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Narendra Modi is destroying lives. In the spirit of Never Again, please withdraw from the award ceremony that will honor him.
An open letter to:
Jacinda Adern, Prime Minister of New Zealand
Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations
Sona Jobarteh, Musician
Tumelo Mothotoane, Media Entrepreneur
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF
Dear distinguished speakers at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeepers event, over the last few weeks, we have seen a number of calls from members of the international community for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to withdraw its award to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at next week’s Goalkeepers Event.
The Gates Foundation has made it clear that it will not rescind on its decision to honor Modi. It has become obvious that it is choosing projects and proximity to the Indian government over its own stated principle of seeing “equal value in all lives.”
We are appealing to you to withdraw from the event. Your presence will not only validate this award, but will also set a dangerous precedent whereby problematic leaders can be lauded no matter their crimes.
Each of you stands for a world that is in complete contradiction with the actions of PM Modi.
Actors Jameela Jamil, Riz Ahmed, and UN High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment and Economic Growth Alaa Murabit who were scheduled to speak alongside with you, have already withdrawn from the event. We ask that you withdraw, too.
On August 5, 2019, PM Modi illegally annexed the state of Kashmir.
He did so, Ms. Mohammed, in direct contravention of UN Security Council Resolutions calling for Kashmiri self-determination. UN experts have deemed his actions to be “collective punishment” against the people of Kashmir.
At this very minute, he is holding 8 million people in Kashmir incommunicado and under house arrest. He has clamped down on freedom of the press — an action that we imagine would strike you on a personal level Ms. Mothotoane.
Your work as a media entrepreneur, broadcaster and a speaker on issues affecting women and youth in South Africa resonates. Newspapers have been closed for weeks in Kashmir, female journalists were harassed and intimidated, and reporters have been standing in queues in Srinagar, waiting for their turn to send their story to their media companies outside.
PM Modi is perpetuating mass detentions and torture. Several thousand Kashmiris including business leaders, human rights defenders, elected officials, teachers and above all else — children — have been rounded up and their whereabouts are unknown. Ms. Fore, as you know Kashmiri children live in the most militarized zone on earth.
UNICEF states that its goal is to “save children’s lives” and “to defend their rights.”
PM Modi is a cruel adversary in that regard.
Apart from his actions in Kashmir, PM Modi is stripping millions of people, mostly Muslims, in the state of Assam of their citizenship and building prisons to hold them.
The targeting of minorities across India has been a pattern under Modi’s leadership. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reports that Christians and other minorities have increasingly been under attack and that, in some cases, state governments allowed the perpetrators to act with impunity.
The report states, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi seldom made statements decrying mob violence…”
Ms. Jobarteh, you broke through gendered constraints to amplify love and respect through your music. PM Modi’s ideology and actions are about nationalism and division.
PM Ardern, when cruel and horrific violence was visited upon the mosque in Christchurch, you led with compassion and unified your country. You taught many of us in the United States lessons about what it means to see human dignity in people that look different or have a different religion. In the process, you became an international hero and a symbol for the type of leadership that is so desperately needed right now.
We are asking all of you to draw upon the values that sustain your life’s work.
It is difficult to understand why Bill and Melinda Gates are so committed to this award. It is not a close call. PM Modi espouses a violent and dangerous ethnonationalism.
Among the many others to have done so, three Nobel Peace laureates have also called on the Gates Foundation to rescind the award.
They are on the right side of history.
In the spirit of Never Again, we hope you will withdraw, too.
Stand With Kashmir is a Kashmiri diaspora-led international solidarity movement that seeks to end the Indian occupation and support the right to self-determination for the people of Kashmir.