US’s Seattle becomes first city to forbid caste-based discrimination

The Seattle City Council added caste to its anti-discrimination laws, becoming the first city in the world to take this measure outside South Asia.

Seattle city’s local council voted to add caste to its anti-discrimination laws, becoming the first city in the world to take this measure outside South Asia after many activists repeatedly opposed caste discrimination stating that it has no difference when compared to other forms of discrimination like racism and therefore should be outlawed.

Kshama Sawant, a member of Indian American Seattle City Council said, “The fight against caste discrimination is deeply connected to the fight against all forms of oppression.” She added, “Caste discrimination does not only take place in other countries. It is faced by South Asian American and other immigrant working people in their workplaces, including in the tech sector in Seattle and in cities around the United States.”

On the other hand, Suhag Shukla, co-founder and executive director of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) said, “The City of Seattle has voted to treat South Asians along with other Southeast Asians and Africans in a manner that no other ethnic or racial community is treated under the guise of non-discrimination. It has voted yes to discriminating against ethnic minorities, repeating the ugliness of nativists in the state nearly a century ago.”

Calling the move ill-intended and rushed which will harm South Asians and particularly Dalits Bahujans, HAF’s Director Samir Kalra said, “Seattle has taken a dangerous misstep here, institutionalizing bias against all residents of Indian and South Asian origin, all in the name of preventing bias.” He further expressed, “When Seattle should be protecting the civil rights of all its residents, it is actually violating them by running roughshod over the most basic and fundamental rights in US law, all people being treated equally.”

Some Americans of Indian origin also fear that marshalling caste into public policy will further increase instances of Hinduphobia in the United States. V Kadam of Dalit Bahujan Solidarity Network stated that an ordinance of such kind will only increase the instances of hatred against South Asians including Dalits.

Many believe that while the world is moving forward including India which banned caste discrimination way back in 1948 and since then has been able to reduce it to a great extent owing to its various reservation policies, the introduction of such policy in the present day scenario in the US will only worsen the progress achieved so far worldwide.

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