One of the first things we’re taught when learning to drive is to check our mirrors for oncoming traffic and surroundings. But much like our own eyes, there’s a spot that gets missed. In our cars, it’s just between the periphery of the side and rear view mirrors. In our eyes, it’s a spot where light passes through an area that has no receptors. 

If you don’t turn your head — to check your blind spot — the effects can be disastrous.

There’s a big object in our blind spot right now: Caste

From college campuses to corporations, the past few years have seen a steady increase in efforts to add ‘caste’ as a stand-alone category into non-discrimintion policy. However, the Indian and Hindu community has not taken notice, nor recognized the ramifications. They’re coming in from our own blind spots. 

A 2021 survey of Indian Americans clearly shows that caste-based discrimination happens very rarely in America and most Hindu Americans, particularly second and third-generation ones, have no meaningful connection with, and in many cases no meaningful knowledge of, how their families may have identified historically. 

Nevertheless, prodded on by ill-informed and biased activists looking to take advantage of the community’s blind spot, well-meaning administrators at institutions such as Brandeis, Colby, and Harvard have added ‘caste’ as a protected category for non-discrimination policy. 

The State of California sued Cisco Systems in 2020 for failing to act on allegations of caste-based discrimination, with California claiming that Hindus and Hinduism are inherently discriminatory. That case is still winding its way through the California courts, potentially setting a dangerous precedent targeting our community.

And in the past few months, the California State University system succeeded in adding ‘caste’ to its non-discrimination policy, despite outcry and a petition signed by more than 80 Indian faculty members over fears of being uniquely and unlawfully singled out.

This is a problem that’s bigger than you may realize.

The biggest problem of adding ‘caste’ as a stand-alone category in non-discrimination policies is that it opens the door to institutionalizing negative and damaging stereotypes about all Indians and South Asians. Because caste is uniquely associated with our community, it will make all Hindus, and likely all Indians, suspect and inadvertently foster discrimination against hiring, firing, and promoting of Hindus.  

Second, there is virtually no understanding among US policy makers, business leaders, or educators about the myriad categories and distinctions of Indian society, their regional differences and their history, that have gotten clumsily lumped together under the word ‘caste’ for the past several centuries. Adding ‘caste’ is creating policy without understanding the implications of that policy or how to fairly apply it. 

Of course, HAF shares in the goal of ending all forms of discrimination, including caste-based discrimination. So when allegations of caste-based discrimination happen, they need to be fully investigated, and if wrongdoing is found to have occurred, existing categories in non-discrimination laws can provide justice.

And it gets worse…

This will create less obvious, but no less serious, problems.

These same activists are demonizing our most cherished holidays, like Holi and Diwali, as being casteist, calling them discriminatory and violent. They are saying that plant-based diets aren’t about promoting non-violence, caring for animals, the planet, or our health, but are really about caste purity and oppressing Dalits.

We know this isn’t true. But as the rhetoric increases, our lives as Hindus, as Americans, will become more difficult and our children and grandchildren will be left feeling fear and shame rather than reverence and joy for our traditions and practices. 

Why should you be worried?

This is spreading fast.

In only a matter of three years, caste was added to the campus non-discrimination policy at Brandeis, Harvard, Colby College, and now California State University which has 23 campuses.

Cisco has been sued. Google is currently under pressure. Big tech companies which employ large numbers of Indians and Hindus are all in the line of fire. It’s only a matter of time before it impacts other sectors too. Any sector where there are significant numbers of Hindus employed or involved will come into the crosshairs.

What’s next?

Stopping this is a multistep process. There can be hearings, public comment periods, petitions and counter petitions, court challenges, appeals of those challenges. Our team of lawyers have the qualifications and the real-world experience to protect our community with the proper guidance when considering legal action.  

This could go all the way to the Supreme Court. And throughout this process, HAF will be there defending your rights. 

How can you help?

Support HAF’s Legal Action Fund. 

With the help of the local community, HAF stopped caste policies from being added in Santa Clara County. We stopped it from becoming California state law. We stalled it at the University of Minnesota. 

We’ve partnered with organizations such as Americans United to successfully combat religious discrimination. We’ve fought for the religious freedom rights of Hindu American homeowners to display the swastika on their front doors. We even have experience with matters related to copyright and intellectual property — just as when we got university logos taken off the hateful Dismantling Global Hindutva website.  

Simply put, there is no other Hindu organization that has the legal expertise to help our community the way we can, and have already done. But we need your financial help to do so.