Amidst the onset of the pandemic, there have been attempts made by anti-India vested interest groups to pass a resolution targeting India’s internal matters in the Chicago City Council in many cities across the United States. These resolutions are full of misrepresentation, filled with rhetorics and propaganda. One such resolution full of misrepresentation was tabled in the City of Chicago in July 2020 by Alderwoman Maria Hadden of the 49th ward. The four-page long initial draft was referred to the Committee of Health and Human Relations comprising seventeen members.
The resolution was meant to mislead the reader with its opening remarks ‘Honoring India’s democracy and independence and was intended to be passed without any discussion or debate. The proposed draft called Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP government as Hindu extremists denounced the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that was passed through a democratic process in India’s parliament as discriminatory as unconstitutional. It also went on criticizing NRC with propaganda that a nationwide expansion of this policy could strip hundreds of millions of people (disproportionately Muslim, oppressed castes, women, indigenous groups known collectively as Adivasi, and LGBTQ+ communities) of their citizenship rights creating stateless individuals with no option to be re-naturalized.
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Additionally, it used defamatory language against high-ranking elected representatives of India, unfavorably addressed the abrogation of Article 370, and falsely claimed that police had attacked peaceful protestors with live ammunition and had arrested thousands of them. CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), which has been declared a terrorist organization by the UAE due to its association with the terrorist group Hamas and Muslim brotherhood openly claimed to be the flagbearer of the resolution. Indians American Muslim Council and Hindus for Human Rights were also strongly supportive of this resolution.
The resolution sparked vigorous debate within the city’s South Asian community for months and faced severe opposition from the Indian diaspora in Chicago. Chicago is home to several Indian Americans in various professions such as doctors, engineers, real estate owners, army veterans, business owners, etc. who came together to express concerns against the divisive nature of the resolution and raise awareness about India’s multi-cultural, multi-ethnic population. As a result, the resolution had to be condensed and provocative and inflammatory language had to be removed. Yet, the undercurrent of its predecessor prevailed. In January 2021, the revised version was passed by the Health and Human Relations committee without consulting the residents of the city who were in opposition. The resolution was then referred to the council of the City of Chicago comprising fifty members.
It was introduced in the City of Chicago’s meeting in February 2021 but was deferred to the next meeting to be held on March 24th, 2021. Members of the US India Friendship Council and thousands of Chicago residents continued their efforts to reach out to various aldermen and alderwomen directly and through social media urging them to oppose the resolution. Several of them explained how the resolution selectively targeted India which is the largest democracy in the world and expressed concerns that it could lead to divide and disharmony within the South Asian community of Chicago.
In a final roll call vote, the resolution failed to gather majority support with an overwhelming 26 members voting against the resolution, 18 voting yes, and 6 abstaining. During a long and intense city council debate, some aldermen said they have received thousands of messages from both sides in recent months, most urging them to vote against the resolution. They felt the proposal needlessly sowed division within Chicago’s Indian American community and that matters at home were more pressing. In the end, 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.