Thenmozhi Soundarrajan on SB 403: Caste is present in the US, and we very much need an anti-discrimination law

The California State Assembly passed the landmark anti-caste-discrimination bill SB 403 on August 28 with a 50-3 vote. It now moves to the Senate for its final concurrence vote before heading to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk to be signed into state law. What started as a lawsuit at one of the Silicon Valley big tech companies Cisco is today on the verge of becoming a historic ‘caste’ law that never an Indian community would have imagined. When the lawsuit was filed in 2019, many wondered even ‘caste’ still dominates the Indian mind, but advocates of the Bill such as Thenmozhi Soundararajan say it still does, and that such a law is very much needed.

California Assembly passes landmark Caste Discrimination Bill SB 403

Some called it winning a tough, uphill task but others called it a black day for California History after the much-debated anti-caste discrimination bill — ‘SB 403 Discrimination on the Basis of Ancestry’ — passed the California Assembly floor with 50-3 votes, on August 28. Introduced by California State Senator Aisha Wahab (Democrat, 10th District) SB 403 seems one step closer to the Governor’s desk. When the Senate passes it and Governor Gavin Newsom signs it into law, California will become the first state in America to make caste bias illegal by adding it as a protected category in the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

California State Senator Aisha Wahab: SB 403 simply protects all people from caste discrimination

California State Senator Aisha Wahab (Democrat, 10th District) sprang into the spotlight late last year for becoming the Muslim to be elected to the state law-making body. An Afghan American, Wahab has been in the crosshairs of Hindu advocacy groups the moment she introduced California Bill SB 403 in February 2023, which aimed at ending caste discrimination in the state.

‘Caste’ almost erased, ‘Ancestry’ added in amended California caste-discrimination bill SB 403

The amended version of SB 403, the legislation introduced by California State Senator Aisha Wahab to counter caste discrimination, shows that the word ‘caste’ has been almost erased from the bill and has been replaced by ‘ancestry’. The first instance of the word ‘caste’ appeared in the first line of the original legislation. However, in the amended version, which was made public on July 10, reads: “SB 403, as amended, Wahab. Discrimination on the basis of caste ancestry.” The word ‘caste’ has been struck through.

California’s caste-discrimination bill SB 403 passes Judiciary Committee with an 8-0 vote

Protests, petitions, and meetings with lawmakers did not stop the California Senate Judiciary Committee to vote ‘Yes’ to SB 403: Discrimination on the Basis of Caste, which passed the committee with a resounding 8-0 vote on April 25. SB 403 or State Bill 403 is a piece of legislation introduced to make the state free of caste-based discrimination. If signed into law, California will become the first state in America to make caste bias illegal by adding it as a protected category in the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

California’s Hindu organizations protest anti-caste-discrimination legilslation in Sacramento

On September 9, several Hindu American civil rights organizations traveled to Sacramento from across California and organized a peaceful protest against SB 403, the now-passed bill on Discrimination on the Basis of Ancestry’. They called it “unconstitutional” and urged Governor Gavin Newsom to veto it. The silent march was organized to draw the Governor’s attention to the fear of the community that SB403 would single them out from all other California residents.

In California, the move to recall Senator Aisha Wahab picks up momentum

The demand to recall California District 10 State Senator Aisha Wahab is building pace by the day. The California Secretary of State’s office approved petitions for circulation for the recall of Senator Wahab on December 15, and the first rally was held Dec 23 at the senator’s constituency in Fremont, Calif. More rally signature rallies are planned for Dec 30 in Milpitas and Dec 31 in Santa Clara.

Maya Kamble: California caste discrimination law will help companies raise awareness

What you do when your boss calls you ill-fated on learning your caste? Maya Kamble learned it the hard way. “He knew what my caste was, so he wanted to dominate me as much as possible. And one day, he asked me not to touch a new tool because I was ill-fated,” she told indica. “It was a direct reference to me being from an untouchable background, and I could just remember how my ancestors were supposed to not touch things just because they were considered bad luck and even their shadow was considered bad luck.”

Victory for corporate America and Hindu American Civil Rights as Cisco Systems Caste Discrimination Case gets landmark judgment

In a landmark decision, the court penalized the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) in a high-profile caste discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of a “Dalit” employee against Cisco Systems. The case, which had brought widespread scrutiny and criticism to Indian American managers Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, culminated in a verdict that awarded Cisco Systems a symbolic $2000 in sanctions against the CRD. While the penalty may seem minor, the judgment represents a significant win for both the Silicon Valley company and Hindu American civil rights.

The CRD, formerly known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), had been accused of unfairly targeting Iyer and Kompella, labeling them as perpetrators of caste discrimination. However, a whistle-blower website exposed evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and fabrications by the CRD, bringing to light the flaws in the case.

Santa Clara Superior Court says Cisco employee has to use real name in caste lawsuit

In the ongoing caste-based discrimination case between Cisco and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) now called the Civil Rights Department (CRD), a Santa Clara County Court judge says she now believes there is no harm in disclosing the name of the plaintiff ‘John Doe’, because it lacks evidence that it would harm him or his family back in India.

Indica Weekly Window for South Asian Diaspora September 11 2023

Indica Weekly Window for South Asian Diaspora September 11, 2023