Kashmiri woman resigns in protest over Gates Foundation award to PM Modi

A Gates Foundation staffer has resigned after realising that the foundation was going to award Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi despite his increasing authoritarian grip on power, infliction of state violence and communication shutdown in Kashmir.

Saba Hamid, 42, is a communications specialist and programme officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation . She has been with this foundation for the last three and half years. She has resigned in protest at a decision by the foundation to honour India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is despite widespread allegations of human rights violations in India-administered Kashmir where an ongoing lockdown and communications blackout continues to cripple normal life on its 51st day. 

Modi is to receive an award on September 24 (today) for his government’s efforts to control open defecation in India, on the sidelines of his visit to the UN General Assembly. But his government has recently come under fire for downgrading the nominal autonomy of disputed Kashmir and imposing tighter curbs using tens of thousands of troops in the already over-militarised region, prompting activists and critics to campaign against the private American foundation.

In my opinion, any organisation that works to improve the lives of the vulnerable, and to reduce inequality in the world, should not honour a person whose decisions inflict irreversible harm on the vulnerable and whose reign has increased inequality in an already unequal country manifold. Since the foundation seemed set on its course of action to go ahead with the award – which as a private foundation it is entitled to – I could do just one thing: leave.

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