California Democratic Party’s designation of caste as a protected category hailed by Indian Americans
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C., (August 31, 2021) – The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy organization dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos today hailed the California Democratic Party’s decision to designate caste as a protected category.
The California Democratic Party is the largest state party in the nation to take a stance on caste discrimination, marking an important step forward in the fight against caste-based oppression in the United States. By adding caste as a protected category to the Party Code of Conduct, the Democratic Party has made history, especially in light of opposition from Hindutva front organizations based in the US against such a designation.
Equality Labs and other prominent Dalit activists led the push for this change. As Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Equality Labs’ Executive Director, stated: “This is a powerful validation of the caste equity civil rights movement. Caste is so deeply alive in the diaspora and it impacts so many parts of the South Asian American experience. Our report showed the prevalence of caste discrimination with 1 out of 4 Dalits experiencing physical assault, 2 out of 3 experiencing workplace discrimination, and 1 out of 3 experiencing discrimination in education. The Democratic party is leading the conversation by recognizing that caste oppressed Americans deserve protection and that the time for its addition in all American institutions is long overdue. We look forward to continuing to work with even more elected officials around the state and the country.”
“We would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to our Dalit allies for this victory in the state of California,” said Mr. Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director of IAMC.
Amar Singh Shergill, California Democratic Party Executive Board Member and Progressive Caucus Chair, stated, “With the addition of caste protections to our Party Code of Conduct, the Democratic party recognizes that California must lead in the historical battle for caste equity and ensure we acknowledge the need for explicit legal protections for caste-oppressed Americans. We understand that protection from caste discrimination may be accessed under preexisting categories of ancestry, religion, and race, yet many caste-oppressed people do not report discrimination because this explicit legal protection is not yet widely recognized.”
“The addition of caste based protections is crucial as the United States ratified international human rights treaties that require us to be committed to protections of all marginalized people,” said Govind Acharya of Amnesty International USA. “Protections for caste oppressed communities are a vital global human rights issue and it is time that California once again leads the nation in making human rights history.”
While the caste system originated in India, diaspora communities in the West have imported discriminatory practices and implemented them in their adopted homelands. Most notably, Cisco was sued by the state of California for reports of discrimination against a Dalit engineer, who “received less pay, fewer opportunities, and other inferior terms and conditions of employment” due to his caste. Caste discrimination has been reported within the giants of Silicon Valley, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, and Amazon.
IAMC has reaffirmed its solidarity with the global Dalit community and pledged its continued commitment to justice for all marginalized communities, whether they are oppressed on the basis of caste, religion, or other minority status.