It’s Time to Call Out the CRD’s Vicious And Relentless Attacks On Hindu Americans

Apr 4, 2023 - 06:32
It’s Time to Call Out the CRD’s Vicious And Relentless Attacks On Hindu Americans

By Richa Gautam

(Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the baseless and xenophobic caste lawsuit filed by the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) on behalf of a self-identifying Dalit against two Cisco employees (Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella) has been dismissed, leaving the employees vindicated. The case lacked factual support and relied on a debunked report by Equality Labs to bolster its claims of widespread caste discrimination in the tech sector, including at Cisco. The judge's refusal to accept the report as evidence in February 2021 proves that the State of California violated civil rights and attempted to attribute wrongdoing to Hindus and Indian Americans based on their religion or ethnicity.)

                                                    First they came for the Africans, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not an African American!

Then they came for the Japanese, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Japanese American!

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me

Today, the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) -- which was the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) until July 2022 -- has written a new chapter to this historic poem. Welcome Hindu Americans! This is a direct call to action for Hindu Americans to stand up and defend their future in the United States.

You’d be spooked if you thought state sponsored racism ended with the history of Black racism and was on a decline in the United States. Have a look at what California thinks about its citizens of different origin: “One in four Dalits have been raped or physically assaulted by upper-caste Hindus in the USA”. This is not a one-time mistake. The previous quote has been made repeatedly by the CRD in the Californian Courts of Justice even though, “no existing data . . . to correlate [the report’s] findings”. In fact, the CRD continues using these quotes despite a California judge ruling that this survey did not meet the standard for judicial review. The CRD paraphrases the dubious Equality Labs survey’s and makes uncorroborated allegations against Indian managers in Silicon Valley. It states that “Anecdotal evidence also indicates that Dalit Indians in the United States, once their caste is revealed, have been raped, attacked, and spat upon because of their caste”.

However, this textbook racism does not find any substantial support through either police reports or any other surveys on caste by the Pew Research or Carnegie endowment. According to the rape statistics in the Equality Labs survey (which the CRD uses conveniently to continue its slandering), there should have been thousands of such cases by now. Despite the jaw-dropping lack of evidence to support such nefarious and racist statistics, the CRD quoted this data at least six times in different Courts of California, beginning from June 2020. Despite these claims being thrown out as not meeting judicial standards, The CRD continues to press these racist attacks on Hindu Americans as of March 2023!

You may be surprised to know that the era of targeting ethnic Americans DID NOT stop with the Japanese Americans in 1943! In November 2020, they explicitly highlighted their contempt for the tax paying Hindu Americans by blatantly painting their image with a broad brush stating that “working with Indian managers is a living hell”. They further allege collective guilt on all supervisors and [40+] co-workers of Hindu origin as casteists who allegedly "imported the discriminatory system's practices into their team and Cisco's workplace". Not happy with this ethnic profiling they even meddle with foreign politics and target the country of origin of the Hindu Americans. They claim that the election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, (who is himself from an “underprivileged caste” and has widespread support from all “castes” in India) has resulted in an increase in casteism and male chauvinism amongst Hindu Americans!

You might want to think that governments have learnt from the mistakes of state sponsored gaslighting and antisemitic rhetoric. However, California does not seem to have gotten this message, by hating on the success of Indian American by alleging the “over-representation of Indians at Cisco, and in Cisco’s management and professional job categories”. On April 23, 2021, the CRD attempted  to further gaslight Indian Americans by quoting an anonymous hearsay that, “dominant caste people in the Indian Bay area community openly boast about their caste privilege and supposed biological superiority.” This smearing not only perpetuates  Hinduphobia in a very crude form but also does a disservice to the Indian American community who have been great community building elements to say the least. The level of gaslighting occurring in the Cisco case is abominable and that not one member of the judicial system or media has stood up against it is flabbergasting. This has been going on for three years and has happened in multiple trial, appellate and federal courts with at least six different judges.

The CRD’s attempts to build a racially and ethnically biased narrative promoting Hinduphobia and widespread irrational sense of insecurity and fear of Hindu Americans has violated the basic right to Due Process of the citizens of the USA. The only way to combat and beat this attempt against Hindu Americans is through action. 

In 2016, Equality Labs conducted a questionable and targeted survey that promotes a harmful and inaccurate stereotype about Hinduism, suggesting that the religion's core holy scriptures endorse prejudice. Furthermore, it falsely suggests that Buddhism and Sikhism emerged as direct oppositions to the "Hindu caste system.” One of the most alarming inaccuracies, however, stems from the fictitious and baseless claim that “one in four Dalits have been raped or physically assaulted by upper-caste Hindus in the USA”. By their own admission, Equality Labs plainly states that there is “no existing data . . . to correlate [the report’s] findings” and further states that “it is unclear whether the Caste distribution in our survey reflects the actual distribution of Caste groups of South Asians in the diaspora, or that some groups disproportionately participated.”

Additionally, the Equality Labs survey has been debunked by the 2020 Carnegie Endowment survey, which shows that alleged caste discrimination is not a significant factor in community interactions among Indian Americans in the United States. The Carnegie Endowment survey states that Equality Labs “relied on a non-representative snowball sampling method to recruit respondents. Furthermore, respondents who did not disclose a caste identity were dropped from the data set. Therefore, it is likely that the sample does not fully represent the South Asian American population and could skew in favor of those who have strong views about caste.”

Pew Research states that even in India, “Indians in lower castes largely do not perceive widespread [alleged] discrimination against their groups”, in contrast to the alarming rape and physical assault statistics offered by Equality Labs in the USA. Despite these surveys, universities like Harvard, California State, and UC Davis continue to rely on Equality Labs (an unknown entity with dubious credentials, whose hateful agenda have been documented here).

It also indicates that this sort of alleged discrimination is too small to be measured with statistical significance. Furthermore, surveys do not measure discrimination, they only measure alleged discrimination. Yet, universities like Harvard, California State, and UC Davis continue to rely on Equality Labs despite their dubious credentials and hateful agenda.

The use of these statistics to push for caste-based policies in various institutions in the United States, especially when there are already broad anti-discriminatory laws that offer protection is not only borderline criminal but also unconstitutional.

The CRD's repeated attacks on Hindus, Hindu Americans, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the democratically elected head of a foreign country, have no relevance whatsoever to the specifics of the Cisco case. In addition to this, the CRD smears Hindus and Hindu Americans in at least five different ways.

The CRD continues to force a casteist identity on the Hindu Americans while opposing the same act that allegedly took place with John Doe and the only way to stop it is to take action. Contact your local representative and let them know the CRD lawsuit against Cisco Systems is a direct attack on Hindu Americans. As the late President Ronald Raegan said, “'Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

Richa Gautam Richa Gautam is Founder of Caste Files and Co-Founder and Executive Director at Cares Global. She has been active in the field of advocacy and human rights for over a decade. She is currently engaged in the field of diversity, inclusiveness, and minority rights as well as decolonial practices with Cares Global and she is a Senior Research Associate at Indus University and a Fellow of the Center of Indic Studies at Ahmedabad. Her research focuses on emic and indigenous ethnographic studies and documenting lived experiences of Indian communities like Bheel, Kolis, Suthars, and those deemed as Dalit, Adivasis, or Criminal tribes by the heinous Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. She has spent the last six years dividing her time between field studies, advocacy efforts, and documenting and conducting research. Richa has published numerous articles under her byline for various newspapers internationally and is a speaker and presenter in media and social media.