Forged in Stone: Indian People in america Respond to Seattle City Council’s Acceptance of Legislation to Ban Caste-dependent Discrimination

Seattle has turn into the very first city in the U.S. to specifically ban caste discrimination. This afternoon, the city council voted 6-1 to approve the laws to ban caste-centered discrimination in the metropolis, prohibit corporations from discriminating dependent on caste, and ban discrimination primarily based on caste in areas of community lodging. The city now joins various countrywide organizations and universities in banning caste-based discrimination.

The ordinance was proposed by Council Member Kshama Sawant, a socialist and the only Indian American in the council. In a press meeting saying the legislation on Jan. 24, she stated it does not solitary out a person local community, but it accounts for how caste discrimination crosses countrywide and religious boundaries. “The combat in opposition to caste discrimination is deeply linked to the combat towards all kinds of oppression.”

Several activists and organizers from human legal rights and caste-oppressed civil rights corporations have been at the town hall on Feb. 21, numerous of them braving rape threats, dying threats, disinformation, and bigotry. They held a rally prior to the voting took position, urging the significance of the passing of the resolution as caste is not lined underneath existing civil rights protections. Keeping banners of help and chanting slogans, lots of tackled the rally as very well. Leading up to the vote, many of them wrote op-eds in top local community newspapers.

Associates from Hindu American groups opposing the resolution were being current at town corridor as nicely. 

“Love has won around despise as Seattle has grow to be the to start with in the country to ban caste discrimination,” tweeted Equality Labs, whose customers played a important job in drafting the legislation along with Sawant and other South Asian local community leaders.

Writer and journalist Yashica Dutt named it a historic earn. “Caste-oppressed folks, Dalit Individuals, Adivasi Us residents, and Dalits from Nepal have been working towards this specific marketing campaign for months,” she instructed American Kahani. “Everybody is particularly psyched because this is very first in the nation law, and there is hope that a lot of other metropolitan areas might abide by fit.” Noting that caste-oppressed persons have had no assets, no protections, and have been enduring oppression at their workplaces as most are immigrants and have immigration limits, this resolution is likely to have an impact across the region and globally. Seattle has headquarters for large tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon and if the city laws influence all those tech providers then they have to make alterations to their global guidelines.” 

Prashant Nema, a member of the Coalition of Seattle Indian Americans (CSIA) termed the passage of this legislation “a watershed instant for the South Asian group in Seattle and a important stage to the elimination of caste-centered discrimination in the U.S.” He believes “it will aid in building a more inclusive and equitable society for all.”

In a press release, Equality Labs, a Dalit civil legal rights corporation, congratulated the city of Seattle “for including caste to its non-discrimination policy,” and applauded “the impressive interfaith and inter-caste organizers and businesses from through the northwest and numerous far more who helped usher in this historic acquire.” The group observed that “adding caste as a safeguarded class in the city of Seattle’s anti-discrimination policy makes sure a area of obtain and equity” for all inhabitants of Seattle. “We commend the Seattle City Council for producing background with a plan that makes certain an equitable potential by supporting the rights of caste-oppressed. This policy improve not only validates the ordeals for caste-oppressed individuals inside the town, but it also affirms the will need for institutional protections versus the ordeals of caste discrimination that Dalit voices nationally brought to the desk.” 

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal tweeted her assistance as properly. “I’m very pleased to see Seattle foremost the region by taking steps to conclusion this discrimination and make certain that all folks are capable to live freely and thrive.”

Ohio State Sen. Niraj Antani, a Republican, condemned the ordinance, contacting it “anti-Hindu,” “Hinduphobic,” and “a travesty for all Hindus.”

The Equality Labs press statement bundled prices from Dalit American activists.“Caste-based mostly discrimination is a deeply entrenched and unsafe exercise that has no area in our modern society,” mentioned Maya Kamble of the Ambedkar Association of North The us (AANA). “The laws handed with a 6-1 vote in Seattle currently is a major milestone in our fight for social justice and human rights. It will not cease until we have a nationwide ban on this inhumane observe.”

