Chicago Indian Americans Win Long-Drawn Battle, Defeat Anti-CAA Resolution And Vested Interests

Chicago Indian Americans Win Long-Drawn Battle, Defeat Anti-CAA Resolution And Vested Interests

by Richa Gautam - Wednesday, April 14, 2021 01:52 PM IST
Chicago Indian Americans Win Long-Drawn Battle, Defeat Anti-CAA Resolution And Vested InterestsIndian American community mustered support to defeat the anti-India resolution.
  • Councillors vote against anti-India resolution, say that they need to first put their own house in order.

Excited and relieved Indian Americans all over the US celebrated the defeat of a Chicago resolution sponsored by Maria Hadden, city councillor of 49th Ward. Called “the sugar coated cyanide pill” by Chicago Indian Americans, the resolution started off by congratulating India for its democracy and Independence Day but soon moved to vicious and denigrating clauses.

A Marathon Run

A long drawn eight-month battle, with six rounds of discussions, ensured that the Indian American community had to pull all stops to counter the apparent lies that the organisation behind this manoeuvre, Council for Islamic Relations (CAIR) was spreading around to clueless councillors.

Finally, efforts paid off when 26 councillors voted against the resolution saying we have more pressing things closer home to take care of. Only 18 voted ‘Aye’, defeating the flawed resolution, ensuring that it will not be tabled again.

“Instead of caring for her own 49th ward, an approximately 10 square kilometre area, Maria Hadden is spending all her time in a symbolic and non-binding resolution that is bent on scolding India, the sole democracy and refuge for persecuted peoples in that part of the world,” said Amitabh Mittal, who heads the Indo US Friendship Council in Chicago.

“Indian Americans are busy contributing to the American economy as doctors and engineers and space scientists. They are too busy to be aware of either the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) or the fact that progressive left members of the Democrat City Councils are tabling these resolutions,” said Vandana Jhingan to a TV channel that interviewed her recently.

The resolution is called “symbolic” and “non-binding” and contains many inaccuracies based on misstated allegations by vested parties. It has repercussions not only on India but also on the Indian Americans in the US, who have suffered hate crimes recently in cities like Seattle and in California.

“They also face the consequence of a divided community and the prospect of a factually incorrect resolution staying in the cities historical records,” said Bharat Barai, an oncologist and stalwart of the Indian American community since 40 years in Chicago.

An eight-month-long fight was supported by elders like him, who served as guiding spirit uplifting the volunteers.

Independent of the volunteers, the Indian Consular General Amit Kumar also worked in his own capacity, approaching the sponsoring group of city councillors, educating them on the oft maligned and misquoted Indian laws like the CAA and Article 370 and farm laws.

Sachin Tripathi made his public comments and said we may not have money on our side but we have truth. Eventually, truth did prevail as city Alderman Moore and 25 others voted against it.

Alder Moore made a very powerful statement that sums up the situation in a very statesman like manner, “I have constituents in the Indian American community in the 28th Ward and the majority of them are not supportive [of this resolution 2020-583]. Again, I think we have more than enough work in the city of Chicago, ...but again I understand that people have the right to propose any type of legislation they wish. However, unfortunately, I would not support this because I look out of the window and I see young men and women who do not have jobs and I see young men and women who can barely read and those that have lost a level of hope and I don’t think they would appreciate their aldermen focusing on what’s going on 8,000 miles away when I got challenges two blocks where I live.”

Another Alder who voted ‘Nay’, also said that he would like to focus on local issues and not on issues beyond the Chicago city at this time when they were suffering severe crimes and Covid-19 issues in the city.

As a reporter tried to pin the mayor to weigh in after the defeated resolution, Lightfoot did what a sensible leader of a city of 3 million strong community would do. She deferred to the Joe Biden government saying she did not have enough authority or awareness regarding a country 8,000 miles away.

It was a big win and big relief to those who followed this long drawn battle, as Chicago was the biggest city to table this insidious and politically-motivated and divisive resolution.

A Nationwide Juggernaut

Indian Americans who have largely stayed outside the political and civic engagement, and focused on their careers and education, are finding themselves in an unfamiliar turf with these attacks on Indian laws featuring in their local municipal politics. This is also mostly unheard of in the cities where city leaders are not very familiar with foreign policies and intricacies of Asian geopolitics.

