The petition asking for Modi’s award to be taken back has gone viral all over the world
After the Kashmir crisis, there have been many questions raised at India’s image as the biggest democracy in the world and one of the fastest growing economies. Given its illegal occupation and treatment of Kashmir, India’s legitimacy as a regional power, much less a world power is in jeopardy.
It was recently announced that Narendra Modi, will be honored by the Gates Foundation for his leadership and commitment to improve access to sanitation within India
The award is given to individuals who have contributed to improve the lives of the poor. They tell the extraordinary stories of remarkable people taking action to bring the Global Goals to life. One individual to be awarded is Narendra Modi. Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, his sanitation initiative, which was launched back in 2014, focused on improved access to toilets for millions of rural Indians. It has gotten the Bill and Melinda Gates Awards recognizing Modi for it.
Activists have started a petition calling for the Foundation to take back Modi’s award because of his human rights record
On Tuesday, a dozen South Asian American demonstrators, including academics, lawyers and activists, marched to the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle to deliver a petition with more than 100,000 signatures. Wearing “Free Kashmir” T-shirts, the group opposed the award and wanted the high-profile organization to rescind its decision and not to honor Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission citing human rights violations committed under his rule.
The petition states that it is “inconsistent to give a humanitarian award to a man whose nickname is the ‘Butcher of Gujarat’ “
“For over a month now, PM Modi has placed 8 million people in Jammu and Kashmir under house arrest, blocked communications and media coverage to the outside world, detained thousands of people including children, and denied basic benefits. Reports of torture, including beatings and the murder of a young child by Indian security officers, are emerging as well,” said the letter.
“While we understand the award was given for [Modi’s sanitation initiative], it nevertheless seems inconsistent to give a humanitarian award to a man whose nickname is the ‘Butcher of Gujarat’,” the statement said referring to the 2002 massacre in which more than 1,000 people were killed in anti-Muslim riots and Modi was the Chief Minister at that time.
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
One of the demonstrators in Seattle was Javed Sikander, who said he is a former Microsoft employee. He spoke of his admiration for the Microsoft co-founder, calling Bill Gates and his namesake foundation an inspiration.
“That is all the more reason we’re so disappointed that the foundation would honor a person who is clearly committing human rights violations in India,” Sikander said.
The petition also urges for Modi’s award to be taken away because of his recent actions in Kashmir
“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.
The petition says Modi’s award “could not have come at a more awkward time.” Modi’s government revoked the autonomy and imposed tighter controls on Kashmir, including limiting internet access, mobile and landline phones and cable TV in the disputed region home to 12.5 million people.
So many people have been raising their voices against this award
Lawyers and human rights activists Suchitra Vijayan and Arjun Singh Sethi wrote: “this award would legitimize his policies and embolden the ethnonationalist forces he has championed.”
“Giving Modi this award would legitimize his policies and embolden the ethnonationalist forces he has championed”
— Azad Essa (@azadessa) September 6, 2019
Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, tweeted: “Why is the Gates Foundation choosing this moment to honor Indian PM Modi as Muslims in India face a clampdown in Kashmir, loss of citizenship in Assam, and unremedied violence across the country?”
Why is the @GatesFoundation choosing this moment to honor Indian PM Modi (for fighting open defecation), as Muslims in India face a clampdown in Kashmir, loss of citizenship in Assam, and unremedied violence across the country. https://t.co/Dvgnm5ab14
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) September 7, 2019
“The Muslim community, interfaith advocates, and humanitarians all across the country have joined this cause because Modi has been encouraging mass-violence against Muslims for decades,” said Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of Justice For All.
Indian army behaves just like what they are: An occupying army, torturing innocents into submission.
And Bill Gates is ok with it as long as Modi keep building toilets. https://t.co/juYfaRghsh
— Abdul Malik Mujahid (@MalikMujahid) September 17, 2019
We all know how Riz Ahmed and Jameela Jamil also recently boycott this event because Modi was being given the award
This is a huge development!
— Azad Essa (@azadessa) September 16, 2019
However, disappointingly the Gates Foundation is standing by its decision to honor Modi, for now
The Foundation in a statement said it respects the petitioners’ views, but Modi will receive its annual Goalkeepers Global Goals Award for providing 500 million people in India safer sanitation. “We work on the specific issues where we believe we can have the greatest impact for the world’s poorest,” the Gates Foundation statement said. “Before the Swachh Bharat mission, over 500 million people in India did not have access to safe sanitation, and now, the majority do,” they further added.
People are still slamming the foundation’s rationale
Critics believe that hygiene and cleanliness cannot compensate for rights abuses.
This isn’t complicated.
If you build a toilet in one room, and torture in another, you’re undeserving of recognition.
Reject fascism. Support human rights.https://t.co/m0dHdZTfCj
— Arjun Sethi (@arjunsethi81) September 10, 2019
The Gates foundation is honoring Indian Prime Minister Modi with an award — all while inside India, Modi continues to strip Muslims from their citizenship, associate himself with Hindu nationalists and build concentration camps inside the country. https://t.co/Wb8zScPzCS
— Rowaida Abdelaziz (@Rowaida_Abdel) September 18, 2019
Just returned frm Asia where I found public health leaders unanimously baffled or enraged by @gatesfoundation decision to honor PM #Modi . Yes, they say, he's built toilets, but he's dedestroying the lives of millions of non-Hindus especially in #Kashmir. https://t.co/U2sIwqzcUC
— Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett) September 17, 2019
In the past 11 days, human rights defenders, philanthropists, NGOs, faith based groups & Nobel laureates have all called on @gatesfoundation to rescind their award to Modi.
Kashmir & Assam are under a Genocide Alert. And they think Modi should be honored?
It’s a disgrace.
— Arjun Sethi (@arjunsethi81) September 17, 2019
Do you think Modi should be honored for his good public work despite a record of human rights violations? Let us know in the comments.
Cover image via: Alaim Jocard/European Press Photo Agency