After California State University decided to add caste to its policies pertaining to anti-discrimination, more than 80 faculty members of the same sent a letter to the CSU Board of Trustees in opposition to the modification in policy.
Additionally, lawyers at the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) – Suhag Shukla, Samir Kalra, and Nikhil Joshi – sent a letter to the Board of Trustees and the Chancellor among other institutional offices "to convey urgent concerns about the addition of 'caste' as a specific category" in the university's modified anti-discrimination policy.
The HAF "is an educational and advocacy organisation established in 2003" that, according to its website, "focuses on educating the public about Hindus and Hinduism and advocating for policies and practices that ensure the well-being of all people and the planet."
Several Twitter users, meanwhile, ridiculed the opposition's claim that the addition of caste in itself was discriminatory.
'80+ CSU Faculty Suppressed'
The inclusion of caste in the CSU's anti-discrimination policy meant that students could report instances of caste bias and discrimination to the university administration.
In their letter to the CSU signed off as "List of 80+ CSU Faculty suppressed", the signatories allege that the new policy will "cause more discrimination by unconstitutionally singling out and targeting Hindu faculty of Indian and South Asian descent."
The signatories also expressed disappointment about not being consulted by the California Faculty Association (CFA) before the decision to adopt this policy was made.
"We had previously met with the CFA president in May 2021 about this possibility and were assured that no such decision would be made without consulting those of us who would be directly impacted by the addition of caste in protected category. To our great disappointment, CFA did not consult any of us."
'No Understanding of the Issue'
Alleging that "CFA leaders had no understanding of the issue nor of the potential legal ramifications of the change", the signatories demanded that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (an agreement between the university and between those who represent, in this case, the faculty members) be approved "only after removal of the discriminatory insertion of “caste” as an additional category."
Professor Sunil Kumar, who teaches engineering at the San Diego State University, said that "as a faculty member of Indian origin", he is "well aware that discrimination is a daily reality for many students of varied backgrounds, and there is a robust mechanism to address all such complaints under the existing laws and the CSU policy."
"But this policy change has been made in the absence of any scientifically reliable evidence or data. Rather than redressing discrimination, it will actually cause discrimination by unconstitutionally singling out and targeting Hindu faculty of Indian and South Asian descent as members of a suspect class because of deeply entrenched, false stereotypes about Indians, Hindus and caste," he was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
'Meltdown': Twitter Reacts to the Opposition
The opposition to the modified policy has triggered reactions from supporters of the policy.
Some Twitter users ridiculed the claim that the anti-caste policy would lead to further discrimination.
Others pointed out the HAF's past advocacy, claiming that the organisation once allegedly "objected to the presence of readings about the history of the caste system" and "proposed deletion of words such as "Dalit" and "untouchable" claiming that caste did not have its origins in Hinduism."
Finally, some called out the 'meltdown' that the signatories were going through due to the new anti-discrimination policy of the largest university system in the US.
According to research conducted by Equality Labs, one in every four Dalits in the United States say that they frequently face caste discrimination.
Equality Labs is a "Dalit civil rights organisation dedicated to ending caste apartheid, gender-based violence, islamophobia, white supremacy and religious intolerance," according its website.
(With inputs from PTI)