Indian American Seattle Council member Kshama Sawant, who was instrumental in getting the first US law passed to prohibit caste discrimination in Seattle, is now looking at taking her campaign across the nation.
Sawant, who represents District 3, Central Seattle, along with activists fighting against caste discrimination, sent a letter to California state legislators, calling on them to vote ‘Yes’ on a bill to ban caste discrimination in the state.
Read: California considers ban on caste discrimination (March 23, 2023)
The letter addressed to California Senate and assembly members states, “We urge you to vote to ban caste-based discrimination in the state of California, starting with the Senate Judiciary Committee voting ‘Yes’ on Senate Bill 403 without watering down or weakening the legislation.”
The California bill introduced by state senator Aisha Wahab, the first Muslim and Afghan American elected to California legislature, follows the historic vote in the Seattle City Council banning caste discrimination citywide. Seattle became the first jurisdiction outside South Asia to ban caste discrimination.
The letter also urges Democrats in particular to support the cause. “If California can ban caste discrimination statewide, it will be a landmark step forward against oppression,” it states.
“The Democratic Party accounts for 80 percent of Senate seats, and nearly the same in the Assembly,” the letter states. “We hope that Democratic Party elected officials will use this overwhelming majority to ensure passage of a ban against caste discrimination.”
Read: Seattle becomes first US city to ban caste discrimination (February 22, 2023)
Sawant and activists working against caste discrimination have maintained that the members from the oppressed caste community have suffered professionally and personally with no protection to support them.
“Right-wing Hindu fundamentalist groups, aligned with the Narendra Modi regime in India, put up strenuous opposition to our movement to ban caste discrimination in Seattle and are also the main opponents of the proposed bill before you,” the letter says.
“Right-wing organizations like the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA), which staged a demonstration outside Senator Wahab’s office and whose supporters flooded her office with hate mail, will undoubtedly continue to wage an escalating campaign against SB403.”
“We were able to overcome right-wing resistance by being unafraid to name the enemy and building the broadest possible movement of working people to respond to their attacks,” it says.
Read: A California bill aims to explicitly ban caste discrimination in the state (March 22, 2023)
Some of the other organizations that have been working and supporting the movement include Ambedkar International Center, Ambedkar International Mission, Ambedkar King Study Circle, Ambedkarite Buddhist Association of Texas, Boston Study Group, Coalition of Seattle Indian Americans, Dalit Solidarity Forum, Guru Ravidas Sabha, Pittsburg, CA, Hindus for Human Rights, India Civil Watch International, Indian American Muslim Council, Radha Swami Rasila Satsang Center, Fresno, CA, Socialist Alternative – Bay Area and Workers Strike Back.