indica News Bureau-
The announcement by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of an award to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or Clean India Campaign, has stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest, with both liberals and conservatives, for their own reasons, opposing the award.
The foundation is scheduled to present the award to Prime Minister Modi when he visits the United States later this month.
The award was announced by Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the prime minister’s office, about 10 days ago.
Soon after, an article by two Indian-origin lawyers appeared in The Washington Post saying Modi, as leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party that has been inciting violence against the minorities in India and curbing the freedom of expression, should not be given an award.
The article, by Suchitra Vijayan and Arjun Singh Sethi, said, “The Gates Foundation claims on its home page that ‘all lives have equal value’. Giving the award to Modi would betray that promise and everyone who has suffered under his rule.”
The article was shared widely by rights activists, international policy experts and politicians. The website ThePrint.in reported that Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, tweeted: “Why is the Gates Foundation choosing this moment to honor Indian PM Modi (for fighting open defecation) as Muslims in India face a clampdown in Kashmir, loss of citizenship in Assam, and unremedied violence across the country?”
Ali Haider Zaidi, a politician from Pakistan, labeled Modi “the Hitler of the East” while Kavita N Ramdas, well-known gender equity and justice expert, said, on Twitter, that “philanthropy cannot pretend to be apolitical when authoritarianism, majoritarianism and bigotry are being manifested in the leadership of nations.”
International human rights lawyer pointed out that Modi was often referred to as the Butcher of Gujarat for the 2002 pogrom in the state under his watch in which over 2,000 Muslims, according to unofficial estimates, were killed.
Meanwhile, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a group affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and opposed to the inflow of foreign capital into Indian industry and services, has also urged Prime Minister Modi to reject the award, saying the Gates Foundation is merely doing business in the guise of philanthropy and also faces “severe allegations” of conducting illegal and unethical medical trials in India.