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Justice for All applauds the Seattle City Council for approving an ordinance that amends the city’s municipal code to include caste as a protected class, alongside categories such as race, religion and gender identity. This ordinance makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste. Caste discrimination is rooted as an integral part of the Hindu class hierarchy, and has become ingrained into Indian culture. While technically illegal, India’s current majoritarian government has created an atmosphere which has encouraged a resurgence in caste discrimination. Caste discrimination targets Dalits, previously known as the untouchables, a group considered lower than the lowest stratum in the caste hierarchy, or out-of-caste.
Caste discrimination is one of the dangerous manifestations of Hindutva (Hindu supremacist) ideology, which has been making its way into western societies where there is a large Indian origin population. It has been gaining traction across the United States, thanks in no small part due to extensive lobbying by India-aligned groups. Ironically, a Hindu group opposing the passage said they will continue to fight for what they termed as “Hindu’s Human Rights and Culture”.
In 2020, a California state agency filed a lawsuit against tech giant Cisco, alleging caste discrimination against a Dalit employee. In the weeks that followed, more Dalit tech workers came forward with complaints against colleagues at Google, Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook, among others. The individuals claimed that higher-caste Indians had made casteist slurs, engaged in discriminatory hiring and firing and harassed them.
Students in US universities have also reported facing caste discrimination. In January 2022 California State University added caste to its anti-discrimination policy. On the system’s 23 campuses across California, students will now be able to report caste based discrimination. Other universities that have such ordinances include Brandeis and Brown.
Justice For All hopes other US cities will follow Seattle’s lead and send a clear message to lobbyists as well as supremacists imported from India, that the United States will not renege in its commitments to equality, freedom and fraternity of all of its residents.