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Interfaith Letter To The Gates Foundation on Modi’s Award

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Gates:

As diverse Americans, we very much appreciate that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helps fund numerous important grassroots programs each year. Nevertheless, we are deeply disturbed to discover that the Foundation will be giving an award to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this month. Whatever his positive contributions may be, Prime Minister Modi promotes a form of Hindu nationalism that systematically disenfranchises minority communities in India.

Moreover, given Modi’s dramatic restriction of human rights in Kashmir, especially since August 5, 2019, celebrating his leadership at this time sends an insult not only to Kashmiris and Indian minorities, but to Muslims everywhere. Choosing this moment to honor such a controversial figure seems to us unnecessarily provocative.

Under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, India has descended into dangerous and divisive politics that have consistently undermined both human rights and democracy. Mobs are organized to respond to alleged sectarian “offenses” and the Indian Supreme Court has warned that these “horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land,” according to Human Rights Watch.

In Assam, 1.9 million Indians have been stripped of citizenship; in Kashmir, since August, 800,000 Indian soldiers have kept eight million Kashmiris without freedom of movement, phone or internet service for the last month. Because of these and ongoing human rights abuses, children in Kashmir from kindergarten to college are unable to attend school. As one of your organization’s goals is to “ensure that young people survive and thrive,” please consider this statistic: in 2016 (the year the most recent data has been available), schools in Kashmir were open for only four months out of the year.

Human rights organizations, including Justice for All/Kashmir Action, are issuing genocide alerts for Assam and Kashmir. At the same time, experts inside and outside India have never cleared Prime Minister Modi for his role in the horrific 2002 sectarian massacres in Gujarat. As a result of his role, Modi was banned from entering the United States, the UK, and Canada for 10 years until he acquired diplomatic immunity by becoming India’s Prime Minister. This fact alone should have prevented your Foundation from honoring this man.

We ask that you rescind this honor to a problematic head of state and instead choose other Indians who are doing noble work on the grassroots level. This is clearly the wrong time for the Foundation to send a signal that not all lives matter equally.

Thank you for your time and attention.
Justice For All
Hindus for Human Rights
Kashmir Global Council
Win Without War
Union Theological Seminary
South Asia Solidarity Initiative
Stand with Kashmir
MPower Change
International Center for Rights and Justice
Indian American Muslim Council
Muslim American Society
Islamic Circle of North America
Muslim Council of Britain
Bethany Congregational UCC
World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations
Interfaith Center of New York, NY
Luther Seminary, MN
Catholic Theological Union, IL
Emgage Action
Labor Religion Alliance
Harford County Education Society, MD
One Sky International, Washington DC
Center of Egyptian American Dialogue, VA
Islamic Center of Maryland, MD
The Shalom Center, PA
Interfaith Institute of Islamic Center of Long Island, NY
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, IL
MAS Maryland, MD
Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition, NY
Baltimore County Muslim Council, MD
Masjid al Hedaya, GA
Islamic Center of Naperville, IL
Flushing Interfaith Council, NY
World Human Right Development USA
Judson Memorial Church, NY
Pax Christi Metro, NY
American Muslims For Democracy
Muslim Community Center, Chicago, IL
Muslim Social Services of Kitchener, Waterloo
Avicenna Community Health Center, IL
RadioTahrir, WBAI Radio, NY
Islamic Council of New England. MA
Pakistani Students Association, IL
Interfaith Committee Lake Hills, St Louise, MI
Greenbelt Climate Action Network, MD
Islamic Society of Baltimore, MD
Celeste Holmes
Keith Emrich
Shahul Hameed
Carla Power, Author
Reverend Fr. Jim Hoffman
Chaplain Shareda Hosein

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