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California’s Anti-Caste Bill Faces Opposition from Hindu Nationalist Groups



California's anti-caste discrimination bill, S.B. 403, awaits Governor Gavin Newsom's approval amid claims of anti-Hindu bias. (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)
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The California Assembly has approved S.B. 403, a groundbreaking bill that seeks to include caste in anti-discrimination laws. The legislation is now awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature. However, the media’s portrayal of the bill has been influenced by the growing influence of Hindu nationalism in American politics. Critics argue that the bill could lead to anti-Hindu discrimination, a claim largely driven by activists and groups linked to the Sangh Parivar, a Hindu nationalist network based in India.

Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, is an ideology that asserts the Indian subcontinent should be exclusively for Hindus. This belief has been most evident under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, which has enacted policies that marginalize non-Hindu groups and suppress dissent.

Casteism, a system of social stratification rooted in ancient Hinduism, is also promoted by extremist organizations that helped the Bharatiya Janata Party rise to power. These groups, including the Hindu American Foundation and the World Hindu Council of America, have significant influence in the U.S. and are opposed to anti-caste policies like the one proposed in California.

The media’s coverage of the anti-caste-discrimination bill has often failed to highlight these groups’ ties to India’s international Hindutva cells. Instead, they are often portrayed as concerned activists or legitimate opposition. This lack of context does a disservice to readers who may be unaware of the prevalence of casteism and Hindu nationalism in the U.S.

The California bill, which has received overwhelming support in both the state Senate and Assembly, is a significant civil rights victory. It addresses a real issue affecting the South Asian diaspora, particularly in California. However, the media’s focus on “divisiveness” and “conflict” has obscured this fact.

Read more at Slate.

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