SB403 - Rebuttal To Sabeer Bhatia

Boiler-plate pieties are a form of casual lip-service. But when a prominent member of a community, like Sabeer Bhatia, is in the Indian-American diaspora, shoots off on a grave matter concerning the community members without any grounding in the issue at hand, then it calls for a robust, point-by-point refutation. During the hard-fought battle against SB403 Sabeer wrote a piece on SB403, a highly discriminatory unconstitutional piece of legislation (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/addressing-opposition-concerns-my-views-sb-403-dialogue-sabeer-bhatia/). It forced Castefiles Founder Richa Gautam to expose the infirmities in his arguments in this Shakespearean rebuttal that has emerged as a classic read.

Dec 26, 2023 - 06:35
SB403 - Rebuttal To Sabeer Bhatia

Dear Sabeer Bhatia,

It is the sign of the times, Sabeer Bhatia, that instead of reading about you on Page 3 columns, we are reading your poorly researched pontifications on SB 403.

It is also a sign of the polarizing times that Indian Americans, who know the gravitas of the discriminatory SB 403 and how we could be profiled by our last names, are being canceled by you and Wahab by calling our democratic right to protest “a sign of our collective guilt”.

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. Unless you have a Brahmin last name, then you are an oppressor!” ….Romeo and Juliet

It is a telling story that we are spending precious resources defending against Anti-Asian, Anti-merit, and Anti-Indian American laws and resolutions not just in California, but also in blue states like Fairfax, VA, and Seattle. WA.

The socialistic and anti-business environment in California has antagonized American entrepreneurship so much that 352 businesses have exited the state in the past 5 years, and yet there was not a peep of concern from you as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Instead, you applaud a poorly conceived, superfluous, anti-business, and anti-American bill like SB 403—a caste law that profiles people like you and me, a bill that wastes precious time and dollars because existing law already covers caste discrimination, and a bill that is unconstitutional as it violates the First Amendment rights of South Asians.

Sabeer Bhatia, you reminisce about your Cinderella story of Hotmail days, without realizing that if you had been subjected to the current environment of overly litigious and anti-business California, your pumpkin would have never transformed into a carriage, your little mice would have never become horses, and maybe your Hotmail would have never had an inbox.

In fact, your Hotmail fairy tale could have turned into a dystopian nightmare like it did for a successful serial entrepreneur like Sundar Iyer who was framed in a falsified Caste discrimination case by the California state agency CRD.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the Indian American men and women merely casteist” ……. As you like it.

I don’t see you paying heed to court documents uploaded onto the website Castegate.org that show how Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella were denied due process and subjected to prosecutorial abuse.

Do you feel outrage or compassion for the tribulations of your fellow technocrats? Or for the trial by media, they faced for patently false accusations calling them “Corporate Malignant  Brahmins?”

In fact, did you even realize that they had to arm-twist the California CRD with a motion for sanctions to extract the dismissal?

No Iago, I’ll see before I doubt, I saw't not, thought it not, it harmed not me. ... Othello

I thought that your sense of fairness would make you say that one swallow does not a summer make. One Cisco case cannot be extrapolated into charges of rampant caste discrimination in the United States of America. In fact, now that the case has been dismissed, the entire discussion manufactured in and by the media should be nullified.

Activist organizations and the author of SB 403 blatantly accuse our entire community of caste-driven rapes assaults and murders without a single police complaint about caste-based violence in the U.S. You too give zero evidence for why your heart is heavy about caste.

You say you were “shielded from the issues of caste and religion” because you grew up in cantonments implying that we—the riffraff commoners and civilians—were the ones practicing this hate and discrimination!  Do we see traces of classist and snobbish colonial contempt that gives you the gall to declare without proof or evidence that “issues of casteism have reached the shores of this great nation?”

“The Hindoo Community doth protest too much methinks”…….Hamlet.

You ask Indian Americans to stand with SB 403 without mentioning how it will perpetrate caste among unaware future generations, or how it will recolonize our diluted caste identities in the diaspora. You don’t mention how unconstitutional and un-American it is, violating the Equal Protection Clause.

You pontificate about how this is not an attack on our faith and that we who protest are only trying to protect the “image of Hinduism,” when this is as good as telling the Japanese that their internment during WWII was a perfectly benign occurrence.

You speak down from your VC pedestal to us pedestrian Hindu techies who are standing up in LARGE numbers ringing “NO” loud and clear. But just like Aisha Wahab, you declined any consultation or discussion with Indian Americans. Instead, you speak from your ivory tower without due research.

