Indian professors file appeal to remove caste from Cal State non-discrimination policy

Indian professors file appeal to remove caste from Cal State non-discrimination policy
via Nikhita S on Unsplash
Michelle De Pacina
18 days ago
California State University (CSU) professors Sunil Kumar and Praveen Sinha have filed an appeal in federal court challenging the dismissal of their complaint against the school’s inclusion of caste in its non-discrimination policy.
Key points:
  • Kumar, a professor of accountancy at CSU-Long Beach, and Sinha, a professor of engineering at San Diego State University (SDSU), alleged that the CSU’s non-discrimination policy unfairly targets Indian students and staff of Hindu faith.
Catch up:
  • In 2022, the CSU system added caste to its anti-discrimination policy, acknowledging the need for explicit measures to counter discrimination. However, many faculty members criticized the move as a “misguided overreach.” Over 80 professors of Indian Hindu origin urged the removal of caste from the policy in an open letter.
  • In October last year, they filed a complaint in a California federal court against CSU to halt the policy’s enforcement, but it was dismissed by the district court in November for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. 
The details:
  • Kumar and Sinha’s new appeal seeks to reverse this decision. The appeal is based on three arguments: improper dismissal of due process claims, misapplication of the law regarding caste definition and interference with religious participation. 
  • “We believe the appellate court will understand and apply the correct standards and find CSU’s policy unconstitutional or return the case to the district court for further proceedings. Enforcing existing law is what’s necessary to prevent discrimination,” the professors told ThePrint.
  • The Hindu American Foundation, a non-profit Hindu advocacy group, supports the appeal, believing the school’s policy could have repercussions for the Hindu American community. They argue that existing non-discrimination categories can be used in cases of alleged caste discrimination and that “a specific category for caste is problematic under U.S. legal principles.”
Attempt to ban caste discrimination: 
  • In March 2023, Senator Aisha Wahab, a Democratic Party lawmaker, introduced the SB-403 bill an in attempt to include caste as a protected category in California’s anti-discrimination laws, alongside gender, race, religion and disability. 
  • The bill passed the state’s senate in May with a 34-1 vote. However, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill in November last year, deeming it unnecessary and explaining that the state’s existing laws already prohibit discrimination based on various characteristics.
About India’s caste discrimination: 
  • India’s caste system, which was outlawed in 1949, has continued to impact and influence society. The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. Outside of those four were the achhoots or the Dalits, formerly known as the “untouchables.” 
  • This has created rigid hierarchical groups based on karma (work) and dharma (duty), placing individuals into a system of social stratification where they are expected to follow the traditions and lifestyles of their social group. 
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