A staff member at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation resigned on Tuesday in protest against the organisation’s decision to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi the Global Goalkeeper Award for the Swachh Bharat Mission, reported TRT World. Communications specialist Sabah Hamid said it was a grave error to honour Modi at a time when he has imposed restrictions on communications and movement in Kashmir.
“Since the foundation seemed set on its course of action to go ahead with the award – which as a private foundation it is entitled to – I could do just one thing: leave,” Hamid told TRT World. “In my opinion, any organisation that works to improve the lives of the vulnerable, and to reduce inequality in the world, should not honour a person whose decisions inflict irreversible harm on the vulnerable and whose reign has increased inequality in an already unequal country manifold.”
Hamid said that being a Kashmiri made her decision a personal one. She alleged that eight million people have been under an undeclared curfew with minimal access to medical care. “The Modi-led government has not only designed and implemented this crisis, their untruths and the complicity of a large part of the media means they are also trying to hijack the narrative,” she added. “Being feted at large international gatherings, and winning awards plays right into that.”
She, however, added that her decision was not only based on what happened in Kashmir. “…Not just because of the occupation in Kashmir, but for what the Modi regime is responsible for in India itself – the lynching of Dalits, Christians and Muslims, the NRC in Assam (and potentially elsewhere), the 2002 Gujarat pogrom – any of these even by itself should be the reason enough,” she told TRT World.
Hamid said she decided to quit because she would not have felt honest criticising the award and yet being paid by the foundation. “I had no choice but to protest, and it was the only honest way I could express by protest,” she added.
Ever since the foundation decided to honour Modi for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, several public figures have opposed it, citing alleged human rights violations against minorities in India and the security clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir. The foundation had also confirmed that two participants had pulled out of the award ceremony, though the reason is not clear.
The Gates Foundation had said it respects the petitioners’ views, but Modi would receive the award for providing 500 million people in India safer sanitation. “We work on the specific issues where we believe we can have the greatest impact for the world’s poorest,” the foundation had said.
Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.