A street rings with ‘Nobel’ cry

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  • Published 11.10.14

Vidisha, Oct. 10: At 2pm today, lawyer Pravesh Sharma was sitting at Chashma Ghar, the optical store run by his uncle Jagmohan Sharma, when his mobile rang.

Next, Jagmohan, a retired teacher, saw Pravesh shouting and dancing.

“Nobel, Nobel…” Pravesh screamed as he sprinted towards Chhoti Haveli in the Ander Kila neighbourhood of Vidisha town.

His mission: to inform his aunts, cousins and the rest of the family that his uncle had won the Peace Nobel.

Kailash Satyarthi was born Kailash Sharma in this Madhya Pradesh town but dropped the upper-caste surname inspired by the teachings of 19th-century reformist Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of the Arya Samaj, Pravesh told The Telegraph.

“The name ‘Satyarthi’ derives from Satyarth Prakash (Light of Truth), a book written by Swami Dayanand,” Pravesh said.

By 4pm, the Sharmas had had virtually the entire town of Vidisha visiting them. Almost every resident older than 50 has a story to tell about Kailash.

Kailash had graduated in electrical engineering from the Samrat Ashok Technological Institute, Vidisha, and taught at a local polytechnic.

He was a close associate of Swami Agnivesh, and acted as his campaign manager when the social reformer contested the Lok Sabha polls from Bhopal in 1991.

Agnivesh, a Janata Dal nominee, finished a poor third behind S.C. Verma of the BJP and the runner-up, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi of the Congress.

Abdul Jabbar, who campaigns for the rights of the Bhopal gas survivors, recalled meeting Kailash several times during Agnivesh’s election campaign.

“He was sincere, thorough and deeply committed towards the Bhopal survivors,” Jabbar, head of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, said. “He used to help us organise marches and demonstrations.”

After becoming a child rights activist, Kailash had left Vidisha for Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh where he rescued child labourers employed in slate and pencil-making units, said Kailash’s brother Narender, who teaches at a local college.

“It was ironic and tragic that those children making pencils and slates had no access to school,” Narender said.

“Kailash’s daredevil tactics (raiding the heavily guarded factories) often left us deeply worried about his safety,” Narender added. “But he was fearless.”