SEATTLE, WA — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has weathered strong criticism for their decision to confer the Global Goalkeeper award to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. This award celebrates political leaders who demonstrate a commitment to development through impactful work. At a time when Modi’s government has grossly undermined the constitutional rights of marginalized Indian citizens, there could not be a more disrespectful, divisive and cynical choice for this award.
Under Modi’s administration, his Hindu supremacist government has incited violence against religious minorities, slashed social welfare programs and weakened legislative protections for Dalit, Muslim, and Christian communities. Mob violence, cow vigilantism, honour killings, sexual assaults, and fake encounters have all been normalised under his regime. India has also witnessed a surge in lynchings of Dalits and Muslims. Modi’s ministers and associates have supported and celebrated the alleged perpetrators of these lynchings, who have enjoyed freedom from accountability. Throughout his political career, he has overseen numerous human rights violations from the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002’s Gujarat Riots until today, when his party is using the National Register of Citizens to declare millions of (mostly Muslim) Indians foreigners, and has escalated India’s oppression of Kashmir.
India has used Islamophobic stereotypes and colonial tactics for decades to maintain power in Kashmir. Indian security forces have resorted to murder, disappearances, mass rape, and blinding with pellet weapons to suppress Kashmiri resistance. After the recent abrogation of Article 370, Indian politicians and private citizens have issued public statements that objectify and fetishize Kashmiri women, stating “Indian men are now free to marry Kashmiri women,” expressing their entitlement over Kashmiri bodies and Kashmiri land, reproducing colonial tactics of exerting power.
API Chaya believes that these statements lay a foundation for sexual and domestic violence against Kashmiris. Recognizing the intersections between interpersonal and state violence, API Chaya is dedicated to ending all forms of violence and oppression. We take a strong stance against the Indian military’s use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. The human rights situation in Kashmir creates systemic and interpersonal violence everyday, and we are mobilizing in solidarity with Kashmiris to stop the humanitarian crisis immediately.
As for the development work the Gates Foundation means to commend, if one visits the poorest villages and the remote areas where India’s most marginalised live, one can see the Swachh Bharat campaign is a sham. There cannot be development without justice. The Foundation should not honor Modi for building toilets when the lower caste Indians expected to clean them continue to be discriminated against and denied basic human rights, let alone an equitable share in India’s economic growth.
In this context, we are firm that the Gates Foundation not honor Narendra Modi. Under his administration, the Indian government stands against the Foundation’s core belief that “all lives have equal value.” His development work cannot erase the injustice and violence he has perpetuated against marginalized Indians.