Sacramento, CA – After months of civil rights advocacy, caste equity movement organizers, legal scholars, and racial justice advocates from across the state have rallied together in support of California’s historic anti-caste discrimination bill SB403. This rally served as a remarkable display of solidarity with the California Coalition for Caste Equity, who bravely launched a hunger strike last week until SB403 becomes official state law. Over 250 caste-oppressed community members and allies—from cities like Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Selma, Redding, San Francisco, Oakland, Sunnyvale, and, Fremont—united today, marching to the Capitol to celebrate the power of grassroots organizing and their lifelong commitment to Dalit liberation and the advancement of international human rights.
This gathering coincides with the bill’s final presentation to California Governor Gavin Newsom. Over 700 personally signed and handwritten cards were delivered to the Governor’s office along with 30 bouquets of flowers to show the community’s appreciation for the legislation.
“After conducting over 700 advocacy meetings across the entire state of California, the people have spoken resoundingly for caste equity protections. As a Californian who has endured caste my whole life, I know the struggles and adversity caste-oppressed Californians have unjustly faced firsthand. Caste-oppressed people have organized for over twenty years so we could have lives free from violent attacks and discrimination,” writes Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Executive Director of Equality Labs, the nation’s leading Dalit civil rights organization.
Caste systems, which exist globally, create social hierarchies based on inherited status. Caste discrimination targets workers across industries who face bullying, harassment, bias, wage theft, sexual harassment, housing discrimination, and hate crimes. The UN Convention on Racism and Discrimination recognizes caste as a form of racial discrimination.
Govind Acharya from Amnesty International USA states: “Caste discrimination is an inherent violation of civil rights. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues states that ‘caste-based discrimination and violence goes against the basic principles of universal human dignity and equality, as it differentiates between “inferior” and “superior” categories of individuals which is unacceptable.’ SB 403 makes it clear that defining the rights of caste-oppressed communities is necessary for justice and dignity. SB 403 reinforces the fact that the opportunity to live a life free from discrimination and violence plays an essential role in advancing international human rights.”
“I am fasting as a reminder of how important this bill is to my two daughters. I cannot live in this state knowing that caste discrimination can continue unabated. We fast now for all those who have not been able to speak out,” stated Dr. Nirmal Singh, a doctor, father, proud member of the Shri Guru Ravidassia Community of California, and a lead organizer of the Californians for Caste Equity coalition.
“As a caste-oppressed Muslim, this is an important moment in history. We know that California has always been behind oppressed peoples and for civil rights. We are now fasting to heal our divisions based on caste discrimination. This legislation didn’t divide us, it will keep us together,” said Sana Din from Indian American Muslim Council, No Separate Justice, and member of Californians for Caste Equity.
Today’s rally, like the hunger strike, is ultimately an act of love, and exemplifies the caste-oppressed community’s commitment to liberation, healing, and justice. Aisha Wahab’s SB403 would catalyze the healing process for a community that has suffered for far too long.