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Two Indian-American Cisco engineers join lawsuit over violation of Hindu rights

CISCO engineers Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella battled false caste discrimination allegations for years in California (Photo: IANS)

Two Indian-American Cisco engineers, who were sued for caste discrimination in California, have joined a lawsuit filed by a Hindu advocacy group, alleging that the state’s Civil Rights Department (CRD) violated several constitutional rights of Hindus and Indian-Americans.

After years of litigation, the caste discrimination case against Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella was voluntarily dismissed by the CRD in April this year.

According to an amended complaint filed by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), CRD violated constitutional rights of several Hindus and Indian Americans due to the manner in which it pursued its case alleging caste discrimination at Cisco Systems.

It accuses CRD of wrongly asserting that caste system and caste-based discrimination are integral to Hindu teachings and practices.

In addition to Kompella and Iyer, long-time California resident and interfaith leader, Dilip Amin, three Indian-origin Hindu tech workers, and others have also joined the suit, claiming direct harm by the CRD’s unconstitutional and inaccurate statements about Hinduism and Indians.

The updated complaint was filed in federal court last week after the judge granted HAF 21 days to amend its complaint to avoid dismissal.

“The court asked for a level of specificity not normally required in a preliminary complaint,” Samir Kalra, HAF’s Managing Director, said in a statement.

“But we’re happy to have had the chance to incorporate that specificity as well as add a number of individual plaintiffs who had stepped forward with shared concerns with the CRD’s overreach since the time of our original filing.”

The amended complaint states that “California defames Hinduism by doing what the US Constitution says it cannot, assert a government right to resolve questions of religious doctrine”.

It says that preventing the government from establishing religious doctrines or interfering in religious practices is as old a principle as the Republic itself.

“California law and regulations provide no definition or workable method to determine anyone’s caste other than its assumption that Hindus of South Asian, in particular Indian, descent must all necessarily identify as part of a specific caste and must engage in discrimination based on caste as an inherent or mandated part of their religious beliefs and practices,” the complaint notes further.

Meanwhile, several Hindu-Americans in California have been urging Governor Gavin Newsom to veto an anti-caste discrimination bill, recently passed by the State Assembly.

They say that the SB 403 bill — introduced by Senator Aisha Wahab in March — is discriminatory and targets Hindus.

If signed into law by Newsom, California will become the first state in the US and the first jurisdiction outside India to outlaw discrimination based on caste.