The bill proposing a ban on caste discrimination has been vetoed by California Governor, Mr. Gavin Newsom.The bill,known as Senate 403 has driven intense reactions and debate from the South Asian Community in California. A letter from the Governor’s office said that California already prohibits discrimination ,the state law specifies that civil rights shall be liberally construed.
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Introduction of the Bill
The bill was introduced and authored by Aisha Wahab, an American-Afghan,and Democratic state Senator. She came to America as the daughter of refugees.
For the proponents of the bill,it was necessary to bring awareness to the fact that such an issue exists in the American Society,and reassure the victims.A group of South Asians had been on a hunger strike outside Mr.Newscom’s office urging for him to give assent to the bill. The legislature was first introduced in March of this year.
The revised version of the legislature was passed in the State Assembly in August and by the State senate in September. The revised version listed caste under ancestry and not as a separate category. It would have inserted caste in the definition of ancestry.
What did the legislature mean?
Caste is an Ancient Indian hierarchical system, it divided society in classes with upper castes enjoying the privileges and lower caste being denied it. It is the stratification of people. India has legally done away with discrimination based on caste. It has made sure that such people are represented by giving them reservation in Higher Education Institutes,which has helped in their social upliftment.
California is home to a large community of South Asians ,the Silicon Valley with many Indians working in the Tech sector. CISCO was the first company to be sued for casteism after two Indian Managers were accused of discrimination against a lower caste Indian,the case has been dismissed however the company is still being investigated. Google and Apple have updated their employee handbook to name caste as a protected group.
Basis of Veto
Discrimination on the basis of caste is already prohibited under the existing categories and therefore,this bill is unnecessary,said Gavin Newscom.
The veto of the bill is seen as a victory by some Hindu residents and organisations.It is argued that the bill specifically targets people from South Asian Community. According to few parents, the veto ensures that their children would not be profiled and prejudiced against, because of the Governor’s decision.According to Republican state Senator Brian Jones and Shannon Grove,who called on Newscom to veto the bill, that this legislature will put Californian businesses at risk and jeopardise the state’s edge in technology.
If the bill had been signed, California would’ve been the first state to legitimately ban discrimination on the basis of caste.
Earlier this year, Seattle was the first City to pass a caste discrimination ordinance,and Fresno city in California did the same after a unanimous city council vote.The decision of the Governor has come a defeat to activists, who are against caste discrimination in America.
It remains to be seen what the future discourse of people would be.