HinduPACT Opposes California Caste Bill SB-403

HindPACT opposes the California SB-403, introduced by State Sen. Aisha Wahab and requests the California Senators to vote against this bill to protect the minority community from the Indian Subcontinent.  This bill purports to ban discrimination based on “caste.”  However, it is important to note that the bill’s definition of “caste” follows odious colonial narrative.  There is no evidence that there is “caste” discrimination in the State of California and there is ample evidence that this ill-conceived and sinister bill intends to cast a wide net, not to protect anyone but to discriminate against the minority community from the Indian subcontinent, especially Hindus from India.

We oppose SB-403 because:

  1.     Perpetuating Colonial “Caste”: The word “caste” is of Portuguese origin (Casta – ‘lineage, race, breed’) was invented as a tool of racial discrimination against the converted Jews. It was seen to maintain racial and genetic purity of the Spanish and Portuguese Christians.   Subsequently, it 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” either in any of the canonical scriptures or in any other religious or philosophical school that originated in the Indian subcontinent.  This bill will perpetuate racist European stereotypes and misconceptions about people of Indian Subcontinent. 

2.     False Conjecture: Section 1(b) of the Bill states that, “Caste discrimination is present across South Asia and the South Asian diaspora and is found in all communities of religious practice.  Section 1(e) states that, “Caste discrimination at work, school, and places of worship line 20 continues to exist in California.” These statements, presented without any evidence is contradicted by a scientific survey, “Social Realities of Indian Americans: Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey” by Sumitra Badrinathan,  Devesh Kapur,  Jonathan Kay,  Milan Vaishnav of Carnegie Endowment of International Peace (https://carnegieendowment.org/2021/06/09/social-realities-of-indian-americans-results-from-2020-indian-american-attitudes-survey-pub-84667).  It is worth noting that after several years of litigation, CISCO case about “caste” discrimination remains unproven.

3.     Existing Laws: 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.”   

4.     Targeting those from Indian Subcontinent: This bill will lead the broader American public and private companies to view all people with origin in the Indian Subcontinent 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.

5.     Malevolent Affiliations:  There is clear evidence that the primary organization driving the “caste” narrative in the US is Equality Labs.  This organization has been demonstrably malevolent and anti-Hindu.  For example:

a.     Thenmozhi Soundararajan, the founder of Equality Labs has accused Yoga of religious abuse and having structural violence at the heart of it.  She has made her Hinduphobia explicit by maligning the most prominent Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist festival of Holi. This is no different from asking Muslims to not celebrate Eid or Christians to not celebrate Christmas and Jews to not celebrate Hanukah.   

b.     Equality Labs has explicit association with noted Hindu and India haters, including, Hinduphobic group Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Sikhs For Justice (banned group in India for violence), and noted Hindu hating Pakistani conduits.

c.     A co-founder of Equality Labs, Sharmin Hossain, a non-Hindu has demonized Hindus and accused them of appropriating their own Gods and scriptures.  

6.     Harassment, Discrimination, Bullying and Violence Against Hindus:  There is evidence of increasing hate against minorities from Indian subcontinent, especially Hindus in California.  Attempts to rewrite California school textbook to incorporate Hindu-hating narrative, recent vandalism of Mahatma Gandhi statue in Davis, CA (2021), break-in at a Jain temple in Milpitas, CA (2022) in and assault on a Hindu in a public eatery such as Taco Bell in Fremont, CA (2022) are just a few recent examples.  SB-403 will leave people of Indian Subcontinent descent or origin vulnerable to bullying in schools, hostile work environment and violence on the streets. 

We urge the California State Senators to vote against SB-403.  We strongly condemn all forms of discrimination that exist in societies around the world.