By IndUS Lens
February 17th 2020
Earlier this month on February 3rd 2020, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution condemning the Government of India for its Citizenship Amendment Act (“CAA”), which was recently passed by the Indian Parliament. Five members of the Council voted for the resolution, out of a total strength of nine. Three members recused themselves, while one abstained by walking out of the meeting during the voting.
The attack against India by the Council was further exacerbated by the addition of an amendment, which referred this resolution to the US Congress for further consideration. The resolution was introduced by councilwoman Kshama Sawant, a Leftist Democrat and an Indian-American.
The organisations supporting this resolution included SABAH, Tasveer, Indian American Muslim Council, API/Chaya, Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, Varisha Khan, Aneelah Afzali, Muslim Association of Puget Sound, Amnesty International, 1 America, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Civil, and Human Rights lawyers, Heera Singh, Imam Faud Mohd. (Seattle Area Al Fu Islamic center), Jamia Milia Islamia(JMI) and others.
The resolution was vehemently opposed by the Indian-American community, as more than 350 Indian-Americans of Seattle area participated in opposing the resolution.
The Seattle City resolution exhibited false information, unqualified bias and extreme bigotry against the religious minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, whom the CAA grants asylum and provides refuge in India, based on state-sponsored religious persecution in their home countries.
This kind of anti-humanitarian stand of the City Council was unprecedented in the City’s history. The vilification of minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan was on open display by the council members. The resolution carried echoes of Nazi sympathisers in America before and during World War II, Charles Lindberg’s denunciation of Jews and the German American Bund organisation.
Even more surprising was the council’s legislative and administrative priorities, while there are a hundred city-related issues to be addressed, the council members had ample time on their hands to vilify the minorities of these three Islamic states. The hypocrisy and bigotry of the Council were on naked display in their support for the identical U.S. Lautenberg Amendment. The Council sent a message that what is good for America is not good for India. The racism of the Council was exhibited by their utter disregard of the human rights violations against the minorities of the three Islamic states, whom the CAA bestows life, liberty, and dignity.
The Indian-American response was spearheaded by the ‘Ek Bharat Seattle community’ ably led by Mrs. Archana Sunil, and Mr. Atul Hirpara, both well-known community leaders in Seattle.
The online petition against this resolution started by Archana Sunil had over 12,000 signatures and hundreds of comments were also presented to the council.
The petition as well as hundreds of emails filled with facts and data opposing the resolution were emailed to the Council. Over fifty speakers presented personal stories and strong supporting evidence including a large screen TV that ran a slide show with pictures of victims of this genocide happening in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. The council’s twisted bias was out in the open when the Council President tried to sneak in speakers from the anti-CAA side out of order, but the move was resisted, and the council was forced to take a five-minute recess. She then apologised and continued with the original line up of speakers.
False claims in this resolution include:
(1) 200 million Indian Muslims will be stripped of their citizenship. FALSE.
(2) the NRC/CAA is an attempt to cleanse Muslims, FALSE
(3) detention centers are being built for those without citizenship documents. FALSE
(4) that the oppressed castes, women, indigenous and LGBT communities are left out of the CAA of their citizenship rights. FALSE
The council’s hatred and bigotry towards the religious minorities of the three Islamic states was visibly evident, when not a single member even acknowledged the plight of the victims or the human rights violation of these persecuted minorities presented to them in their closing statements.
According to Mrs. Archana Sunil,
“The resolution is filled with false information and claims to make Seattle a welcoming city by condemning India’s CAA, and the yet to be implemented NRC, and in the process projecting the current government’s laws as anti-Muslim, fascist and genocidal.
We met with one council member in person and communicated with others through their staff. It seemed like some of them were frustrated that they were now forced to spend resources in this matter but yet were uninterested and apathetic to the facts we were presenting either because it was more convenient for them politically or they just didn’t care about persecuted minorities because they were non-Muslim.”
The Indian-American Community in support of the CAA, and opposition to this resolution did everything possible to express their displeasure. The community quickly organised under the umbrella of Ek Bharat for human rights and justice, led by Archana Sunil, and posed a political challenge to the anti-India -narrative of the cabal led by councilwoman Kshama Sawant, and their machinations. Mr. Atul Hirpara galvanised a body of physicians, engineers, and IT professionals to join the anti-resolution coalition.
The original voting was scheduled on Jan 21st when a dozen CAA supporters made public comments and shocked the council with their unexpected opposition to the council’s resolution. CAA supporters successfully got the council to move the voting to Feb 3rd. Since the small hours of the morning, over 50 supporters of the CAA waited outside the Seattle City Hall Meeting for their turn to speak-many of them senior citizens and people who had taken the day off from work. Over 200 CAA supporters were present during the city hall meeting.
“As our diaspora learned about Seattle’s proposed resolution, many started to reach out to us willing to join us at the council and speak against it. The phenomenal grassroots level uprising took place over past several days, with thousands of phone calls and emails, with people wanting to take charge of defining our voice, making of content and visual material, hundreds of small and big meetings, all aimed at educating the council on facts references to government gazette documents, evidence ranging from why CAA is needed to the fact that NRC isn’t even applicable nationwide.
We had so much factual material that we had a team that selected the material we would present and points all of us will cover in verbal comments, another team made homemade food to keep the people well-fed while waiting at the city hall. There were specific people in charge of collaborating and helping those who didn’t drive, people with kids, people of senior-community that wanted to passionately oppose the infamous resolution by Ms. Sawant. The city hearing, however, was just a façade as they had almost decided what they were going to vote for and didn’t consider the input from 95% speakers that spoke against the resolution providing data and facts about CAA and NRC. We enjoyed the solidarity of those who supported India’s CAA which is very powerful! “ says Atul Hirpara.
The Indian-American community in the Greater Seattle area is in a state of shock over the passage of the resolution. Many community leaders and activists, who had earlier taken this issue lightly, have come out and expressed their displeasure with the development, and now are gearing for major political action in the Seattle area.