ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Does Caste Have a Permanent Address?

Casteist habits, prejudices, and privileges often glide smoothly over national boundaries.

The recent decision of the Seattle City Council in the United States (US) to enact a law banning caste discrimination makes Seattle the first American city as well as the first city outside of South Asia to recognise discrimination on the basis of caste and undertake legislative efforts for its removal. The decision was approved by a six-to-one vote in the Seattle City Council and was spearheaded by the socialist council member Kshama Sawant, who is also the only Indian-American representative in the Seattle City Council.

The decision of the Seattle City Council to outlaw caste discrimination is historic mainly because it recognises one of the most fundamental determinants of the material con­ditions that enable the international migration of Indians, especially to first-world countries like the US, United Kingdom, and Canada. According to the “International Migration 2020 Highlights,” a report prepared by the Population Division of the United Nations, India has the largest transnational population in the world. In just 20 years, India went past Russia and Mexico, which provided for the highest number of international migrants till 2000. With around 18 million Indians living abroad, the report also states that after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (3.5 million), the US (2.7 million) hosts the largest number of migrants from India. However, the socio-economic profile of Indians in the US is starkly different from that of the UAE, since the former hosts a majority of highly paid white-collar workers from India. Another important fact, noted by the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey prepared by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is that while the overwhelming majority of Indian migrants in the US is Hindu, more than eight in 10 people from this population group self-identify as belonging to the category of “general” or upper caste.

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Updated On : 18th Mar, 2023
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