Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s decision to award Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with an international outcry as several human rights activists and organizations rallied in to express disillusionment on honoring controversial PM Modi following Kashmir crisis.
The Global Gatekeeper Award, due to be given later this month, was announced in recognition of his Swach Bharat Abhayaan (Clean India Campaign)- a nationwide sanitation campaign under which millions of toilets were constructed across India, where open defecation is a major problem.
Washington Post Editorial
The international community reflected discontentment, expressing their bewilderment people asserted that awarding PM Modi tantamount to overlooking his gross human rights misconduct and his inclination towards exclusionary policies in India. A Washington Post published an article following Indian Union Minister Jitendra Singh’s announcement of the award for PM Modi, urging Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to not to confer the award on him. The article cited his role in suppressing the dissent, gross human rights violations in IOK, a precarious surge in hate incidents against religious minorities particularly Muslim and harboring a jingoistic and ultra-nationalistic attitude.
The decision to honor PM Modi sends the message that the lives of Kashmiris, Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits, Christians, and other minority populations in India who are under siege are of less value.
The open editorial of Washington Post asked: “Modi’s sanitation campaign has no doubt benefitted people, but how can access to a clean toilet outweigh the violence and persecution they may face in the rest of their lives?”
“If the Gates Foundation really wants to amplify sanitation efforts in India, it should give the award to community workers instead of a far-right nationalist,” added the open editorial.
Petition by South Asian American Academics
A group of South Asian American academics moved a petition denouncing the decision. They urged Bill and Melinda Gates to rescind their decision, citing human rights violations under Modi. The petition signed by 100,000 people included signatories from civil society, lawyers, and social rights activists.
The petition referred to PM Modi as the ‘Butcher of Gujrat‘ asserted the award would “signal the international community’s willingness to overlook, and remain silent, in the face of the Indian government’s brazen violations of human rights principles.”
The petition commented the award “could not have come at a more awkward time” pointing to the current crackdown in Jammu Kashmir and citizenship exercise that has excluded nearly 2 million in the state of Assam.
“In Kashmir, more than 800,000 Indian armed forces have kept eight million Kashmiris detained in their own homes without phones or internet services for the last month,” the petition said.
“Since the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] came to power in 2014, the use of organized mobs and militias have undermined the rule of law so frequently that the Indian Supreme Court warned that these ‘horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land’.
If Modi is honored, it would:
*diminish human rights
*demoralize Indian civil society & those fighting for justice
*send the message that minority rights don’t matter in India
— Arjun Sethi (@arjunsethi81) September 11, 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is accused of inciting riots and massacres of Muslims in 2002 in Gujrat when he was the Chief Minister of the state.
The petition acknowledged the global influence of philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation added that “the decision to honor PM Modi sends the message that the lives of Kashmiris, Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits, Christians, and other minority populations in India who are under siege are of less value.”
Another group of human rights activists named, Alliance for Justice and Accountability wrote an open letter to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to withdraw their decision to safeguard the “dignity of the millions who have suffered under Mr. Modi but also the credibility of the Gates Foundation”.
The open letter is signed by Nesamani Raja of the Dalit American Foundation, Ahsan Khan of Indian American Muslim Council and Dr Shaik Ubaid of Indian Muslim Advocacy Network and Muslim Peace Coalition, Lakshmi Sridaran of South Asian Americans Leading Together, Sonia Joseph of South Asia Solidarity Initiative, Bhajan Singh of Organization for Minorities in India and Chaitanya Diwadkar, Ambedkar King Study Circle.
Bill and Melinda Gates Defended the Decision
Despite an international furor, Bill and Melinda Gates have decided to uphold their decision to honor PM Modi.
In a statement to CNN, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation defended its decision, saying: “Before the Swachh Bharat mission, over 500 million people in India did not have access to safe sanitation, and now, the majority do. There is still a long way to go, but the impacts of access to sanitation in India are already being realized.
“The Swachh Bharat mission can serve as a model for other countries around the world that urgently need to improve access to sanitation for the world’s poorest.”
Gates foundation – The person you are going to reward is someone who was once banned from the USA and UK. It’s no secret why he was banned.
Please do consider the history and current ideology of this person. The undocumented migrants policy is enough to shed light on his govt.
— Bala Krishna ⚙️ (@BalaKrishnarama) September 12, 2019
Mody is a facism.. he is destroying humanright of minority in India specially Khasmir… stop and rescind the award
— kang ma'rufin (@LufRivai) September 12, 2019
That's so unfair and disappointing from Bill Gates' foundation to award the butcher of Gujarat an award as such without having any empathy towards Kashmiri people. Sick of these so-called NGO's working on agendas of certain States.
— M Baig (@IamMBaig) September 11, 2019