CA Caste Bill: Cupertino Declines Support; Death Of Dalit Activist Shocks Community
CUPERTINO, CA (IANS) – Dalit activist and engineer Milind Makwana, who took up cudgels against the caste discrimination bill in the California State Assembly, has died of a heart attack, leaving the community in shock. Makwana died soon after he spoke against the SB-403 caste discrimination bill at a city council meeting in Cupertino.
In a video of the Cupertino City Council meeting, Makwana is seen calling himself a “proud Hindu” and saying, “I am from a marginalized community, and I am a proud Hindu. So, whoever is claiming here to represent us but ignoring Hindus, are talking about us without us.”
“Today we mourn the loss of Shri Milind Makwana, a man who inspired many in the Hindu community to fight for #Dharma. Some of us in the Bay Area had the privilege of working with, and learning from him,” the Coalition of Hindus of North America wrote in a tweet. “Milind ji had boundless passion and energy for #Hinduism, and his indefatigable spirit kept so many of us striving to do more. He refused attempts to label him, and his last words were a plea for the voices of the marginalized to be heard,” the tweet added.
“Milind Makwana was kind, principled, humble and hardworking. He left us doing what he loved – serving dharma and our community. Just minutes before his last few breaths, he testified to #SayNotoSB403,” Suhag A. Shukla, co-founder of The Hindu America Foundation, tweeted.
“Sad and shocked to learn of the passing of Milind Makwana. While I only knew him through social media, he was a friendly, courageous soul who spoke up for Hinduism and Dharma in the San Francisco Bay Area,” Hindu American activist Sheenie Ambardar wrote.
Born and raised in Mumbai, Makwana started his journey in the US in 2006 as a technology professional in Rochester, New York. He was also an active Sewa volunteer, participating in various service activities and fundraising events.
The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, USA, said in a statement that Makwana “became highly alert and concerned by California’s SB403 Bill, “Discrimination based on ancestry”, that unjustly branded the Hindu-American community based on the castes.”
The Cupertino City Council meanwhile rejected support for the bill. Mayor Hung Wei in a statement reaffirmed the City’s commitment to oppose discrimination but said the city also opposed any law that could, intentionally or unintentionally, result in racial or ethnic profiling or contribute to the stigmatization or stereotyping of any group by using terms with negative connotations such as the term ‘caste.’
Pointing out that almost 70 percent of Cupertino’s population is Asian American, the Council expressed its commitment to fostering a climate of inclusivity and dignity for all individuals regardless of their background and ethnicity.
Vice Mayor Sheila Mohan said, “As a majority-Asian American community with a large Indian American population, the City of Cupertino has a responsibility to speak out against any law that could appear to unfairly single out a single community for disparate treatment.”
Introduced by California Senator Aisha Wahab, SB-403 adds caste as a protected category to an existing law, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which provides that all people in the state of California are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services Hindus across the US, including Makwana, have expressed strong opposition to SB-403, which they say would specifically add “caste” to California nondiscrimination policy.