Bill Gates has shamed us all by bestowing award to an unrepentant criminal who masterminded massacre of 2000 Muslims in Gujarat and the on-going daily violence faced by Muslim and Christian minorities in India. Millions of Assamese Muslims have been declared stateless by his fascist government that sees no place for minorities. He has illegally annexed Kashmir violating Indian constitution and ignoring 11 UN resolutions towards allowing the Kashmiris to decide their fate. He is a criminal by any definition and shame on humanity. So, when Bill Gates Foundation honors him it is seen as a reward for fascism and intolerance, bigotry and Hindutva. Shame on Bill Gates and his wife Melinda! You have disappointed us all who wanted to believe that you are a great man, in spite of the unjust way you became a billionaire!
Another award winner, pan-African activist Aya Chebbi, said during her own acceptance speech that, “We live in a world where it’s okay to trade human rights for a sanitation project.” It was a gutsy jab at the Gates Foundation, and at Modi, a Hindu nationalist with a questionable human rights record.
It also struck at the heart of an ethical dilemma in philanthropy. Is it possible to separate a world leader’s achievements in development from their political conduct?
The backlash clouded what is normally a pretty anodyne event. Three Nobel Peace Prize winners and 37 academics and development professionals sent letters demanding the award be rescinded. Even Gloria Steinem took a stand against it. At another Gates event a day later, the Indian poet-activist Aranya Johar—who Gates awarded last year—held up a sign asking, “Why Modi?” And a Gates Foundation staff member in India resigned over it, writing an op-ed in the New York Times explaining her decision.
It was the fourth year for the Gates Foundations’ Global Goals awards ceremony, which took place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The awards are meant to recognize individuals for their contribution to the advancement of development goals. Modi was being recognized for the apparent success of a countrywide sanitation project.
He took that mandate and rescinded the special status of Kashmir, a mostly Muslim semi-autonomous region split between India and Pakistan. Modi then sent in police to make mass arrests. He’s also cut off mobile and internet service. At the same time, India is building mass detention camps in the northeastern state of Assam to hold what it considers “illegal immigrants,” mostly Muslim inhabitants who don’t have the paperwork to prove their citizenship. Modi’s rhetoric, meanwhile, has both incited Hindu violence around the country and inflamed tensions with Pakistan, a mostly Muslim country and India’s neighbor.
“[Modi] has a huge history of inflammatory hate speech, nationalistic violence against minorities and a lot of criticism of any dissent,” Lyla Mehta, a researcher at the Institute of Development Studies, told Quartz. “Democracy, freedom of speech, and human rights are all under threat in India.”
In this context, it seems imprudent at best for a charitable organization like the Gates Foundation to give Modi an award during the UN General Assembly, a week of meetings that is watched by the whole world.
“Civil and political rights and socioeconomic rights go hand in hand. You can’t really distinguish between one freedom and the other,” Mehta said.
See the link to the OpEd in the NY Times by Sabah Hamid who resigned from the Gates Foundation:
By honoring India’s divisive and authoritarian prime minister Narendra Modi, the foundation is going against its professed belief of considering every life valuable.
By Sabah Hamid
NEW DELHI — On Tuesday, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presented Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist prime minister of India, with one of its Global Goal Awards in New York. The Gates Foundation has chosen to honor Mr. Modi for his Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, or Clean India Mission, which claims to have built 100 million new toilets in India over the past five years.
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