The Gates Foundation shouldn't give an award to Narendra Modi - By Suchitra Vijayan and Arjun Singh Sethi - IAMC
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The Gates Foundation shouldn’t give an award to Narendra Modi – By Suchitra Vijayan and Arjun Singh Sethi

On Monday, an Indian minister announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is planning to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi an award this month for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission), a sanitation and toilet access initiative across India. … such an honor would come as his Hindu nationalist party has incited violence against minorities, silenced dissent and curtailed freedom of expression. In light of Modi’s record, including promoting repressive policies in the past month in Kashmir and the northeastern state of Assam, he should not be given the award. …

Civil society, including philanthropy, should help build communities rooted in the interconnected values of dignity, decency and equality. Modi’s sanitation campaign has no doubt benefited people, but how can access to a clean toilet outweigh the violence and persecution they may face in the rest of their lives? Giving Modi this award would legitimize his policies and embolden the ethnonationalist forces he has championed. If the Gates Foundation really wants to amplify sanitation efforts in India, it should give the award to community workers instead of a far-right nationalist.

From President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil to President Trump in the United States to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, authoritarianism, ethnonationalism and fascism are on the rise worldwide. Civil society groups, including philanthropic foundations with global platforms, are integral to defeating these forces. The Gates Foundation claims on its homepage that “All lives have equal value.” Giving the award to Modi would betray that promise and everyone who has suffered under his rule.