Protesters gather outside Gates Foundation, outraged over decision to honor India's prime minister

SEATTLE — Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters Sunday, outraged over the nonprofit's decision to honor India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, amid concerns over human rights abuses in the disputed Kashmir region.

Organizers told KIRO 7 this is only the beginning.

With outrage heard in their voices, protesters chanted: "Long live Kashmir! Long live Kashmir!"

The protest happened while Modi was being honored with the nonprofit's annual prestigious Goalkeepers Global Goal Award this week for improving access to safer sanitation for millions of people.

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"If they call themselves humanitarians, why would they give an award to someone who is a fascist?" Stand with Kashmir protest organizer Myriam Gani.

Gani said the outrage is tied to human rights abuses by Modi's Hindu nationalist-led government. It included a crackdown on phone, TV and internet access in the disputed, Muslim-majority region of Kashmir, where tens of thousands of Indian troops have been deployed.

For Gani, it hits close to home.

Gani said, "My grandfather passed away. He was in Abu Dhabi and none of his family in Kashmir was able to find out about that because of the communications blockade."

Last week, 100,000 petition signatures were delivered to the Gates Foundation, calling on it not to honor Modi, who attended an event Sunday in Texas with President Donald Trump.

Critics said they have met with the Gates Foundation, which is standing by its decision to honor Modi.

"They listened to what we had to say but obviously, they've made this decision months ahead of time and unfortunately, they didn't change their mind," Gani said.

The Gates Foundation said in a statement: "We work on the specific issues where we believe we can have the greatest impact for the world's poorest."