Hindu Group Sues CA, Says Ban Against Casteism Unfairly Targets Hindus

The state of California has been named in a complaint filed on September 22 by the Hindu American Foundation. According to the Hindu group, the original lawsuit "violates the constitutional rights of Hindu Americans."

The original lawsuit was filed in 2020 by an anonymous employee of Cisco in the state of California. The plaintiff claimed that his Hindu supervisors deliberately cut him off from important meetings and halted his growth in the company by denying him any promotions just because he belonged to the Dalit caste. The Dalits are believed to be the lowest in the Indian Hindu caste hierarchy and are often a target of discrimination. The employee also said that Cisco officials ostracized him after he brought the instances of discrimination to their attention.

The multinational tech conglomerate Cisco has stood on its stance that "no evidence" suggests that the employee faced discrimination or retaliation in specific regards to the "Indian caste system."

Executive director of the Hindu American Foundation and attorney Suhag Shukla said in the complaint, "the State is treating Hindus in a manner that is different from the way it treats every other religious group." She added, "Falsely claiming that Hindu Americans inherently hold discriminatory beliefs in a caste system, and these beliefs and practices are 'inherent' to the Hindu religion.”

A California department of civil rights spokesperson said the complaint would be addressed in court.

The Hindu American Foundation has said that the caste system is not a core aspect of the Hindu religion and definitely should not be taken as such by the California Department of Civil Rights.

Ending caste discrimination is a "worthy goal," according to the Hindu American Foundation, as it would strengthen the Hindu belief in equality and the divine essence of all people.

The Cisco case is a landmark suit as it highlights the members of Hindu groups protesting to make American institutes and corporations officially recognize the oppression.

A 2018 survey by the Dalit civil rights group Equality Labs found that 67% of Dalits in the United States who responded felt mistreated at their workplaces. The report was cited in the Cisco lawsuit. Another survey in 2016 found that a third of Hindu students in America have reported facing some sort of caste discrimination.

Several Dalit employees working for global giants such as Google and Microsoft have also talked about being discriminated against at work.

The International Commission of Dalit Rights, an organization based in Virginia, has advocated for the rights of Dalits for more than twenty years. The organization had repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to get the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to recognize casteism. According to the organization, the Dalits' oppression is "an urgent contemporary U.S. civil rights and social justice issue."

The issue of casteism is a well-debated topic in the Indian diaspora. Some believe that the discrimination of the lower caste still prevails, while others think that it no longer plays a part in everyday life.

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