk.”

“We tried again in 1942. We came to India with the medal, prize money, etc. As soon as we landed in Bombay, we found signs of “Quit India” everywhere. Gandhi had ordered the signs to be installed everywhere. I think this was the “dictator Gandhi”, Mr Wormuller was talking about. Somebody told us that Gandhi was near some water tank in Bombay. Our chairman, who always followed the rules, felt we should obey Gandhi’s commands and leave immediately. We stayed long enough to crossover from Arrival to Departure lounges. Gandhi was again unlucky.”

“No doubt.”

“Then there was the time when he marched next to the beach in Gujarat.”

“That was the Dandi March,” I added.

“Gandhi would get up early morning and although he called it a March, he would literally run off with a walking stick. All his followers had a tough time keeping pace with him. Our chairman and his deputy, who had arrived in India, dressed in shorts and jogging shoes couldn’t catch up with him even once. Also it was quite scary to go anywhere near him because of the stick he carried. This was the “militant Gandhi” the world hardly knew. They had to carry the award back.”

“It must have been terrible. Perhaps this is what Wormuller had in mind when he wrote, ‘There are sharp turns in his policies which can hardly be satisfactorily explained by his followers’.”

“I am glad you understand. He was assassinated on January 30, 1948 just two days before the closing date for peace prize nominations. See how close it was again? If only the assailant had waited for three days more?  Gandhi still got six nominations that year but the Committee did not give the award to anyone in 1948 as per its own words, ‘There was no suitable living candidate. That’s the irony of life. It was heart wrenching.”

“Very very tragic.”

“Indeed. Which is why while giving the Nobel in 1989 to the Dalai Lama, our chairman mentioned that it is in a way a part tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi. We are still not satisfied. By the way, have you seen Gandhi, the film I mean?”

“Yes. Very nice movie.”

“Our Committee has seen it more than 20 times. Every time we see a photograph of Gandhi we are reminded of Ben Kingsley! That’s why we gave Kingsley the Oscar.”

“That would have pleased Gandhi no doubt.”

“Since we couldn’t give the award to Gandhi, we started giving it to those who followed Gandhi and struggled for peace and invoked his name. That’s why we gave it to Henry Kissinger. That’s why Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin got it. I am sure Gandhi would have liked that too.”

“No doubt, as they were all apostles of peace.”

“I am glad you are able to see our point of view. We are making amends for missing out on Gandhi.”

“That’s nice to hear, but what about Obama? How did he find favour”

“We gave it to him because he mentions the Mahatma in every grand speech he gives. Since he has given so many grand speeches in just eight months, we thought giving him the Prize could inspire him to mention it every time he stands up to deliver a grand speech over the next seven years. It’s almost like buying insurance.”

Also read: Maureen Dowd: Gandhi wuz robbed