A proposed resolution in the Chicago City Council, which called for action to interfere in the affairs of India, was soundly defeated in an 18-26 vote yesterday. The Anti-India resolution characterized the security measures in Kashmir, which have dramatically reduced terrorism in J&K., as “restrictions on dissent”. Additionally, the resolution was critical of India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Most importantly, the resolution called upon “our congressional delegation and new federal administration” i.e. the Joe Biden administration to “support legislation and other action” in order to “promote tolerance” in India.
The Anti-India resolution also gave reference to the U.S. Government’s Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIF) ill-advised recommendation to designate India as a “country for particular concern” for “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA)”. The USCIF had also recommended targeted sanctions against Indian government officials and citizens, challenging India’s sovereignty. The U.S. Government and the Ministry of External Affairs both vehemently rejected the USCIF recommendations.
The resolution, ironically titled “Chicago Resolution Honoring India’s Republic and Democracy”, failed to pass in the Chicago City Council, with credit being given to both the Indian Consulate General in Chicago and local Indian-Americans in ensuring its defeat. According to a member of the voting Council, Ald. Sophia King, the Indian Consulate General reached out to her, raising the possibility of India issuing a resolution condemning Chicago’s violent crime epidemic.
Some of the members of the City Council rightfully recognized the futility of passing resolutions on the internal matters of sovereign foreign nations. “If we take this on, why not take on the Chinese ethnic cleansing debate?” said Ald. George Cardenas. “Why not deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
“We are a global city, I consider us a global city. But we have many pressing issues here at home that need our attention,” Ald. Cardenas added.
Ald. Raymond A Lopez said regarding the resolution, “I am not in support of this item. This is a very divisive issue.”
“My office was reached by thousands of people communicating with us overwhelmingly in opposition to this resolution. The Consul General of India has reached out to me. That is how much it impacts the broader community and broader discussion. I ask my colleagues to vote ‘No’ in this item,” Lopez added.
Some Indian-Americans living in the Chicago area had expressed grave concerns about the resolution. A local retail businessman from Chicago, Nirav Patel said, “The resolution was presented in June 2019, which made false narratives about issues such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Kashmir, under the guise of congratulating India’s 72nd independence. This resolution can lead to severe effects against India and the Indians living in the US. We opposed the bill and it has been over an 8-month-long marathon, but the truth has won in the Council.”
According to the US-India Friendship Council, the bill was sponsored by the Centre of American-Islamic Relations, a designated terrorist organization in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because of its association with terrorist groups. CAIR is an organization which has knowingly hosted and supported Kashmiri separatists.
Among the concerns expressed by Indians living in Chicago towards the resolution, a rise in hate crimes against Indians was the chief concern. According to Amitabh Mittal, an Indian living in Chicago, the resolution was feeding into a narrative casting Hindus as the perpetrators of “genocide” which is “creating disharmony among the Indian diaspora”.
The resolution in question was a scaled down version of an even more outrageous resolution explicitly condemning India for exercising its sovereignty. In a previous draft of the Anti-India resolution, the Council called upon India to “uphold the Indian Constitution” by “repealing the Citizenship Amendment Act”. The original draft went as far as to explicitly condemn PM Modi, referring to the Indian Government as being “extremist” and “repressive and discriminatory”.
Furthermore, the original draft resolution took the extreme step of calling upon the Joe Biden administration to, “support legislation censuring the Republic of India for adopting discriminatory policies such as the National Register of Citizens, the Citizenship Amendment Act, and military occupation and communications blockade of Kashmir”. In other words, the draft called upon the Biden administration to pass legislation in order to directly interfere in India’s internal affairs and the will of India’s elected democratic government. This is a fundamentally imperialistic tendency and needs to be addressed as such.
The original draft of the resolution was introduced to the Chicago City Council in July 2020, prompting the Indian Consul General to oppose the resolution and involve the Chicago Mayor’s office. This caused the original Anti-India resolution to be amended down to half its original size.
This marks the first ever defeat of a resolution attempting to interfere in Indian affairs in a major U.S. city. Prior to this, similar resolutions condemning India had passed in the City Councils of San Francisco, Seattle, Albany, New York, and St. Paul, Minnesota.
The sound defeat of this Anti-India resolution, made possible due to efforts of the Indian Consul General and Indians living in locally in Chicago working together to protect India’s image from being tarnished. This diplomatic victory could potentially serve as a blueprint to counter similar Anti-India resolutions in the future.