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Recognition for courage and causes

Indian activist, Pentagon whistleblower, South American win `alternative Nobels'



Ruth Manorama

STOCKHOLM: Indian women's rights activist Ruth Manorama was among the winners of the "alternative Nobels" announced on Thursday.

Daniel Ellsberg, the former U.S. Defence Department official who leaked secret Pentagon documents during the Vietnam war, shared the 2 million kronor Right Livelihood Award with Ms. Manorama and a poetry festival in Medellin, Colombia. Anti-corruption campaigner Chico Whitaker Ferreira of Brazil won the honorary award.

"They are all representatives of personal courage," said philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, who founded the award in 1980 to recognise work he believed was ignored by the high-visibility Nobel Prizes.

In giving the prize to Ms. Manorama, the award committee took into account her work to achieve equality for Dalit women in India. "I think this award will hopefully inspire other young Dalit women to say `Look what we can do,'" said Mr. von Uexkull.

By choosing Mr. Ellsberg, the committee wanted to highlight parallels between the Vietnam war and the war in Iraq. "It is quite clear that decisions are being taken by governments behind our back, where the argument of secrecy is being misused," Mr. von Uexkull said.

Mr. Ellsberg, 75, became famous for his release of the Pentagon Papers, which indicated the U.S. had deceived the public about whether the Vietnam war could be won and the extent of casualties. The award citation recognised him "for putting peace and truth first, at considerable personal risk, and dedicating his life to inspiring others to follow his example."

The committee cited ``The Festival Internacional de Poesia de Medellin'' for promoting peace in what it called one of the most violent cities in the world. The poetry festival was started in the early 1990s, providing a safe haven in the midst of heavy fighting between criminal groups in the city, Mr. von Uexkull said. — AP

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