Open Letter to Gates Foundation from South Asian Americans and Allies in Philanthropy: Rescind Award to PM Modi

September 10, 2019

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We write to express our deep disappointment with the Gates Foundation for honoring Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an award at your upcoming Goalkeepers event. As your peers in the philanthropic sector, we urge you to withdraw this award to Prime Minister Modi, and in the alternative, confer it upon community-based organizations.

The Gates Foundation’s decision to honor PM Modi seems to be in complete contrast with your own stated mission: “we see equal value in all lives”. As you are well aware, under PM Modi’s leadership, religious minorities all across India are facing heightened levels of violence, exclusion, and discrimination. For over a month now, PM Modi has placed 8 million people in Jammu and Kashmir under house arrest, blocked communications and media coverage to the outside world, detained thousands of people including children, and denied basic benefits. Reports of torture, including beatings and the murder of a young child by Indian security officers, are emerging as well. In addition, the Indian government has begun to disenfranchise millions of residents, mainly Muslims, in the state of Assam.

These gross human rights violations must not be diminished, denied, or compartmentalized, and especially not by philanthropic entities such as the Gates Foundation which seeks to address global inequality. Given the Gates Foundation’s global influence and impact on the needs of vulnerable communities, the decision to honor PM Modi sends the message that the lives of Kashmiris, Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits, Christians, and other minority populations in India who are under siege are of less value.

Precisely because the Gates Foundation is held in such high regard for its invaluable contributions to sustainable development in India, the decision to honor PM Modi will also undercut and demoralize the beleaguered civil society of India. The award will signal the international community’s willingness to overlook, and remain silent, in the face of the Indian government’s brazen violations of human rights principles. Many of the victims of the government’s political repression are grassroots organizations devoted to addressing the needs of disadvantaged communities that are also the targets of the government’s animosity. The Indian government has also politicized the conduct of philanthropy by intimidating foreign funders or restricting their funding in many cases where it promotes community empowerment or the rule of law.

If the Gates Foundation wishes to uplift India’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign for a clean India, we urge you to redirect your award to community-based organizations and grassroots advocates rather than honor a political leader who is responsible for human rights violations.

As South Asian Americans, we are deeply troubled by the mistreatment of vulnerable communities in India, and currently in Jammu and Kashmir. And as South Asian Americans in philanthropy who are stewards for the public interest, we believe that it is our individual and collective responsibility to publicly register our alarm and dismay that a philanthropic entity with the status of the Gates Foundation is honoring PM Modi.

We urge the Gates Foundation to withdraw your award to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

South Asian Signatories (Note: Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only, and not for attribution)

  • Dimple Abichandani, General Service Foundation
  • Reema Ahmad, Movement Voter Project
  • Junaid Ahmed, Center on Muslim Philanthropy
  • Rasheed Ahmed, Center on Muslim Philanthropy
  • Rini Banerjee, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation
  • Sheila Bapat, RISE Together Fund, a Proteus Fund initiative
  • Rajasvini Bhansali, Solidaire Network
  • Rini Chakraborty, Four Freedoms Fund | NEO Philanthropy
  • Shona Chakravartty, Hill Snowdon Foundation
  • Vanessa Daniel, Groundswell Fund
  • Angelica Das
  • Trishala Deb, Thousand Currents
  • Shalini Eddens
  • Nadia Firozvi
  • Neha Singh Gohil, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • Srikanth Gopal
  • Sana Jafri
  • Maheen Kaleem
  • Farah Kathwari, Irfan Kathwari Foundation
  • Rafia Amina Khader, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving
  • Surina Khan, Women’s Foundation of California
  • Anita Khashu, Four Freedoms Fund | NEO Philanthropy
  • Tanya Khokhar
  • Aleyamma Mathew
  • Rama Murali
  • Kaberi Banerjee Murthy, Meyer Memorial Trust
  • Supriya Pillai, Hidden Leaf Foundation
  • Sameen Piracha, RISE Together Fund, a Proteus Fund initiative
  • Svati Shah
  • Mohan Sikka
  • Jasjit Singh, California ChangeLawyers
  • Javid Syed
  • Manisha Vaze, Neighborhood Funders Group
  • Shireen Zaman, RISE Together Fund, a Proteus Fund initiative

Ally Signatories (Note: Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only, and not for attribution)

  • Ashley Snowdon Blanchard, Hill Snowdon Foundation
  • Elizabeth Snowdon Bonner, Hill Snowdon Foundation
  • Halil Demir, Zakat Foundation of America
  • Claire Downing, RISE Together Fund, a Proteus Fund initiative
  • Patricia Eng
  • Crystal Hayling, The Libra Foundation
  • Connie and Jonathan Heller, Linked Fate Fund for Justice
  • John Esterle & Pia Infante, The Whitman Institute
  • National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
  • Isaac Luria, Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Maisha Quint, The Libra Foundation
  • Jocelyn Sargent
  • Edward W Snowdon Jr., Hill Snowdon Foundation
  • Margot Snowdon, Hill Snowdon Foundation
  • Nat Chioke Williams, Hill Snowdon Foundation
  • Bianca Sierra Wolff, California ChangeLawyers

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