NEW YORK, Sep 17 (APP):Prominent actor and rap artist Riz Ahmed, and actress and radio personality Jameela Jamil, who are of Pakistani origin, have decided to opt out of an event arranged by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to receive Global Goalkeeper Award for his work in improving sanitation in his country.
“Jameela Jamil and Riz Ahmed are no longer participating in Goalkeepers,” the foundation told HuffPost.
On Twitter, Ms Jamil said she would “not be commenting on any of this” in response to a tweet by the head of Polis Project Suchitra Vijayan asking her about pulling out.
Riz Ahmed has not publicly commented on the decision.
Modi will attend the ceremony early next week during his visit to the United States
The Gates Foundation’s decision to award Modi for Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Mission) has invited sharp criticism from various quarters, with academics and activists calling on the organization to rescind the award.
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 by Justice For All, which cited the restrictions in Kashmir and the Assam, said the award had come at an “awkward time” and called on the Gates Foundation to reconsider its decision. The petition has garnered over 100,000 signatures.
An open letter by a group of South Asians, who said they were “peers in the philanthropic sector”, urged the foundation to withdraw the award, saying, “Given the Gates Foundation’s global influence and impact on the needs of vulnerable communities, the decision to honour 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”.
In its statement to HuffPost, the Gates Foundation stood by its decision, saying Modi was receiving the award for “the progress India is making in improving sanitation, as part of its drive toward achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”