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Discrimination and Deception: How to Become a ‘Self-identified’ Victim by ‘Caste-marking’

Discrimination and Deception: How to Become a ‘Self-identified’ Victim by ‘Caste-marking’

  • What could be more bizarre than this “self-identification” ritual? That would be the “caste-marking” process to assign a “Higher/Dominant/Oppressor” caste label to the individual whom the “self-identified” Dalit wants to accuse of caste discrimination.

On August 7, 2023, The Times of India published a report about the numerous false caste lawsuits filed under the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. The report quoted the State High Court of Karnataka, located in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India, as saying that these false caste lawsuits are clogging the criminal justice system and consuming precious time in various courts of law. The High Court further labeled such false caste lawsuits as “an abuse of the process of law” and that these “are required to be nipped, failing which they might burden the criminal justice system, besides becoming a harassment to the petitioners and resulting in miscarriage of justice.”

Justice M. Nagaprasanna, of the High Court, lamented that such false caste lawsuits illustrate misuse of the legislation meant to prevent discrimination based on caste in India; and that it would be a travesty for the courts in India to sift through a mountain of false caste litigations while “genuine cases where litigants have actually suffered would be waiting in the pipeline.” 

Goa, another state in India, famous for its white-sand beaches and World Heritage-listed architecture, introduced a bill in July 2023, to punish anyone for obtaining a fake caste certificate by furnishing false information. The act of falsifying caste certificates is a significant obstacle to the effective implementation of affirmative action policies in India. Substantial resources are allocated to India’s quota system, with half of the nation’s educational and governmental job capacities dedicated to promoting social justice. However, the proliferation of counterfeit caste certificates undermines the intended impact of these initiatives. These fraudulent documents obstruct the path of opportunities meant for marginalized communities. Consequently, the issue of social justice continues to persist unresolved.

Moving from the white-sand beaches of Goa to the not-so-white beaches of California, with architecture overrun by homelessness; lies the venue of another false caste lawsuit, filed by the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) against Cisco Systems and two Hindu American engineers. The narrative about the false caste lawsuit against Cisco that circulated globally was riddled with inaccuracies. What’s potentially even more unsettling is that the California state agency, CRD which is supposed to protect civil rights, in its inaugural pursuit of an alleged caste discrimination case in the United States, was aware of these inaccuracies yet decided to proceed with the case. The false caste case was initiated in June 2020, and the CRD concurrently launched an unusual media campaign for a state agency, leading to thousands of international headlines. These headlines propagated incorrect information about Hindu-Americans, misrepresented the Hindu religion, and portrayed people of Indian origin in a negative and xenophobic light.

What’s even more bizarre is that according to recent caste policies and laws implemented in various American universities, corporations, and governments, unlike in India, one does not need a caste certificate to claim caste discrimination.

What’s even more bizarre is that according to recent caste policies and laws implemented in various American universities, corporations, and governments, unlike in India, one does not need a caste certificate to claim caste discrimination. Anyone can “self-identify” as a Dalit or “Low-Caste” person by just saying so. No further proof is required to file a caste discrimination complaint or a lawsuit; based on the premise that since the person “self-identified” as Dalit, they must have suffered caste discrimination. Case in Point – Thenmozhi Soundararajan aka Dalit Diva, founder of Equality Labs, declared herself to be a Dalit after waking up one fine morning when she was in the 5th grade. This “self-identification” ritual entitled her to become a “caste oppressed victim” even though she was born in the U.S. to affluent and educated parents, and had the privilege to graduate from UC Berkley, which is ranked as the top public university in the U.S.

What could be more bizarre than this “self-identification” ritual? That would be the “caste-marking” process to assign a “Higher/Dominant/Oppressor” caste label to the individual whom the “self-identified” Dalit wants to accuse of caste discrimination. Another Case in point – The 2018 Caste Survey by Equality Labs, authored by Thenmozhi Soundararajan, explains the “caste-marking” process in detail. According to this report, a person’s last name is the strongest indicator of a person’s caste. The next marker is dietary habits, “upper castes” are mostly vegetarians, while “lower castes” prefer to eat meat including beef. The third marker is the name of a person’s native hometown or ancestral village. The fourth marker is a person’s skin color, since, according to Thenmozhi Soundararajan, “caste oppressed” people have darker skin color compared to “upper caste” people.

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Thus, if your last name happens to be on the “hit list” published by the organizers of the Global Hindutva Conference, you are most certainly a “Brahmin Upper caste oppressor.” This was the same logic used by CRD when they assigned a “Hindu Brahmin caste” to Sundar Iyer, one of the Cisco Engineers accused of caste discrimination. This “caste-marking” logic overrides any other facts or reasoning such as “I am irreligious and don’t believe in caste” or “I am a third-generation Hindu American, and I don’t know my caste.” Once a person “self-identifies” as a Dalit, followed by the “caste-marking” process to assign a “higher/dominant/oppressor” caste to you, that is all it takes for CRD to initiate a caste discrimination lawsuit against you and subject you to a three-year plus witch hunt, without providing even a single iota of evidence. CRD, after being served with sanctions for fabricating evidence, was forced to dismiss its case against Sundar Iyer and the other Cisco engineer, however, the vindication may have come too late. Over the past three years, they have been subjected to vilification, public shaming, and attacks. They were assumed to be guilty of caste discrimination without being given an opportunity to defend themselves. Lives were suspended in uncertainty; families were left questioning — could their loved ones truly be the caste-discriminating monsters that CRD and the society had labeled them as? 

One “self-identified” individual passionately argued that “Jain vegetarianism, in its militant form, is a manifestation of caste discrimination,” urging the government to step in and regulate his family’s dietary habits. He justified this by stating, “My mother harbors prejudice against my Dalit wife, hence we need this law to safeguard her rights.” Another person expressed sorrow over their cousin’s reluctance to dine out. All those people whose last name is on the “hit list,” for example, “Sharma-ji”, better watch out. Going forward, Sharma-ji should be very careful. Even though Sharma-ji has turned vegan to lower his cholesterol level, he must eat beef steak at his office potluck. If that is not at all possible, he must taste the chicken curry brought by his South Asian co-worker. Sharma-ji must visit the tanning salon weekly to darken his skin tone. He must not start sharing stories of his ancestral village and about how his grandfather had a pet cow that was worshipped daily. If all else fails, and there is imminent danger, Sharma-ji should proactively “self-identify” as a Dalit and join the victim’s club.

Abhijit Bagal is a legal analyst at Caste Files. He is a Healthcare Analytics technologist at a managed care organization specializing in publicly funded behavioral healthcare. He holds a master’s degree in software engineering and an MBA with a specialization in comparative international health. Additionally, Abhijit is a part-time law student with a focus on civil rights, due process, and equal protection of the law.

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