“Caste is but a walking shadow, …that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”...... Macbeth

What traces of caste discrimination do you and Aisha BB Wahab want to wipe out? Anonymous anecdotal numbers from a fake survey by Equality Labs? The same survey and unnamed testimonies that were deemed inadmissible in court by the judge during the Cisco hearing? Or is it the traces of casteism that do not exist as shown by the reputed survey by Carnegie Endowment, UPenn, and John Hopkins—the survey that I am sure you were never informed about because it doesn’t sit well with the agenda?

What education do you wish to provide to the second-generation Indian American who has no clue of caste, and who is often from mixed marriages? For example, what caste indoctrination do you give a daughter of a Punjabi Khatri married to a Malayali Brahmin? Or the half-Jewish, half-Punjabi cousin I have? Are you planning to play a pivotal role in shackling the chains of casteism on GEN Y, Z, or Alpha by talking about colonial terms like Caste and Dalit, and Adivasi?

Bet your Kendriya Vidyalaya never discussed that Dalit and Adivasi and Caste are non-Hindu terms, inflicted upon us during the British rule over India.

Your motherhood and apple pie quotes like, “Through dialogue and education, we can reshape our collective consciousness and foster a more egalitarian society” are lipstick on a pig because there is nothing egalitarian about the discriminatory SB 403.

If you want to build a better society then please go to Pakistan and Afghanistan where these bills are still relevant even in the 21st century because all Hindus have been persecuted out of Afghanistan, while Dalits of Pakistan live in feudal slavery and cannot even afford a passport.

Yes, nowhere in Pakistan will you find a Dalit Chamber of Commerce like in India that has produced its own millionaires. It is a shame that nowhere do you mention that India instated the world’s largest and most effective Affirmative Action through reservation quotas to uplift those who became the downtrodden Dalits, due to the extraction economy of the late British Empire.

It is because of the reservation program that innumerable Indian Dalits have been able to come to the U.S. as privileged Indian Americans. Your untenable account of “subconscious bias” reeks of the “thought police” of a totalitarian elite so chillingly depicted in George Orwell's prescient novel, 1984.

“He hath disgraced me, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what's his reason? I am a HINDOO.” ………Merchant of Venice.

While claiming to be a proud Hindu, you do not waste a breath talking about the lofty scriptures, shlokas, and mantras that have been the fountainhead of spirituality in this world. Nor do you ponder over how we bring civilizational values and success to corporates in Silicon Valley.

Every society gets a chance to decolonize, and we who have suffered the colonial insults of “Indians and dogs not allowed” never really had the chance to choose whether the Brahmins would rule or Kshatriyas.

Caste, Dalit, and Adivasi are not scriptural terms but colonial terms of the 1900s. Just like Iberian caste categories like Mestizo, Mulatto, and Negro are out of commission, “N” words need to go from all societies and Caste is our “N” word. I am sure you are aware of this as a self-admittedly proud Hindu and proud Indian American.

Your last statement asking us “to show leadership by embracing SB 403“ shows how out of touch you really are and that you are not aware that a Harvard paper has acknowledged that caste is covered under existing laws or that Professor David Amar of the University of Illinois has written about how unconstitutional SB 403 is, or that a civil rights case against the caste law has already been filed in Seattle.

You were one of our early role models Sabeer Bhatia—Alas, your ignorant exhortations on SB 403 make us wonder if the fairy tale has lost its gossamer shimmer. I have the other glass slipper that you lost on the way, and you can have it if you tell me how often you have played the “oppressor caste.” If like Sundar Iyer of the Cisco case, you haven’t been an oppressor, and I believe you, then please do not cast caste aspersions on the entire Indian diaspora, while proclaiming that you are a proud Hindu.

As a truly proud Hindu, you will never have to “rise above your traditions for the greater good” as you say in your article, because Hindu dharma has the most egalitarian and inclusive scriptures.

I am sure you are looking to pay it forward given that you have received so much from Silicon Valley, India, and America. I hope you will use your clout and influence to help Dalit voices in opposition to SB 403 who were silenced; or those fellow Indian Americans who have been muted on NPR, and in California newspapers and many other platforms.

I hope you are not planning to play the wicked stepmother to the younger generation coaching clueless youngsters to be a suspect class of caste oppressors, bullied as inferior campus or corporate citizens. We hope that you plan to be like the fairy godmother, who gives them the gossamer wings of the American dreams of merit, equality, liberty, and justice for all.

We are on the right side of history today, Sabeer Bhatia. Please join us to uplift American values and hashtagsaynotoSB403.

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.