April 7, 2021
We, the undersigned, representing are deeply concerned about the Commission’s recent discussions on the issue of “caste.” We urge the Commission not to pursue any proposal seeking to add the word “caste” as a specific protected category.
The word “caste” is of Portuguese origin (Casta – ‘lineage, race, breed’) and was used to categorize diverse professional guilds in Asia by European colonial powers in the 18th century, mirroring those that existed in late 16th century Europe. There is no reference to the concept of “caste” neither in any of the canonical Hindu scriptures, nor in any other religious or philosophical school that originated in the Indian subcontinent.
We strongly condemn all forms of discrimination that exist in societies around the world. Theologically sanctioned birth-based discriminations are far more endemic in Judeo-Christian and Islamic societies, based on differentiation of believers versus non-believers, slave versus master, etc. Fortunately, the Federal and California state laws protect against religious, ethnic, or racial discrimination under the existing categories of national origin and ancestry, both of which have been interpreted as inclusive of the various characteristics that might be associated with what is presented as “caste.”
The Commission’s discussions of “caste” in the Hindu context and adoption of policies related to it will perpetuate racist European stereotypes and misconceptions about India and Indians and lead the broader American public and private companies to view all people of Indian descent or origin through a divisive lens. It would single out and unfairly target only one community based on its members’ race, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, and religion, thereby violating their rights to due process and equal protection under both the US Constitution and California law. It will leave Hindus and people of Indian descent or origin vulnerable to bullying in schools and discrimination in hiring and firing and subject to a hostile work environment by the County or companies based in Santa Clara County.
The overriding intent of this legislation, clearly, is to divide the Hindu community in Santa Clara County, California, and America, which has lived in harmony for decades despite political machinations by those who misunderstand or hate Hindus, and seek to divide Americans rather than unify them. Ironically, what is being presented as “caste” in Santa Clara is routinely practiced in Muslim and Christian communities in the Indian subcontinent. We again strongly urge the Commission not to adopt any policies or resolutions that would unfairly target the American Hindu community and the people of Indian descent or origin, subject them to additional discrimination, leave them vulnerable to bullying in schools, deprive them of fundamental civil rights and infringe upon their right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
1. World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)
2. Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective USA (HinduPACT)
3. America Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD)
4. Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities (HRCBM) South Asian Minorities Collective
5. Atlas Center
6. South Asian Heritage Forum
7. Lead America Foundation
8. United Indigenous Communities
9. Friends of Afrin Collective
10. Yezidi International