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Narendra Modi’s supporters in the US stem hostility in Chicago city council

The Chicago city council on Wednesday rejected a resolution to condemn the CAA and the revocation of Kashmir’s special constitutional status, handing Indian-descent supporters of the Indian Prime Minister a first victory in a battle that had seemed largely skewed against him so far
By Yashwant Raj
PUBLISHED ON MAR 25, 2021 11:22 AM IST
A file photo of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing a rally at Contai in East Midnapore, Bengal, India. (ANI)

The Chicago city council on Wednesday rejected a resolution to condemn the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the revocation of Kashmir’s special constitutional status, handing Indian-descent supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a first victory in a battle that had seemed largely skewed against him thus far.

The Chicago council members turned down the resolution 26-18 with six abstentions.

A similar resolution had been passed earlier by at least six city councils starting with Seattle in February 2020.

Despite pushback from Indian-descent supporters of PM Modi, that legislation, or variations of it, passed in six other cities such as Cambridge in Massachusetts, St Paul in Minnesota, San Fransisco in California, Albany in New York, and Hamtramck in Michigan.

“Dedication, talent, time, sweat and tears of sons and daughters of India won,” said Bharat Barai, an Indian-American physician who spearheaded the effort to defeat the resolution in the Chicago city council.

Barai had also played a key role organising the 2-14 Madison Square Garden event for Modi on the latter’s first visit to the US after taking office.

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Unlike the pushback against other city council resolutions, the effort to defeat the Chicago legislative measure had the full backing of the Indian government.

The Indian consulate general in Chicago reached out to several members of the city council, arguing, according to people familiar with these discussions, that India had a right to defend itself.

Some council members, aldermen, had resisted the pitch from the Indian government, saying it amounted to interference in Chicago city’s affairs.

On Wednesday evening, Modi supporters in the US hailed the vote as a major victory.

“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,” said Darshan Soni, an activist.

The resolution - 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 in efforts launched by Modi detractors in several US cities.

The proposed resolution that upset Indian-descent supporters of Modi included, “(Former) president (Donald) Trump’s bigoted policies within the US 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… Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, and their alarming ideology that Hindus are racially and culturally superior to others.

“Across the country, there has been a surge in the number of mobs lynching’s and violence towards minorities.”

Also, the proposed resolution had 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”.

Chicago Tribune, a local news outlet, noted the contentious proceeding. “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,” it said.

Indian community leaders acknowledged swamping the offices of the aldermen with emails decrying the resolution as a part of their campaign, which they propose to scale up to the national level to replicate the success in Chicago.

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