The California Democratic Party amended its bylaws at the CDP’s executive board meeting held on August 29 and designated “caste” as a protected category in a move that is bound to raise eyebrows in the Indian-American community.
After the Cisco lawsuit or the pending Santa Clara County Human Rights Commission acknowledgment, hundreds and thousands of Indian American diasporas are debating whether caste-based discrimination really exists at workplaces in Silicon Valley.
The historic initiative to add caste was proposed and submitted on April 13 this year under the “Proposed Amendment to CDP Bylaws : Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Caste” to the CDP by Amar Singh Shergill, who is a CDP executive board member and the Progressive Caucus chair.
“Protected categories are identities upon which discrimination is prohibited, like race, religion and, now, caste,” Shergill told indica News when asked what the move meant.
“I am not aware of any specific instances of caste discrimination in the party, however, it is the role of the party to lead the conversation on equality so, when I saw caste being raised as an issue in California education and employment, I raised it with my colleagues in the party,” he said.
He said that the issue of caste discrimination was raised in the rules committee for discussion, which voted to forward it to the statewide executive board — which approved it with only a handful of the approximately 440 members opposing it.
“The Democratic Party seeks to build a society based in equity,” Shergill said. “By making this change, we ensure that our party spaces are safe for all and begin a conversation that other organizations may follow.”
The proposal read: All public meetings at all levels of the Democratic Party shall be open to all members of the Democratic Party regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, religion, caste, ethnic identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, persons with disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or economic status.
The CDP’s behavior standards are not limited to CDP conventions and other meetings. Harassment will not be tolerated at any and all events sponsored by or affiliated with the CDP, as well as in CDP-related calls, texts, emails, and social media like Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat.
Civil rights advocates lauded the CDP’s addition of “caste.”
Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director at Equality Labs, a Dalit civil rights organization dedicated to ending caste apartheid, stated through a press note: “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.”
Govind Acharya of Amnesty International USA stated in the press note: “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. 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.”
The California Democratic Party is the largest state party in the nation to take a stance on caste discrimination.