“CASTE BIAS EXISTS IN US, HAS TO BE COUNTERED”
Kshama Sawant made history in the month of February 2023 when Seattle adopted a resolution moved by her to ban caste-based discrimination, becoming the first US city to do so. She took and stared down critics like the Hindu American Foundation, a powerful advocacy group, and many Hindu Indian Americans who argued the ban discredits and singles out Hindus.
Washington: Kshama Sawant made history in the month of February 2023 when Seattle adopted a resolution moved by her to ban caste-based discrimination, becoming the first US city to do so. She took and stared down critics like the Hindu American Foundation, a powerful advocacy group, and many Hindu Indian Americans who argued the ban discredits and singles out Hindus.
Sawant is determined to take on the Hindu right wing and, at the same time, both the Republican and Democratic parties alike for not representing workers adequately. Her own political outfit is called Socialist Alternative. Sawant says the caste ban was borne out of the movement she and others had launched three years ago to oppose India’s Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.
Here are excerpts from an interview:
What would you say to critics of the ban on caste-based discrimination that that okay cost is bad and we are dealing with it internally but with this resolution, you have put a target on the entire community of Indian Americans and South Asians?
First of all, it is completely dishonest to say that there is any target on the Indian American community or South Asians because the Seattle anti-discrimination law already bans discrimination on the basis of religion or national origin. And my question to these people is, if you oppose discrimination based on caste, why would you oppose a law that bans caste discrimination. It’s contradictory to what you claim to stand for.
In fact, throughout history, we have seen right-wing forces start their right wing talking points couched in progressive sounding rhetoric, like ‘Oh, I’m against discrimination, but this is not the way to go’. So no matter how you put up a fight against discrimination, they will say, ‘Well, this is not the right way to go about it’.
It’s not surprising that it’s the Hindu American Foundation (an advocacy group that led the opposition to the caste ban) and coalition of Hindus in North America that are opposing this, because they, you know, their entire agenda as you can see from their website is very aligned with Hindutva ideology. And they actually don’t want to address caste discrimination because they are some of the purveyors of caste oppression because it’s an integral part of Hindutva ideology.
Although, it is far from the only one. So it’s not surprising that it’s not only that they oppose this legislation. They are also the right wing Hindu, right wing forces, who are the purveyors of Islamophobia as well. So it’s not just about this issue. And this argument that it’s somehow anti-Hindu, it’s all a fake argument, it’s, as I said, it’s a right wing talking point.