New Delhi: Human rights activists, lawyers and politicians have stirred a controversy by opposing the announcement of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation award to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. They have labelled him the “butcher of Gujarat” and “Hitler of the East”.
Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jitendra Singh, announced the award last Monday.
Another award,another moment of pride for every Indian, as PM Modi’s diligent and innovative initiatives bring laurels from across the world.
Sh @narendramodi to receive award from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for #SwachhBharatAbhiyaan during his visit to the United States. pic.twitter.com/QlsxOWS6jT
— Dr Jitendra Singh (@DrJitendraSingh) September 2, 2019
An opinion piece in The Washington Post titled ‘The Gates Foundation shouldn’t give an award to Narendra Modi’ accused the leader of the “Hindu nationalist party” for inciting violence against minorities and curtailing the freedom of expression.
The article, written by lawyers Suchitra Vijayan and Arjun Singh Sethi, said: “In light of Modi’s record, including promoting repressive policies in the past month in Kashmir and the northeastern state of Assam, he should not be given the award.
“The Gates Foundation claims on its homepage that ‘All lives have equal value’. Giving the award to Modi would betray that promise and everyone who has suffered under his rule.”
Liberal activists protest online
The article has been shared widely online by human rights activists, international policy experts, and politicians.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, tweeted: “Why is the Gates Foundation 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.”
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
Pakistani politician Ali Haider Zaidi labelled Modi as the “Hitler of the East”.
— Ali Haider Zaidi (@AliHZaidiPTI) September 7, 2019
Kavita N. Ramdas, a globally-recognised gender equity and justice expert, also commented on Twitter: “#philanthropy cannot pretend to be #apolitical when growing #authoritarianism #majoritarianism and #bigotry are being manifested in the #leadership of nations hope that @melindagates @BillGates @gatesfoundation act!
So grateful to you both for this strong and unambiguous piece – #philanthropy cannot pretend to be #apolitical when growing #authoritarianism #majoritarianism and #bigotry are being manifested in the #leadership of nations hope that @melindagates @BillGates @gatesfoundation act! https://t.co/uHke7eSn17
— Kavita N Ramdas (@kramdas) September 7, 2019
International human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar wrote on Twitter: “Did you know that Narendra Modi was denied a US visa from 2005-2014 because he was known as the ‘Butcher of Gujarat’ for the anti-Muslim pogroms (sic) which killed 2,000 Muslims when he was chief minister of that province?”
Did you know that Narendra Modi was denied a US visa from 2005-2014 because he was known as the "Butcher of Gujarat" for the anti-Muslim pogroms which killed 2,000 Muslims when he was chief minister of that province?https://t.co/LsY0iVtc9g
— Arsalan Iftikhar (@TheMuslimGuy) September 6, 2019
Noura Erakat, a human rights attorney and activist who serves on the board of the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington DC, accused Modi of “leading a violent settler-colonial campaign in Kashmir” for which, she says, he should be held to account, not honoured.
A note to the @gatesfoundation – don’t get it twisted, Modi is leading a violent settler-colonial campaign in #Kashmir right now & should be held to account, not honored. From my compa @arjunsethi81 https://t.co/I2q7nOtTiG
— Noura Erakat (@4noura) September 6, 2019
An award for ‘fighting global inequality’
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, run by the Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist couple, is a private foundation and works on “improving people’s health and wellbeing, helping individuals lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty” in developing countries.
PTI quoted sources as saying that Modi will be presented with the 2019 ‘Global Goalkeeper Award’, an award that is a “special recognition” to celebrate political leaders who have “demonstrated their commitment to the global goals through impactful work in their country and/or globally”.
“At this year’s fourth annual Global Goals Awards, we will be honouring recipients who have been working to tackle the issues contributing to global inequity,” said the Gates Foundation website. “This year, goalkeepers will focus on the challenge of fighting global inequality to ensure no one is left behind.”
Reject the award, RSS affiliate suggests
Modi also received some unsolicited advice from the Sangh Parivar.
The Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an RSS-affiliated group, requested Modi “to reconsider this award, given shady past of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation”.
“BMGF is no philanthropist, they are doing business in the guise of philanthropy. They are also under severe allegations of conducting illegal and unethical medical trials to foster their business,” wrote Ashwani Mahajan, co-convenor of the SJM, on Twitter.
Request to PM Shri @narendramodi to reconsider this award, given shady past of BMGF. BMGF is no philanthropist, they are doing business in the guise of philanthropy. They are also under severe allegations of conducting illegal and unethical medical trials to foster their business https://t.co/ym9nxQIqRl
— ASHWANI MAHAJAN (@ashwani_mahajan) September 2, 2019
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