Controversial California Bill That Outlaws Discrimination Based on Caste Clears State Senate
- The bill has polarized the Indian American community and across the U.S. who see the legislation as singling out the Hindu community and stereotyping its customs and traditions.
California bill that adds caste to anti-discrimination law has cleared on one more stage when the state Senate voted 34-1 Thursday in favor. Next, the bill be voted in the state Assembly making California the first in the nation to make “caste bias illegal by adding it as a protected category in the state’s anti-discrimination laws,” AP reports.
State Sen. Aisha Wahab, D-Hayward, the first Muslim and Afghan American elected to the legislature, introduced the bill in March. Supporters of the bill contend that it is necessary to protect Dalits, belonging to the lowest rung of the Hindu social hierarchy, and protect them from bias in housing, education, and in the tech sector — where they hold key roles.
The SB 403 bill has polarized the Indian American community and across the U.S. who see the legislation not only as unnecessary as the existing laws protect such discrimination but also singles out the Hindu community and stereotyping its customs and traditions.
Following the passage of the bill, Seattle Council Member Kshama Sawant who shepherded a similar bill in the council, issued a statement that said, “Following our historic victory in Seattle in February, the California Senate has voted in favor of banning caste discrimination.” The socialist crusader added “Anti-caste activists, working people, union members, and my socialist Council office built a fighting movement to win in Seattle, creating national and even international momentum. Solidarity to all fighting oppression under capitalism!”
Several colleges and universities have also enacted similar policies barring caste discrimination on campuses, including the University of California, Davis, AP report said.
Thursday’s vote was swift, with only Sen. Brian Jones voting against the legislation, which has been controversial, AP reported, adding that last month “hundreds on both sides of the issue came to voice their opinions during a Senate Judiciary hearing on the matter.”
Jones, R-Santee, said he has heard concerns from numerous constituents and agrees with them that the legislation unfairly targets a specific group. He contends that caste bias is already covered under existing anti-discrimination laws, AP said.
Last month, the California Civil Rights Department voluntarily withdrew its case alleging caste discrimination against two Cisco engineers, Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, while still keeping alive its litigation against the Silicon Valley tech giant.