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How Bill Gates spent four days worshipping Narendra Modi

Also the $120m ad campaign run by the Ambanis.

Several international celebrities traveled to India as part of a 1,200-plus guest list, for an obscenely lavish soiree in the Gujarati city of Jamnagar. Special arrangements were even made at the air force base to accommodate Ambani’s guests.

These included Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and the pop star Rihanna; Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner; the King and Queen of Bhutan.

Then there were also India’s film stars and cricketing elite – from Shah Rukh Khan and Sachin Tendulkar to Deepika Padukone – who were made to perform for Asia’s richest man.

Influencers and the media gushed over the gowns by famous designers, waxed lyrical the lavish dinners and specific dress code and noted that Rihanna had come out retirement to bless the (non) occasion.

Then there was the story about how 21 chefs prepared 75 types of dishes for breakfast, more than 225 types of dishes for lunch, 275 types of dishes for dinner.

It was outrageous.

Make no mistake, the level of pomp, ceremony and majesty had a purpose.

This was a $120m ad campaign designed to showcase a ‘new’ India dripping with wealth, power, prestige and clout.

And the guests? They were mere props in a show that placed the Ambanis as the beating heart of this prosperous and powerful India.

Enter Bill Gates

While most of the celebs who attended the three-day party were mostly seen through the prism of the Ambani event, Bill Gates – who had also come to take part in the Ambani ad – appeared to perform a premium service for the Indian government.

Not only did Gates use the occasion to meet with government officials (including PM Narendra Modi), businessmen, innovators and students, he shared almost every aspect of his trip on social media to promote India and Modi as paragon of development and innovation.

Here’s what he said about his meeting with Modi:

“We had a great conversation about how the Gates Foundation can continue to support India’s goals on digital technology, women-led development, and innovation in agriculture, health, and climate change.”

Then he met with Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of Infosys, in Hyderabad.

He was purportedly shown how digital technology is being used to provide services to ordinary Indians.

At the advise of Modi, he visited “Statue of Unity” in Gujarat, where the anti-Muslim pogroms of 2002 took place.

He also met with students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), describing the students as “brimming with ideas”.

Later, he met with the Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani, with whom he purportedly discussed how the Gates Foundation could “improve life for women and children throughout the country”.

When he returned to the US, Gates wrote a post titled: “I found inspiration in India”.

“I came home with a deeper understanding of India’s vibrant innovation ecosystem and how it’s generating major advances in health, urban poverty, digital services, and much more. The world has a lot to learn from the ideas coming out of this country,” Gates wrote.

Gates’ blog entry read like a page out of a Christian missionary’s expedition diary from the 19th Century.

Nonetheless, the Indian media ate it all up, ignoring of course, that his commentary simply echoed familiar myths about Modi’s service to India.

It also whitewashed India’s long march to authoritarianism under his administration.

Gates’ visit comes as India approaches a precipice.

Journalists are in jail. Civil society barely functional. Farmers are in open revolt. Indian Muslims are being publicly harassed and lynched (even kicked around during prayers).

Even the economy is not living up to Modi’s promises.

India’s economy may be growing fast but it is also perpetuating massive income inequality.

Modi’s India has become a land for the billionaire class.

According to Oxfam:

“The top 10% of the Indian population holds 77% of the total national wealth. 73% of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest 1%, while *670 million Indians who comprise the poorest half of the population saw only a 1% increase in their wealth.”

And billionaires like the Ambanis are of course a central tenet to these policies.

In other words, no matter how fast the economy might grow, it is the level of inequality that determines the quality of life for the most vulnerable.

As it is, India is experiencing an unemployment crisis amid a tightening of surveillance and a deepening of political repression.

Gates obviously knows all of this, even as he hobnobs with those perpetuating this inequality and often using Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI – digital ID, digital payments, and data sharing) to exert punitive actions on the very people they are meant to serve.

For instance, in the weeks prior to Gates arriving in India for this obscene party, Indian paramilitary forces used drones to surveil and teargas farmers as they tried to exercise their right to protest for better wages.

Now those farmers’ whose identities were captured by facial recognition are being told they would lose their passports.

The irony is that farmers are being punished by the very technologies they were told were meant to help them.

Instead this is the kind of feedback Gates provided on his trip:

“[In Bhubaneswar] I got to see India’s DPI in action when I toured an agricultural monitoring center in Bhubaneswar. At this facility, government agriculture experts send advice and real-time updates to 6.5 million farmers via phone. Since this center opened, local farmers are losing 90 percent less of their crops to pests than they used to.”

Similarly, Gates’ reported back that he met with Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of gigantic tech firm Infosys, in Hyderabad.

Infosys was also co-founded by Rishi Sunak’s father-in-law Narayana Murthy as well (just to further illustrate the intimacy enjoyed by global elites).

Among many things, Infosys is behind India’s Aadhaar digital ID card (essentially creating a digital footprint for every Indian). But this is where the story becomes fascinating (and terrifying).

In 2020, Infosys appointed Uri Levine, a former military intelligence agent with Israel’s 8200 unit as an independent co-director.

Incidentally, the 8200 unit is responsible for monitoring Palestinians and using sensitive information to blackmail them as part of a spying program.

So between 2020-2023, Infosys had a former Israeli intelligence official from Israel’s most invasive units help lead the effort to collect the biometric and demographic information for over a billion residents for a right wing government that seeks to turn India into a Hindu nationalist state.

It becomes even more absurd when you consider that in December, Nilekani said that Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) should now be known as “Digital Public Intelligence” given the rapid expansion of AI.

What could go wrong?

Go figure.

The Citizenship Amendment Act

This week, as Indian Muslims geared up for their first day of Ramadan, Modi’s government implemented the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

In short, the CAA makes religion a condition for Indian citizenship.

The CAA grants Indian citizenship to Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians living in India due to religious persecution from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before Dec. 31, 2014. Muslims aren’t included on this list.

When the CAA is combined with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), it means that those Muslims in India who don’t possess the paperwork to prove they are Indian citizens would be rendered stateless.

While not entirely the same, the CAA carries remnants of Israel’s Right of Return Law – in which Jews from around the world are able to “return” to Israel primarily on the basis of their religion.

Modi implemented the CAA just weeks before India’s election. And the move was predictably welcomed by Hindu nationalist groups in the United States.

Azad Essa