Guwahati, Saturday, November 05, 2011
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Northeast tribal chiefs to honour Mandela

 Shillong, Nov 5 (IANS): A group of around 3,000 tribal kings and chieftains in Meghalaya have chosen former South African President Nelson Mandela for a 'global award' for his work in the field of human rights.

The chieftains from the State's three major tribes - the Khasis, Jaintias, and the Garos - under the umbrella body of the Grand Advisory Council of Tribal Chiefs have invited Mandela to receive the award on November 14 in Asananggre, West Garo Hills district, about 360 km from Meghalaya's capital Shillong.

"Mandela is an inspiration to our movement. Despite being sentenced to life imprisonment, he continued with his struggle against apartheid," tribal leader John F Kharshiing, chairman of the Grassroots Democracy Advisory Council, told IANS on Saturday.

Released in 1990 after spending 27 years in prison for anti-apartheid activities, Mandela became South Africa's first democratically elected president (1994-1999).

"He is our planet's last living legend, fondly known as Madiba, and therefore, we have decided to award him the 'global award' for his courage, self-sacrifice and contribution towards human rights," he said.

The award function is being held under the banner of the council - a group that is fighting for constitutional recognition of the traditional institution of kingship in this predominantly Christian State of three million people bordering Bangladesh.

There was no official word from the South African High Commission in New Delhi on whether Mandela would attend the award function.

"We were told that he was humbled after hearing about the award. We hope he would accept our invitation and personally come to receive the award ... We have decided to give a citation and traditional gifts to Mandela," the tribal leader said.

An estimated 300,000 people are expected to attend the function where several top Indian economists and environmentalists would speak on the theme of socio-economic development.

Kharshiing said the grand council has chosen three journalists -- Aroon Purie, Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami -- to receive the People's Parliament National Awards on the occasion for raising the benchmark of transparency and ethical news reporting.

Earlier, the council had conferred the award on former US Vice President Al Gore for promoting awareness on climate change.

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