California’s Lawsuit Against Cisco Proves That Caste is India’s Most Shameful Export

Social Commentary

California’s Lawsuit Against Cisco Proves That Caste is India’s Most Shameful Export

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

A case filed in America on Tuesday has shown that caste-based discrimination isn’t a problem unique to workplaces back home in India. The lawsuit, filed in California by the department of fair employment and housing, was against the tech company Cisco. According to the lawsuit, Cisco allowed an Indian-American employee to be harassed by his managers because he was from a “lower caste”.

The complainant, who is a principal engineer at Cisco’s San Jose headquarters, says his two managers, Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, “outed him” as Dalit.

The lawsuit states that the engineer was then expected to “accept a caste hierarchy” within the workplace — “receiving less pay, fewer opportunities, and other inferior terms and conditions of employment because of his ancestry”.

A spokesperson for Cisco later said that the company would “vigorously defend itself” and that it was committed to an “inclusive workplace for all”, Reuters reported.

But Indians on Twitter were quick to point out that Dr Ambedkar’s warning about caste eventually becoming an international problem had started to ring true.

The lawsuit also led a number of social media users to say that this incident was further proof that high levels of education had very little to do with casteism.

A journalist said this discrimination was an “unwarranted and shameful” Indian export.

A few also pointed out that it was generally upper-caste Indians who benefited from the diversity programmes in the USA, especially in Silicon Valley. It is also usually members of this caste who go on to discriminate against the perceived lower castes.

A professor and columnist took to social media to remind Americans that upper-caste Hindus were the hegemonic class back home in India.

The lawsuit filed in San Jose, meanwhile, went on to add that this was not a special case, as over 67 percent of Dalits in America felt they had been unfairly treated at work. A number of activists took to Twitter to highlight this rising injustice.

With Cisco now in hot water, all eyes will be peeled to see what action is taken against the company.