British actor and radio presenter Jameela Jamil and rapper Riz Ahmed have decided to pull out of an event organized by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will receive the Global Goalkeeper Award.
The celebrities’ decision was initially tweeted by journalist Azad Essa on Monday.
This is a huge development!
— Azad Essa (@azadessa) September 16, 2019
It is being speculated that the move comes in response to the ongoing situation in Indian-Administered Kashmir, where an indefinite curfew has cut communication of more than eight million people.
As I’ve said before, when I publicly discuss world politics, especially when war is involved, I become the recipient of a multitude of death and rape threats. As a survivor, I cannot and will not endure that treatment, so I will not be commenting on any of this. https://t.co/CaTNK0WnEs
— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) September 16, 2019
Jamila took to Twitter and said that she would not be commenting on her decision, as she is threatened with rape and death threats if she talks about world politics and war. “As a survivor, I cannot and will not endure that treatment, so I will not be commenting on any of this.” Ahmed has not publicly commented on his decision.
The Gates foundation’s decision to award Modi has attracted criticism from various activists and academics, calling on the organisation to cancel the award. Speculations have made rounds on social media that New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may have also pulled out from the event.
Modi is scheduled to receive an award for the Swachh Bharat Ahiyaan (Clean India Mission), during his visit to the US on September 24.
Days after the award was announced, executive director of the Polis Project Suchitra Vijayan and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Arjun Singh Sethi called on the foundation to withdraw the award.
“Under his leadership, the country has witnessed a spike in hate crimes and mob violence, particularly against Muslims and Dalits. Rarely are the perpetrators held accountable,” Vijayan and Sethi wrote in The Washington Post.
“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,” they said.
An online petition was started which said that the award had come at an “awkward time” and demanded the Gates Foundation to reconsider its decision. The petition has garnered more than 100,000 signatures so far.
The Gates Foundation, however, stood by its decision. In its statement to HuffPost India, it said Modi was receiving the award for “the progress India is making in improving sanitation, as part of its drive toward the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
“Before the Swachh Bharat mission, over 500 million people in India did not have access to safe sanitation, and now, the majority do. There is still a long way to go, but the impacts of access to sanitation in India are already being realized. The Swachh Bharat Mission can serve as a model for other countries around the world that urgently need to improve access to sanitation for the world’s poorest,” it said.