In fact, Chicago has tabled such a resolution that scolds a country for its internal issues, for the first time in 150 years. But a group of newly-elected progressive Democrats are bent on bringing such divisive symbolic resolutions, fighting long battles while ignoring harsh ground realities and problems of the city of Chicago.

Unfortunately, similar nefarious resolutions were sneakily passed by cities of Cambridge in Massachusetts, San Francisco in California; Albany in New York, and Hamtramck, Michigan under the quiet of the Covid-19 crisis. A big fight was put up in Seattle and St Paul cities but these cities passed the resolution despite knowing the facts on the matter, clearly indicating political machinations.

The big win at Chicago is worth a huge celebration and 24 March 2020 deserves a mention in history, as the day when David defeated Goliath as a handful of Indian American volunteers spent night and day for eight-long months to crush the juggernaut of anti-India forces that are trying to undermine the current dispensation and government in India.

While Chicago results call for celebrations, Indian Americans need to stay awake to such machinations across the US by staying engaged with the local city bodies and ensuring that such false resolutions stay out of city politics. Hopefully, the precedent in Chicago will give us that much needed fillip to argue our case effectively.

One thing remains clear. The Indian Diaspora can no longer stay apathetic to politics and civic engagement.

False Narratives

The volunteers stayed up and worked hard and found many organisations behind this anti-India lobby mainly CAIR or Council of American Islamic relations driving the agenda. Many lies fuelled this campaign, like fake clauses within the resolution (which had to be modified many times), concepts like apartheid (which even the alders could tell were false charges against India), fake list of organisations and fake addresses of callers.

In fact recently, one of the key callers for R2020-583, who kept saying that she was from Maria Hadden’s 49 Ward actually got elected as a trustee for the village of Morton Grove.

But what this battle proved is that “lie has no wings and cannot stand”. Despite all their political inroads, heavy clout and dollar power, they could not defeat American democracy for once. Despite all the bad news, this is one reason for hope.

Seattle Emerges As The Epicentre

Hate crimes have been observed in Greater Toronto area in Canada and in places like Seattle and California. It is pertinent to note that these are all strongholds of the Indian Diaspora. It is also important to note that one Chicago Alder who was getting increasingly uncomfortable in his position as a co-sponsor of the controversial resolution, said to us in a meeting, ‘to please talk to Kshama Sawant of Seattle” if we wanted to stop the resolution.

Seattle has emerged as that place, where Pramila Jayapal began the campaign against the Kashmir Article 370 nullification in November 2019. Eventually this became a big wake up call for Indian Americans as the issue was taken up in a congressional hearing in Washington.

It was also the first place where the anti-CAA fight began.

Seattle soon took up the cause and passed a resolution against the farm bills. This regardless of the fact that the central government and WTO all approve of the direction of the reforms.

Changing Face Of US Politics And Democracy

Anyone who doesn’t realise the changing face of the US politics is definitely living under a rock. The rise of the progressive left and its politics are driven by a self-declared socialist agenda that is at cross purposes with the ideals of the American dream and its values of meritocracy and hardwork.

The message for Indian Americans is twofold.

One, there is clearly an agenda that is driving a campaign to systemically and politically undermine the Indian American dream. By creating mischief in political establishment against India, the direct impact is felt by the resident Indian American Diaspora.

This agenda is also being carried on blatantly and sometimes surreptitiously in schools. Even middle schools have seen research assignments showing India in a negative light. These assignments are not part of the curriculum but are being sneaked in by vested forces. At CoHNA (Coalition of Hindus of North America) we are constantly fighting these battles that occur sporadically around the US.

Then there is the corporate battle where there seems to be a relentless push to introduce caste as a protected category or a basis of discrimination. Such battles are resulting in deep concern among aware activists in the Indian American circles as most of us live in postmodern and urbanised worlds where such nomenclature and colonial caste structures have been shed from our consciousness.

The private equity owned media has mostly lost credibility in the eyes of most people in these days of free news. Yet it is hard not to notice that the media has been harsh on India and how it has undermined the notion of Indian Americans as a model minority.

Richa Gautam is a data analyst and lives in Colorado, US. She volunteers for many Indian American causes. She is an executive member of CoHNA (Coalition of Hindus of North America) and has been involved with issues related to CAA, caste and farm laws.

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