President Dr. A.P.J. Kalam conferred the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize on Mr. Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, in the ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan today for his struggle to uphold human rights in most difficult situations through Gandhian means. Conferring the Award on Mr. Havel, President Dr. Kalam said that Mr. Havel is the torch bearer of Gandhian principles in present time and a great human being fighting for freedom and dignity of his people through non violence means.
Underlining the importance of peace in maintaining stability and dignity, Dy. Prime Minister, Shri L.K. Advani said that Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s current visit to Islamabad at SAARC might bring major breakthrough for establishment of peace in South Asian Region. He appreciated Mr. Havel’s contribution for safeguarding human values.
On the occasion the Minister for Tourism and Culture, Shri Jagmohan said that Mr. Havel through out his eventful life has followed ideals, which are essentially Gandhian in spirit. In the present scientific and technological advance world, increasingly driven by power-drunk people with little regard for principles or morality, who could be a better choice for Gandhian Peace prize than Mr. Vaclav Havel, Shri Jagmohan added.
Accepting the Prize, Mr. Havel said that "each and everyone of us must look within ourselves and however insignificant our influence on the general march of events may seem to be, strive to contend with both seen and unseen threats to the world. This, it seems to me, is the eternally fresh message of Mahatma’s lifelong work and activity." He added that we have to seek an improvement of the world first of all in the field of human spirit, of human conscience and, of human responsibility.
The Prize given for outstanding contribution towards social, economic and political transformation through Gandhian means, by Government of India, carries an amount of Rs. 1 crore and a citation. The Gandhi Peace Prize has been awarded previously to Dr. Julius K. Nyerere, Former Presidnet of Tanzania, Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, Founder President of Sarvodaya Movement in Sri Lanka, Dr. Grehard Fischer of Germany, Ramakrishna Mission, India, Baba Amte, India, Dr. Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa, Mr. John Hume of Ireland and Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, India.
Born on October, 5, 1936, in Prague, Mr. Vaclav Havel is known for his outstanding contribution for upholding human rights in most difficult situations. In 1951, when Prague Spring Regeneration Process was put to end, Mr. Vaclav Havel continued with his convictions and consequently, a lasting ban was imposed on publication of his plays in Czechoslovakia. His open letter to Dr. Gustav Husak (the then President of Czechoslovakia) in 1975 pointing out the critical condition of the society and the responsibility of the then ruling regime for the condition, became widely known among human rights champions. In 1977 he became one of the co-founders of the charter 77 initiative and also a member of the Committee for the Defence of the unjustly prosecuted. His activities led him to the prison three times and he spent nearly five years in prison. His essays at that time are considered of extraordinary importance. In The Power of the Powerless (1978), he analysed the essence of communist totalitarian oppression and described the means and mechanisms used by the Communist regime in its effort to create a powerless, resigned society consisting of timid and morally corrupt individuals. Against the background of that analysis, he demonstrated the strength of moral resistance of life in truth. The impact of the essay reached beyond the scope of the Czechoslovak dissent, influencing also the opposition movements in other socialist countries. One of the Havel’s central principles was to urge people to live in a state of inner freedom, to try to behave as if they lived in freedom. It was a simple idea but a liberating one.
In November 1989, Mr. Vaclav Havel as one of the leading initiators of the Civic Forum, an association uniting opposition civic movements and democratic initiatives, became a key figure of the ‘Velvet Revolution’ and later presidential candidate of the forum. On December, 29th , 1989 Parliament elected Mr. Vaclav Havel the President of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.
Mr. Vaclav Havel has been a leading initiator of democratic changes in the administration of the country and other advancement of democracy in society. He has been respected as a non-partisan President and as an essential integrating authority on the political scene and also in matters relating to the Czech-Slovak relationship. Mr. Vaclav Havel resigned from the position of president of the Czechoslovak Republic because he thought that he was not able to fulfill commitments to the Czech and Slovac Republic in a way that would harmonize with his convictions and consciousness. He even left the public life for some time. However, once division became a reality he again entered in the political arena and became this first president of the Czech Republic.