Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates aren't backing down from honoring India Prime Minister Narendra Modi despite concerns about human rights abuses in the disputed Kashmir region.A dozen people, some wearing "Free Kashmir" T-shirts, with the Justice For All coalition delivered 100,000 petition signatures to the Gates Foundation's Seattle headquarters on Monday, asking the world's largest private nonprofit not to honor Modi's Swachh Bharat Mission, a sanitation initiative that improved access to toilets, reports AP.
Javed Sikander, a demonstrator in Seattle who said he is a former Microsoft employee, spoke of his admiration for the Microsoft co-founder, calling Bill Gates and his namesake foundation an inspiration.
"That is all the more reason we're so disappointed that the foundation would honor a person who is clearly committing human rights violations in India," Sikander said.
Modi's Hindu nationalist-led government presented an order in Parliament on August 5 revoking the autonomy of India's only Muslim-majority state. It has imposed tighter controls on India's side of Kashmir, including limiting internet access, mobile and landline phones and cable TV in the disputed region home to 12.5 million people.
The Gates Foundation in a statement said it respects the petitioners' views, but Modi will receive its annual Goalkeepers Global Goals Award for providing 500 million people in India safer sanitation.
The Gates Foundation's annual event focusing on global inequality on September 24 and 25 coincides with the UN General Assembly (UNGA) gathering and has drawn big-name politicians and celebrities, from Barack Obama to Ed Sheeran.Modi will be in the US next week to receive the foundation's award.
The prime minister will also attend a rally with President Donald Trump in Houston.