Anti-India resolution backed by Islamists and the Left in Chicago City Council defeated

A Chicago city anti-India resolution backed by Islamist groups and the Left has been defeated 26-18. The resolution from Council member Maria Hadden sought to condemn India over CAA and ‘violence against certain castes and faith groups’. Maria Hadden, Alderman of Chicago’s 49th ward, is affiliated with the Democratic Party.

The agenda driven resolution was met with solid resistance from Chicago’s Indian American community which educated councillors on the efforts by Islamists and anti-India lobby to vilify India. Many council members who voted against the resolution also opined that the City council had no mandate to interfere in the internal affairs of another sovereign nation. The resolution needlessly sows division within Chicago’s Indian American community, said many council members.

Southwest Side Alderman George Cardenas highlighted the duplicitous approach of the proposal saying “If we take this on, why not take on the Chinese ethnic cleansing debate? Why not deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?“, he said. On needless interference in internal affairs, he said “We are a global city, I consider us a global city. But we have many pressing issues here at home that need our attention.”

The heavily biased resolution sought to condemn PM Modi’s government for so-called ‘mob lynchings and violence towards minorities’, Dalits and Christians to which no proofs were cited in the resolution. The resolution also charged that the CAA was ‘inherently discriminatory’, which actively creates an unconstitutional, religion-based criteria to grant citizenship to select immigrants.

The text of the resolution reminiscent of many anti-India news reports that have appeared many times in Hinduphobic newspapers like the NYT, WSJ and others says “President Trump’s bigoted policies within the U.S. including discriminating on religious grounds, targeting vulnerable communities, stripping citizenship, fabricating crises, and stoking hatred, have been mirrored by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, and their alarming ideology that Hindus are racially and culturally superior to others”. Similar words and phrases have been used by several Left and pro-Islamist authors in the past to target India and PM Modi.

The anti-India resolution further called upon the council to urge Congressional delegation to censure India over ‘ military occupation and communications blockade of Kashmir’.

Benjamin Baird, Director of Middle East Forum who worked to defeat the anti-India resolution said that a coalition of Islamist groups and anti-India separatists have joined forces to push for legislation that vilifies India and accuses it of human rights abuses. Baird ran a campaign urging Chicago voters to ‘Tell Chicago City Council to Vote “NO” to Anti-India Resolution Endorsed by Islamists’.

Baird wrote on Twitter that the resolution was backed by groups such as Indian American Muslim Council, Islamic Circle of North America and Helping Hand USA which are closely linked to Jamaat-e-Islami, a South Asian extremist movement responsible for violence and radicalization across the region. “Yet, they’ve convinced some Chicago Aldermen that their cause is genuine and indisputable”, he wrote.

He further wrote that Chicago’s anti-India coalition is joined by StandWithKashmir, a shadowy separatist group that advocates for jihadist militants to be released from prison, and the Sikh Religious Society, which lionizes terrorist leaders and seeks to establish a religious state in India.

Before the city council was to vote on the resolution, Indian-Americans held a press conference on March 14 urging the City Council to reject the resolution proposed by Maria Elaine Hadden for promoting disinformation and disharmony.

NewsIndiaTimes spoke to several Chicago residents of Indian origin who expressed fear of the resolution of breaking the harmony and dividing communities.

“Today, I am very sad. Our community has been living in such harmony throughout these years. They are breaking that sense of community with this resolution,” said Santosh Kumar, founder of Metropolitan Asian Family Services, a Chicago-based nonprofit that provides services to immigrant communities of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and East Europe. Kumar, says that she has been serving the community for more than 20 years with love and care and is fearful that this resolution will create disharmony among her constituents.

Indian Americans, especially Hindus, say that the resolution is divisive. “It vilifies the Hindu faith and our community which always worked hard to live in peace and harmony in Chicago with other minorities,” said community leader and journalist Vandana Jhinghan. Many from our community feel there is so much misinformation regarding the purpose of CAA. The mainstream press and special interests continue to vilify the CAA using it as a political pawn when it was meant to help refugees,” Jhingan said.

Indian Americans have also raised concerns about the role city councils should be playing in when it comes to global issues. “It’s not an appropriate function of the City Council which represents nearly 3 million people to make a judgment or pass resolutions about another sovereign democracy nearly 8,000 miles away which represents nearly 1.340 billion people,” said Bharat H Barai MD, a prominent member of the Chicago area community.

Benjamin Baird highlighted that the USCIRF recommendation cited by the Chicago City Council resolution to list India as a “country of particular concern” regarding religious freedom was rejected by the US State Department. Regarding condemning shutting down the internet in Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370, Baird writes that the issue was already explored by the federal govt, when US Congress refused to vote on a Kashmir bill.

“After failing to convince the federal govt to take up its cause, the anti-India network has moved onto greener pastures, hoping to persuade over-burdened municipal governments to pass distorted and deeply offensive resolutions targeting India”, Baird wrote on Twitter.

He further noted that local city council members do not receive regular briefings on terrorism in Kashmir, have little understanding of Indo-American relations, and know even less about India’s internal politics. “Is this the type of elected body that should influence US foreign policy?”, he wrote.

Though such resolutions are symbolic and serve no real purpose in driving US-India relations, they do drive a message to the residents and set a narrative. In this case, the resolution sought to drive Hinduphobia and hatred towards Hindus and Indians in the city, say members of the Indian American community in the city.

“People don’t understand the history behind CAA. This act has nothing to do with discrimination against Muslims or any other religious group. The CAA was created by the Supreme Court of India for refugees and people facing religious persecution in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan,” said Amitabh Mittal, who is among a group of prominent community members working actively to urge the City Council to reject the resolution.

Editorial Note – With many US cities reeling under gum related violence and increase of hate-crimes against Asians, it would do well to such city councils to work more towards sensitizing American citizens over respect towards other faiths and communities rather than sow seeds of discord among residents from various backgrounds. 

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