Indian Americans at a protest rally in Sacramento on Saturday called on California Governor Gavin Newsom to veto the state’s anti-caste discrimination bill.
Opposers of the bill: The protesters asserted that the Senate Bill 403 (SB403), which was recently passed by the State Assembly, is discriminatory and unfairly targets Indians. They argued that the bill could lead to discrimination against Hindus in particular and amount to racial profiling.
“We ask Governor Newsom to Veto SB403 so history remembers that you said no to discrimination against Indian Americans and said no to racially profiling our community!” Samir Kalra of the Hindu American Foundation said during the rally over the weekend, according to NDTV.
The Hindu American Foundation is reportedly considering legal action to protect the rights of Hindu Californians.
About the bill: The bill aims to add caste as a protected category to the state Unruh Civil Rights Act and fair housing and employment laws. If signed into law, California would be the first jurisdiction outside India to ban caste-based discrimination.
The bill was introduced by Senator Aisha Wahab (D-CA), the first Muslim and Afghan American woman elected to the state legislature on March 22. It was overwhelmingly passed by the California Senate with a vote of 34-1.
India’s caste discrimination: India’s caste system, which was outlawed in 1949, has continued to impact and influence society.
The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. Outside of those four were the achhoots or the Dalits, formerly known as the “untouchables.” This has created rigid hierarchical groups based on karma (work) and dharma (duty), placing individuals into a system of social stratification where they are expected to follow the traditions and lifestyles of their social group.