Mahatma Gandhi, the symbol of non-violence in the 20th century, was nominated multiple times but never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Prize panel recently shed light on why Gandhi was never recognized with the prestigious honor. He was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, and just days before his assassination in January 1948. Many view the failure to award him the prize before his death as a mistake.
Critics on the panel argued that Gandhi was not consistently pacifist. They pointed to instances where his non-violent campaigns against the British turned violent and caused terror, such as the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920-21. Additionally, some believed that Gandhi’s ideals were limited to India and not universal. They argued that his well-known struggle in South Africa was only on behalf of Indians, neglecting the plight of the black population.
In 1937, Gandhi was selected as one of the thirteen candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. However, Lord Cecil of Chelwood became the laureate that year. Gandhi was renominated in 1938 and 1939 by Ole Colbjornsen, a member of the Norwegian parliament. Gandhi made the short list again ten years later in 1947 amid the India-Pakistan struggle. However, three of the five panel members were reluctant to award him the prize, and it ultimately went to the Quakers.
Tragically, Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948, just two days before the deadline for that year’s Nobel Peace Prize nominations. Despite receiving six letters of nomination posthumously, the Nobel Committee had never awarded the prize to a deceased individual. According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, posthumous awards were only possible if the laureate died after the committee’s decision had been made. Therefore, no prize was awarded in 1948, and Gandhi’s potential place among the Laureates remained empty, as a mark of respect.
Furthermore, until 1960, the Nobel Peace Prize was predominantly awarded to Europeans and Americans. The panel acknowledged that Gandhi was quite different from earlier laureates, as he did not fit the traditional mold. He was not a politician, advocate of international law, humanitarian relief worker, or organizer of international peace congresses. The panel described him as belonging to a new breed of potential Laureates.
Ultimately, Mahatma Gandhi’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize serves as a significant recognition of his extraordinary contributions to peace and non-violence, even though he never received the prestigious honor during his lifetime.