US based Hindu group opposes inclusion of caste in non-discrimination policy

Hindu American Foundation, a US-based Hindu advocacy group, is opposing the California State University’s inclusion of caste in their non-discrimination policy, calling the move “arbitrary and unnecessary”

The group claims that more than 80 faculties have jointly sent the letter to CSU authorities to “convey urgent concerns” about adding “caste” as a specific category to Article 16.1 (Non-Discrimination) in the collective bargaining agreement for Cal State University (CSU) faculty.

California State University System, that has over 23 campuses and eight off-campus centers.

“There are more than 600 Cal State faculty of Indian and South Asian origin who would be rendered vulnerable should the collective bargaining agreement be passed as currently written,” reads the statement from HAF.

The caste system is a social hierarchy passed down through families, segregating people by birth. For over 3000 years casteism in Indian society has been one of the most oppressive tool in human history.

Article 15 of the Constitution of India prohibits discrimination based on caste and Article 17 declared the practice of untouchability to be illegal. But caste violence, unleashed by upper caste people on lower caste groups, are rampant even today.

One of the reason cited in the letter is that “discrimination on the basis of caste is exceedingly rare”.

Meanwhile, Equality Labs, a national Dalit civil rights organization, have hailed the move to add caste in non-discriminatory policy as groundbreaking.

In 2020 the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing initiated a lawsuit against tech giant Cisco and two of its employees for alleged discrimination against an Indian engineer because he was from a lower caste.

According to a 2018 survey by civil rights group Equality Labs cited in the lawsuit, 67% of Dalits “reported being treated unfairly at their workplace because of their caste”. But HAF calls Equality Labs, “anti-Hindu activist group”.

The faculty letter stated that the new policy would “unfairly target a minority community for policing and disparate treatment”.

“Meltdown! Oppressor caste faculties writing letter against adding #caste to the system of anti-discrimination policy of @calstate, the largest university system in the US,” tweeted Dilip Mandal, an anti-caste activist and founder of centre for Bhramnical studies, responding to the HAF protest.

HAF has been accused of colluding with India’s Hindu nationalist groups that endorse caste-supremacy.

A US-based Kashmiri journalist, Raqib Hameed Naik has earlier reported that HAF received $165,000 between 2013-2019 from Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies, a nonprofit run by Ved Nanda, the current president of the RSS’s sister org Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh (HSS).The funds were mostly meant for education “reform”.

Many anti-caste activists are calling out the opposition from faculties, a display of casteism.