Caste Cult at California State University System
What started as a resolution by the student association is now an interim policy adopted by the California State University (CSU) system. This is part 11 of the Caste Jihad series, slightly out of turn because of the monumental inclusion of “caste” in the CSU discrimination policy on January 1, 2022. It became the headline just recently.
We call it monumental because CSU is the largest four-year public university system in the U.S. The Senior Director of CSU Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, Michael Uhlenkasmp, told me that the university has been reviewing the potential to include caste as a protected category for a number of months. That review included engagement with various student and faculty-represented groups as recently as last fall. As a result of that engagement, the CSU’s recently issued interim policy prohibiting discrimination has formally added caste as a protected category within the race or ethnicity classification (including color, caste, or ancestry).
We trace the possible origin of this issue at one of the CSU campuses and its growth like a mushroom across the system affecting 23 campuses with about half a million students and over 55,000 faculty and staff. California has been a hotbed for the growing caste cult, discussed below.
The conversations about caste started months prior to a resolution passed by the California State Student Association (CSSA) with a 22-0 vote in April 2021. The then CSSA President, Zahraa Khuuraibet, is quoted in the official minutes of May 19, 2021, asking, “the inclusion of caste into the CSU’s anti-discrimination policy.” The resolution stated, “the current policy includes many of the identities intertwined with caste but does not protect from caste-based discrimination specifically.” The CSU Faculty Association discussed the caste issue in parallel and included it in the faculty contract in support of CSSA. According to CSU Chancellor’s office, the faculty contract is not yet ratified but the interim policy as stated is likely to be formally adopted after a few additional steps.
Not too surprising, in a Tweet (below this para), the Equality Labs (EL) is celebrating it as a historic win and congratulating the CSU. The EL has been at the forefront of making the caste a permanent fault line among Indians (and South Asians), specifically Hindu Americans, claiming caste to be of Hindu origin. What EL does not realize is that the activism will not only affect the immigrants but also those born and raised in the U.S. This distinction is important because the immigrants may occasionally use the caste factor in conversations and/ or professional conduct but those born and educated in the U.S. perhaps never hear about or experience the caste factor. Why then EL founder’s obsession and activism for caste jihadism and creating a fault line?
Yes! The Win is official! All 23 campuses of the @calstate have added caste as a protected category! Thank you to the intercaste and intefaith coalition of Student, Faculty, and Community organizers who bravely worked to help make this happen. https://t.co/tEm7H8h2Rg pic.twitter.com/kPM6HmHTdg
— Equality Labs (@EqualityLabs) January 19, 2022
The California-based EL has succeeded in its activism with California institutions, industry, and government circles more than any other State. For example, joining the bandwagon are UC San Diego and Davis besides the CSU system’s 23 campuses. Others might be discussing it silently. The EL has also worked tirelessly to make caste jihad a widespread issue in California’s high-tech industry with many CEOs and hundreds of upper-level managements of Indian descent/ ancestry. Thus, California is leading the cause in making caste a protected category in the anti-discriminatory policy. The end result will affect every manager of South Indian origin/ ancestry, knowingly or unknowingly. They may face unintended consequences of being accused of discrimination on the basis of caste. In fact, its proponents (mostly Dalits and those distinguishing themselves from lower castes) holding managerial positions are not realizing that even they can be a victim of their activism. They are likely to face accusations of reverse discrimination by the “upper” caste individuals who are being supervised by them.
Reportedly, the CSU policy change was championed by one individual, Prem Pariyar, who allegedly suffered caste atrocities in Nepal and thereafter sought asylum in the U.S. for a better future and no caste-associated issues. Understandably, as a student at CSU East Bay campus, he may have faced challenges that all new immigrants face but most learn from it and move on. However, Pariyar saw an opportunity to make the relatively unknown caste an issue and gain notoriety, which, in the end, brought him in media headlines.
