Socialist India

International Socialist Alternative
California Governor Sides with Casteism in “Land of The Free”

In a stinging blow to caste-oppressed people in the USA, California governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed SB 403, a widely-supported bill that would guarantee protection from caste-based discrimination in a state that is home to nearly a million people of Indian origin. International Socialist Alternative has stood behind SB 403, with our member and Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant having co-written and sponsored Ordinance 126767 banning caste discrimination in Seattle, and we condemn this betrayal by Newsom and the Democratic Party. While the dominant caste groups and their political representatives in and out of America, tracing all the way back to the RSS and BJP in India, did their level best to scupper this bill, its failure would not have been possible without Democrat Governor Newsom openly revealing what we knew all along to be his and his party’s true allegiances.

Groups like the Hindu American Foundation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have made the false argument that caste is not only not a part of the present reality, but that its past was also greatly exaggerated. For example, the HAF’s article The Racist History of the Caste System asserts that the caste system was essentially a fabrication of the British meant to dehumanise Hindus, a bald-faced lie. Casteism, both with regards to Varna (the broad classification) and Jati (the narrow classification), not only has divided society into unequal and stratified social groups and wreaked terror on Bahujans, the caste-oppressed majority of South Asia for thousands of years, but also continues to show its ugly face today, not only in India but also around the world. This argument alleges that qualms over caste are driven by “Hinduphobia”, much in the same way that Zionist groups use accusations of anti-Semitism to silence criticism of the reactionary Israeli regime, even in light of the current massacre of Palestinians in the Gaza war. This is a cynical use of the language of anti-oppression rhetoric to support oppression. They even attempted to co-op the Dalit community into their Hindutva agenda through Ambedkar-Phule Network, an organisation masquerading as Ambedkarite but which is in fact a front for the HSS, itself an affiliation of RSS. Taking the name of Ambedkar and Phule in such a context is shameful beyond words. Ambedkar argued that Hinduism must be abolished in order to end the caste system, and Phule, one of his senior influences, considered the Vedas to be a form of “false consciousness”.

In attempting to brand SB 403 as “Hinduphobia”, the dominant caste groups attempt to present Hinduism as a caste-neutral religion, much as the California and USA governments attempt to portray themselves as neutral representatives of all their constituents. There is no “neutrality” in a divided class society: neither in the state nor in religious affairs. Like the United States of America and the Democratic Party, the RSS, HAF and VHP are not neutral representative bodies but instruments of class and caste rule, and their undermining of SB 403 is a maneuver designed to strengthen the power of the ruling castes at the expense of Bahujans. This same tactic, commonly employed in India, was used against Dalit activist, poet and director Viduthalai Sigappi of Tamil Nadu to file a FIR against him for “offending Hindus” with his poem against the degrading, inhumane and deadly occupation of manual scavenging, an ongoing practice in which Dalits are employed to move human waste and other hazardous material from cisterns, trash heaps and sewers.

Hindutva likewise is not caste-neutral but rather caste erasure. It is no wonder that the HAF fought to suppress the truth of PM Narendra Modi’s personal involvement in the Gujarat Riots and has advocated for Modi and the BJP. The connections between RSS and VHP, and the BJP are so thoroughly exposed that they need no mention. It is without a doubt that this is seen as a victory for the BJP, which wants to whitewash the history and present-day reality of Hinduism in order to further its agenda of communal violence against India’s minority groups.

The fact that the bill was even able to reach the governor’s office was not due to any benevolence on the part of the Democratic Party; after all it was their representative in the governor’s mansion who pulled the trigger on killing the bill. The Democratic Party, like the Indian National Congress, despite portraying itself as a “progressive” force in contrast to its rival across the aisle, is in fact a representative of the ruling class. They are not and will never be on the side of oppressed people. Activists in America must ditch the sinking ship of Democratic Party politics and form a new party for working people as soon as possible.

All credit for the success in reaching this point is due to the brave Bahujan people across California and the world who managed to put pressure on the government every step of the way, including the heroic 40-day hunger strike from the day the bill passed the legislative chambers until Newsom’s veto. We applaud the efforts of Alphabet Workers Union, the Ambedkar Association of North America, the California Coalition for Caste Equity, SALDEF, Equality Labs, Sikh Coalition, South Asian Network, TechEquity Collaborative, and all those who stood up to fight for this legislation.

The fight is not over, and the fact that this bill was able to make so much progress at a time when civil rights in America and around the world continue to be rolled back across the board, is encouraging. However, to achieve our goals even on a legislative level, we must understand how caste discrimination is intrinsically and innately connected to class rule by its very nature. Like racism, the basis of caste at its origin was class, and only after the solidification of rigid class structures was the Jati system codified strictly into South Asian society. In today’s globally interconnected world, the youth and activists can clearly see that layers of oppression are not isolated categories that can be seamlessly excised from society without affecting the whole. These intersecting threads of oppression are systemically woven together into the web of capitalism and integral to its survival. The working class must stand together against capitalism and use our strength as workers to annihilate it and casteism all over the world.

Annihilate Caste and the capitalist system that upholds it!

Jai Bhim!