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Chicago City Council Votes Against Resolution Critical of Modi Government’s Citizenship Laws, Rights Violations

Chicago City Council Votes Against Resolution Critical of Modi Government’s Citizenship Laws, Rights Violations

  • Calling the resolution “divisive,” Hindu Americans laud the “landmark decision,” while progressives decry it.

The Chicago City Council, on March 24, voted against a resolution critical of India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and its human rights violations. The resolution was rejected by a 26-18 vote with six abstentions. 

Speaking to media after the vote, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said many members of the council felt uncomfortable voting in favor of the resolution, “because we don’t know the ins and out of what’s going on there on the ground in India. She said it is for the Biden administration to make comments or pass a judgement on such issues and not for the local city governments. “What you saw was reluctance on the part of the city council to weigh in on an issue so far away that many did not feel that they had enough information,” she said. 

The resolution R2020583, titled “Recognition of India’s 72nd anniversary of Republic Day and call for condemnation of violence against certain castes and faith group” – was introduced in July 2020 by council member and alderperson for the city’s 49th ward, Maria Hadden. The resolution had also sought to condemn the “the inherently discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which actively creates an unconstitutional, religion-based criteria to grant citizenship to select immigrants – the first instance of religion being used as a criterion for Indian citizenship; the CAA has already been used to threaten deportation for India’s 40,000 Rohingya refugees.”

Amitabh Mittal general secretary of VHPA.

Calling the March 24 vote proceeding “contentious,” the Chicago Tribune reported: “During an unusually long and intense council debate for a symbolic measure, some aldermen said they had received thousands of messages from both sides in recent months, most urging them to vote against it.”

Hadden told the Chicago Tribune that the resolution was meant to condemn violence against certain castes and religious minorities in India. “Here, we strive and we don’t always hit the mark on our values,” she said. “We’ve gone through several recent years of really missing the mark when it comes to freedom of religious expression; we’ve gone through a pretty fraught time very recently,” she said, adding that the purpose of the resolution is to hold a fellow democracy accountable. “That’s really the spirit of why we should be connecting to similar issues in our sister countries.”

The Chicago Tribune notes that “Indian residents and business groups are important constituencies in and around Hadden’s Far North Side ward, which borders the bustling West Ridge shopping district that boasts an impressive concentration of South Asian restaurants, clothing shops, and jewelry and grocery stores.”

The Hindu American community in Chicago welcomed the city council’s decision, while the progressives and minorities lamented it. Both sections had worked for months to get the outcome of their preference. 

Amitabh Mittal general secretary of VHPA was on the ground with Dr. Bharat Barai, and other activists, who have been campaign against the resolution for months. He told American Kahani that “this anti-India agenda” has been mapped in the U.S. since January 2020, “by a certain group of people who are using the resolution to create division.” He added that the purpose of this resolution was to push a narrative of discrimination and abuse of minorities in India.

Ajay Shah, president of the World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) told American Kahani that the city council’s decision has turned the tide for Hindus in America. “The community stood up and fought back.”

Mittal, who also serves as secretary for the US India Friendship Council, said the decision shows that the Indian American community is not going to take anything that comes their way laying down. “The city council was not expecting resistance fro the community,” he said, adding that they received support from various multi faith groups from the city, including the Jewish community. “Why are you blaming the ills of the to the neighboring countries on India,” he asked, alluding to the genocide on the Hindu minority in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. “Indian Americans are not going to take it silently.” He said the CAA is “a very humanitarian law” because it assured citizenship to refugees. He alleged that the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) was behind the effort to pass the resolution.

Ajay Shah, president of the World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) told American Kahani that the city council’s decision has turned the tide for Hindus in America. “The community stood up and fought back.”

Those opposing the resolution had support from the Consulate General of India in Chicago, which reached out to several members of the city council. According to the Chicago Tribune, former Alderman, Joe Moore, who lost his council seat to Hadden in 2019, was hired by the U.S. India Friendship Council to lobby against the resolution. He told the Chicago Tribune that the mayor’s office told him the administration did not support the proposal. “Officials within the administration appeared to agree with my contention that the City Council and the mayor should refrain from weighing in on the internal affairs of a democratic nation 8,000 miles away and assured me they did not support the resolution moving forward,” he said. 

Chicago-based activist Darshan Soni told the Chicago tribune that “the efforts of the larger Indian American community to defend their country of origin and expose the efforts of the opponents of India won the day.”

Harish Kolasani, national present of the National Council of Asian Indian Associations and founder of NRI Seva Association, in a Facebook post wrote: “Anyone trying to insult India in other countries with misleading information is not acceptable.” He thanked the Chicago mayor and the city council for stopping the resolution. “Congratulations to every Indian American in Chicago area, as we survived from a Resolution that would have caused instant split within our united community from different religions.”

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Lauding the devision was, COHNA, a grassroots level organization that strives to represent the collective voices of Hindus in North America and advocate for a better understanding of Hinduism among Hindus and non-Hindus. In a Facebook post, it said: “Congratulations to the Chicago Hindu & Indian American community for defeating this Hinduphobic resolution! A victory for human rights of persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh & Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, some Chicago area Indian Americans were calling their council members to pass the resolution, citing the human rights violations in India, while others expressed concerns over Hinduphobia in the state.

Among those urging the council members to vote an affirmative on the resolution was Raj Rajgopal co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights. “Please speak up for the World’s largest democracy, which is slipping rapidly into a majoritarian state where non-Hindus would become second-class citizens,” he wrote in a letter addressed to the council members. 

Similarly, the Chicago chapter of CAIR, along with members of the Chicago Coalition for Human Rights in India, pushed the city council to pass the resolution and recognize theatrocities infringing on human rights, labor rights, and the basic tenets of democracy in India.

Last year at least eight city councils passed a resolution deca;ring their their opposition to the CAA, and the National Registry of Citizens (NRC). Ion February 202, the Seattle City Council became the first city council to pass such a resolution. It was introduced by Indian American City Council member Kshama Sawant, who urged the Parliament of India to uphold the Indian Constitution by repealing the CAA, and to stop the NRC, and take steps towards helping refugees. Sawant told India Abroad at the time that the resolution “expresses solidarity with Seattle’s South Asian community regardless of religion and caste, while reaffirming Seattle as a welcoming city.”

A week after the Seattle resolution was passed, the Cambridge City Council approved a similar measure against the CAA and NRC, calling upon the Indian Parliament to “uphold” the country’s secular constitution by repealing the law.  “It has come to the attention of the city council that on December 11, 2019, the Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which for the first time uses religion as a criterion for Indian citizenship,” the resolution said. Both the Seattle and Cambridge resolutions were passed ahead of President Donald Trump’s maiden visit to India on Feb. 24. Similar resolutions were passed in St. Paul, Minnesota; San Fransisco, California; Albany, New York, and Hamtramck, Michigan. 

View Comments (3)
  • Those who do not know the history of India which existed as the ancient civilization for more than 5,000 years and known as the land which gave shelter to those who had been persecuted for their faith other than those who committed aggression on their land where they were original inhabitants since time immemorial — are the youths who have been mislead by the so called intellectuals and liberals and hypocrites who have hidden anti-India and anti Hinduism agenda and thus taking advantage of the situation so as to misguide the young generation of Indian youths . Hence this resolution against the law passed by the Indian parliament {i.e. CAA} has been based on ignorance and misunderstanding of the ground situation present in India. The person well-versed in Indian History of partition and the awful heinous after effect, would support the CAA without any doubt.

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