His cause was championed by a faculty member, Sarah Taylor in the Department of Social work, who advocated against caste discrimination to honor the lived experiences of those who may have perceived/ experienced it. While Taylor’s scholarship includes mental health, disability equity, and community and organizational practice, she chose to add caste as another area. I surmise that she was instrumental in raising this issue with the faculty association on her campus which later expanded to other CSU campuses.
We can’t say who found whom but EL is always hunting for targets to perpetuate hatred for casteism as of Hinduism origin but miraculously EL and Pariyar found each other as allies. In essence, Pariyar served as a seed for casteism at the East Bay campus which started growing with other students joining hands, faculty serving as advocates, and EL as the fertilizer to let the tree blossom. It soon caught fire across CSU with a resolution and the rest is now history. While I fully sympathize with Pariyar suffering unwarranted atrocities back home, but I wonder if he even realized that his activism has the potential to haunt him one day.
Who else was adding fuel to the fire in the CSU’s caste jihad? One student, for example, is Manmit Singh Chahal from Ethnic Studies at Cal Poly, an awardee as 2021 Outstanding Student of the Year. What is quite interesting about Chahal is his statement as a candidate for President of the student association. He writes, “I am the 1st generation child of immigrants. I am POC (person of color) and Proud. I am a part of a long history and legacy of resistance. I am. We are. Radical love.” He went on to talk about his platform to, “ make our university more loving towards all, especially those who historically have been deemed unworthy of it…Dreaming a university that could be, should be, can be in which we all collectively live in an anti-oppressive, liberated community.”
His statement makes me believe that Chahal is “radical” in his thoughts and Pariyar’s story gave him the reason to fulfill his dream of making the university anti-oppressive and liberated, in his limited view of activism. Could there be any association of his activism with more radicalized Sikhs who have been seeking a separate Khalistan in India? Reportedly, Chahal was the lead author of the resolution which “was a joint inter-caste, inter-faith, and multiracial coalitional work.” It is noteworthy that the student body deemed caste to be inter-faith which refutes EL’s false claims that casteism is of Hindu origin. In fact, while researching, I came across a set of documents suggesting even Sikhism is associated with casteism. The Christianity having castes was highlighted in part 10 based on the scholarship of a faculty member at Colby College.
At least one other student tweeted to invite others to join the debate leading to the resolution. This individual identified as Sahiba on the Twitter handle writes, “Inquilab Zindabad | dismantle white and brahminical (jatt) cisheteropatriarchy (?) .” Such calling activism led the debate to last for more than two hours and finally, the resolution was supported by students with radical ideas and ideologies. I must state unequivocally that any form of discrimination is unlawful and must be dealt with consequences but the activism with the above radical views bordering hate when students use statements like “dismantle white and Brahminical (jatt).”
URGENT URGENT URGENT PLEASE BOOST AND HELP!!
Tomorrow, the anti-caste resolution is going through the statewide student body and a bunch of faculty (most brahmins) have written a letter full of Hindutva propaganda to shut it down. SUPPORT NEEDED!!!
— sahiba (@queersahiba) April 9, 2021
While Periyar, the student activists, faculty advocates, and EL’s functionaries may enjoy short-term “feel good”, the deep divide among Indian (and South Asian) communities is likely to be very ominous and lasting. CSU must take note of students like Sahiba having radical views on social media. We know that CSU is not the first to join the caste cult nor it may be the last because the wildfire and fault lines of California are likely to spread across the U.S.
It is a wake-up call for people of Indian and South Asian origin/ ancestry, especially Hindu Americans, not to fear but to fight the undesirable surge of caste-based accusations. They must reclaim their dignity as the fair, tolerant, and socially conscious community in the U.S. I am afraid that years from now the perpetrators of caste jihad will regret their activism and seek to repair the fault lines which may be a little too late.
To be continued…
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
 Interim CSU Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Exploitation, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Retaliation – Jan 01, 2022, The California State University
 All Cal State universities add caste to anti-discrimination policy – Jan 19, 2022, NBC News
 Candidate Statements – 2020-21 Student Government Elections – Associated Students, Inc.
 California student body demands ban on caste-based discrimination – Apr 16, 2021, Aljazeera
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