In the same way, Nepali Dalit rights activist Prem Pariyar observed how “proud” he is to “witness this historical instant in Seattle supporting banning caste discrimination in the city of Seattle.” According to him, “this historic get has supplied hope for  lots of Dalits and organizers.”

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Hindus for Human Legal rights (HfHR) sent a statement of aid as perfectly. “As progressive Hindus, it is our responsibility to dismantle caste and battle caste discrimination,” the team mentioned, and supplied community responses and endorsements of the caste safety ordinance from  board members, team, and group associates. Co-founder Raju Rajagopal claimed the organization “strongly supports this ordinance,” and disagrees with statements that it will “mainstream despise from the South Asian community, and that existing regulations are suitable.” He noted that “the difficulty of caste discrimination is no much more elaborate than race and gender discrimination for individuals who have the resolve to battle it.”

Teams like the Hindu American Basis (HAF), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of The us (VHPA), the Hindu Pact, and the Coalition of Hindus of North The united states opposed the resolution for unnecessarily singling out Hindus for supplemental legal scrutiny. Although the HAF has maintained that “caste discrimination is wrong, violating main Hindu concepts of the divine oneness of all beings,” co-founder and govt director Suhag Shukla states that the Seattle vote “treats South Asians [and Southeast Asians and African] in a method that no other ethnic or racial group is handled underneath the guise of non-discrimination.” On top of that, it discriminates against ethnic minorities, repeating the ugliness of nativists in the state almost a century ago.”

In advance of the Feb. 21 vote, the HAF wrote a letter to Seattle City Attorney Ann Davidson apprising her of the organization’s issues about the ordinance. “We share the admirable goals of standing up for civil legal rights and eradicating all varieties of prejudice and discrimination, which includes dependent on caste,” examine the letter, signed by Shukla, handling director Samir Kalra, and co-founder Nikhil Joshi. 

Similarly, a diverse coalition of more than 100 businesses and businesses wrote to the Seattle Metropolis Council urging them to vote no on the proposed caste ordinance. Led by the Coalition of Hindus of North The usa (CoHNA), the letter’s signatories contain Dalit and Bahujan group teams, main Hindu and Jain temples, cultural and social companies, business teams as perfectly as non-Hindu teams these kinds of as the Iranian Students Association and the New England Indian Christian Discussion board. 

The letter expressed shock and outrage that the metropolis council is entertaining this kind of a proposal, which peddles bigotry and singles out the South Asian neighborhood by making use of racist, colonial tropes of “caste” and makes certain that the neighborhood is subject matter to special scrutiny and tramples up their rights to freedom of faith and equal protection. “In outcome, the proposed ordinance assumes that an full neighborhood – mostly Hindu-Individuals – are guilty of ‘caste-based mostly discrimination until they are in some way tested harmless,” remarked Nikunj Trivedi, president of CoHNA. “This is un-American and erroneous. It also smacks of McCarthyism, concentrating on people today for their suspected beliefs.”

The HinduPACT, a Hindu Policy Analysis and Advocacy initiative of the Globe Hindu Council of The usa explained the legislation “disproportionately targets Hindus by introducing the word ‘caste’ to the safeguarded classes therefore perpetuating racist colonialist stereotypes and misconceptions about men and women from the Indian Subcontinent. 

HinduPACT convener Ajay Shah called the ordinance “overwhelmingly Hinduphobic,” noting that it “seeks to adverse stereotypes about Hindus.” He said the ordinance “unfairly targets the Hindu local community and leaves people today of Indian Subcontinent descent susceptible to bullying in universities and subjecting them to a hostile function environment.” 

Even so, in accordance to Dr. Shoba Sharad Rajgopal, professor of Ethnic & Gender Reports at Westfield Condition College, the resolution doesn’t malign the South Asian community as casteism has adopted us to the diaspora.”We see it in the shameful marginalization of Dalits even in the hallowed halls of Silicon Valley,” Rajgopal told American Kahani she’s “very glad that liberal and secular Indians have stepped up to the obstacle by voting to close this kind of discrimination in Seattle. A lot more towns with a large South Asian population will need to follow suit, with these of us who have caste privilege stepping up to the plate to assist all those who do not. It is as crystal clear as that.”


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