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South Asian community urges Gates Foundation to withdraw award to PM Modi

A community of South Asians residing in the United States has written an open letter to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to withdraw the award to be presented to Prime Minister Modi.

The letter has accused PM Modi of “violating human rights”. They had said that instead of honouring PM Modi with the recognition, they should the instead honour community-based organisations and grassroots advocates.

Modi is scheduled to receive the award from the foundation for the cleanliness campaign during his visit to the United States this month. The foundation runs several philanthropic projects around the world, many of which are in India.

The letter alleged that under PM Modi, minorities face violence and extreme discrimination.They said the organisation’s decision contradicted its own stated mission of seeing “equal value in all lives”.

They urged the foundation to not diminish the violations of human rights.

“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” they said.

They wrote that it will “demoralize the beleaguered civil society of India”.

The letter read that if the award is indeed presented, it will signify that the international community has overlooked, or kept silent on these issues.

“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”, it reads.

“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,” they said. “Reports of torture, including beatings and the murder of a young child by Indian security officers, are emerging as well. In addition, the Indian government has begun to disenfranchise millions of residents, mainly Muslims, in the state of Assam.”

They said that it is their “individual” and “collective responsibility” to publicly register our alarm and dismay that a philanthropic entity with the status of the Gates Foundation is honouring PM Modi.

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