South Asian Americans in philanthropy have called on the Gates Foundation to withdraw their award for MP Narendra Modi, arguing that the decision to honour him amid heightened levels of violence, exclusion, and discrimination faced by religious minorities was in conflict with the foundation’s mission.
In an open letter, the 43 signatories said, ‘These gross human rights violations must not be diminished, denied, or compartmentalized, and especially not by philanthropic entities such as the Gates Foundation which seeks to address global inequality. Given the Gates Foundation’s global influence and impact on the needs of vulnerable communities, 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 Global Goalkeeper award recognised the Prime Minister of India’s Clean India programme, through which the government has built millions of toilets and publicised the benefits of sanitation and hygiene.
The letter continues, ‘Many of the victims of the government’s political repression are grassroots organizations devoted to addressing the needs of disadvantaged communities that are also the targets of the government’s animosity. The Indian government has also politicized the conduct of philanthropy by intimidating foreign funders or restricting their funding in many cases where it promotes community empowerment or the rule of law’.