Indian American councilwoman in Seattle Kshama Sawant strives hard against caste discrimination

Ritu Jha-

Kshama Sawant, an Indian American Councilwoman representing the city of Seattle, has started a petition demanding the City Council Democrats to vote yes on her legislation to ban caste discrimination in the city.

Sawant’s petition states: “Seattle is one of the cities where caste discrimination remains a largely hidden and unreported issue. If City Council Democrats vote YES, this legislation would make Seattle the first city in the nation to outlaw caste discrimination!“

But non-profit Hindu advocacy organizations are opposing it and have written letters to Sawant. However, she is yet to respond to them.

Pushpita Prasad from CoHNA (Coalition of Hindus of North America) told indica that they (CoHNA) have written a letter to Seattle City Council to vote NO for the proposed caste ordinance by Councilwoman Sawant.

She said that the community has launched an effort to pushback against such attempts. Within just one week. thousands of emails have been sent to the City councillors and dozens of South Asians have called city meetings to protest and point out the many reasons this is a bad idea.

“Sawant’s ordinance advances nothing but bigotry against the South Asian community by using racist, colonial tropes of “caste,” Prasad said. “It is also shocking to see the blatant singling out of a minority community based on nothing but unsubstantiated claims based on faulty data from hate groups.”

She said even Dalits organizations like Ambedkar Phule Network of Dalits and Bahujans, a group of South Asians living in America have sent a letter to the City Council, asking for a no vote.

CoHNA in a statement to the council has written: “There is no substantial evidence of any caste-based discrimination in Seattle. Should the city be expending valuable resources and embroiling itself in potential litigation for something that doesn’t exist, given the myriad problems that the city needs to tackle right now, such as homelessness, violent crimes, and growing layoffs?”

“The fact that a commission would be set up to monitor discrimination based on caste is itself discriminatory in nature because it subjects only one group (“South Asians”) to special monitoring. It creates the false idea that South Asians require “special monitoring” beyond existing laws and that they are inherently MORE prone to discriminate than others, thereby violating their rights to equal protection and due process under both the US Constitution and Washington State law.”

Hindu American Foundation (HAF), an advocacy group for Hindus in the United States, said it too has written a letter sharing its concerns. A press note by HAF said, “We believe that both the legislative intent and impact of Councilmember Sawant’s proposal unfairly singles out and targets an entire community on the basis of their national origin and ancestry for disparate treatment, thereby violating the very policy the resolution seeks to amend, not to mention Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Councilmember Sawant has stated that, “Caste discrimination doesn’t only take place in other countries. It is faced by South Asian American and other immigrant working people in their workplaces, including in the tech sector, in Seattle and in cities around the country” and that “the policy protects those of South Asian descent from discrimination by those who do [recognize the caste system].”

Despite repeated attempts to reach out to her, Sawant did not respond to indica.

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