A decision by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to honour Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his campaign to improve sanitation in India has come under fire from activists and members of the civil society.
The award comes in recognition of the Hindu nationalist leader’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Mission) programme under which millions of toilets have been built across India, where open defecation is a major problem.
A petition circulated by a group of South Asian American academics, lawyers and activists has called on the Gates Foundation, known to be philanthropic, to rescind its decision, citing human rights violations committed under the Modi rule. Mairead Maguire (Nobel Peace Laureate, 1976), Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman (Nobel Peace Laureate, 2011) and Shirin Ebadi (Nobel Peace Laureate, 2003) have called on the Gates Foundation to rescind Modi’s award.
“We were deeply disturbed to discover that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be giving an award to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this month. Under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, India has descended into dangerous and deadly chaos that has consistently undermined human rights, democracy. This is particularly troubling to us as the stated mission of your foundation is to preserve life and fight inequity,” the letter reads.
Citing an example on the attacks on minorities, specifically Indian Muslims, Christians and Dalits, the laureates said, “Since the BJP, Prime Minister Modi’s party, came to power in 2014, the use of organised mobs to respond to alleged sectarian “offenses” with violence has 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,” according to Human Rights Watch.”
The letter added the situation in the state of Assam and Indian occupied Kashmir are cause for grave concern as well. “The organisation “Genocide Watch” has issued not one, but two alerts for India in these regions. In Assam, 1.9 million Indians have been stripped of citizenship; in Kashmir, since August, 800,000 Indian armed forces have kept eight million Kashmiris without phone or internet service for the last month.”
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