California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a invoice Saturday which might explicitly banned caste discrimination within the state.
The measure, which handed the California legislature final month, specified caste as a subset of ancestry within the state’s civil rights statutes and would have given residents authorized recourse in opposition to situations of caste discrimination.
India’s caste system advanced over centuries right into a inflexible social hierarchy primarily based on notions of purity, with an individual’s caste assigned at delivery. Whereas India formally outlawed caste discrimination shortly after its independence in 1947, caste-based prejudice and inequality persists and has since seeped into different nations.
In an announcement explaining his veto resolution, Newsom mentioned the measure was “pointless” as a result of discrimination primarily based on caste is already prohibited within the state.
“In California, we imagine everybody deserves to be handled with dignity and respect, regardless of who they’re, the place they arrive from, who they love, or the place they reside,” Newsom mentioned. “That’s the reason California already prohibits discrimination primarily based on intercourse, race, coloration, faith, ancestry, nationwide origin, incapacity, gender id, sexual orientation and different traits, and state legislation specifies that these civil rights protections shall be liberally construed.”
The California measure was opposed by some teams, together with folks of Indian origin, who mentioned it unnecessarily painted a whole group with a broad brush. Although caste is usually related to India and Hinduism, it has since unfold to different South Asian nations and religions.
Lately, extra caste-oppressed folks in the USA have began talking out concerning the discrimination they face — significantly in Silicon Valley, the place a big proportion of employees are South Asian immigrants, CNN beforehand reported.
A coalition of civil rights teams, faith-based organizations and progressive authorized students had backed the measure to amend the state’s Honest Employment and Housing Act, the Unruh Act, and the Schooling Code to incorporate “caste” and different dimensions of ancestry. However the invoice additionally noticed intense, vocal opposition from some Indian People and Hindu organizations who argued it unfairly maligned South Asians and Hindus.
Equality Labs, a Dalit advocacy group backing the invoice, mentioned although Newsom vetoed the laws, the group nonetheless views it as a win. Dalit is a time period these on the backside of India’s caste hierarchy have adopted to confer with themselves.
“Whereas it’s heartbreaking to obtain the Governor’s veto, it’s not a mirrored image of the unbelievable democratic energy that our communities confirmed. We did the unattainable,” Thenmozhi Soundararajan, government director of Equality Labs, mentioned in an announcement. “Caste-oppressed folks have been mobilizing for years to combat in opposition to this type of historic violence and can proceed to take action.”
Earlier this 12 months, Seattle turned the primary US metropolis to ban caste discrimination. A number of establishments of upper schooling, together with Brown College, the California State College System, Colby School and Brandeis College, have additionally added caste protections to their nondiscrimination insurance policies.
In 2020, California sued the tech large Cisco and two of its engineers for allegedly discriminating in opposition to an Indian worker as a result of he was of a decrease caste. Whereas the state has since dropped the case in opposition to the 2 engineers, litigation in opposition to Cisco is ongoing. Cisco mentioned on the time it’s dedicated to cultivating an “inclusive office.”
Over the past 20 years, caste has additionally been on the coronary heart of controversies round how Hinduism is portrayed in California textbooks. Some Hindu teams argued proposed textbook language perpetuated bias and stereotypes in opposition to Hindus and lobbied to take away or change sure references to the caste system.