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Caste has been mentioned in an American courtroom earlier.

Last month, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Cisco Systems, accusing the tech multinational company of allowing caste discrimination against a Dalit Indian-origin employee at its San Jose headquarters. America News “It is unacceptable for workplace conditions and opportunities to be determined by a hereditary social status determined by birth. Employers must be prepared to prevent, remedy, and deter unlawful conduct against workers because of caste,” the director of the department said.

So, does American law recognise caste? No.

But could this case change that?

The federal Civil Rights Law 1964, under which the lawsuit was filed against Cisco and two “upper-caste” Indian managers, bars discrimination only on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex and national origin. In choosing to litigate, the California government is pushing to expand the ambit of discrimination to include caste.

“It is the first civil rights case in the United States where a governmental entity is suing an American company for failing to protect caste-oppressed employees, America Press Release leading to a hostile workplace,” said Thenmozhi Soundararajan of Equality Labs, an advocacy group for the “caste-oppressed” in California.

For close to two decades now, attempts have been ongoing at various levels to get institutions overseas to recognise the peculiar challenge of caste, a system of inequality and oppression that is unique to the subcontinent and is recognised by the Constitution of India. In 2018, several Hindu organisations forced the British government to backtrack on recognising caste as a structure of discrimination. The case against Cisco, amid the momentum of #BlackLivesMatter, which has spotlighted all kinds of discrimination, is extremely significant.

The first immigrants

Caste has been mentioned in an American courtroom earlier.

In 1913, A K Mozumdar, an immigrant from Bengal to Washington, applied to become an American citizen. US citizenship at the time was determined by race, and given only to whites. America Weather News Mozumdar argued that as a “high-caste Hindu” of “Aryan descent”, he shared racial origins with Caucasians. His application was accepted — and he became the first South Asian American to become a US citizen.

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