Even in the U.S. he couldn't escape the label 'untouchable'

Prem Pariyar believed that he had overcome caste oppression when he moved from Nepal into the United States.He would not be considered an untouchable anymore.Pariyar claimed that he was subject to some of the same discrimination as his countryman father. He was told to cut up large quantities of onions in a matter of minutes. When he had to live with other Nepali immigrants, he was prohibited from sharing a bedroom or living with members of the dominant caste.He had been doing social work in Nepal and had made a public statement to support Dalits, the oppressed castes of Nepal. He found that he needed to take on the activist role in California.Many Dalit activists took a collective stand to address intolerance and violence in America during a year of Black Lives Matter and antisemitic-hate movements raising awareness about systemic racism. Formerly called untouchables in South Asia, the Dalits are at the bottom of the centuries-old South Asian social hierarchy. This affects over 25 million people around the world, including many Americans.Prem Pariyar spoke to a Cal State East Bay Professor April 12, as he worked on a resolution to ban discrimination based on caste on Cal State campuses. (Nani Walker/ Los Angeles Times).Caste is a tradition that is passed down at birth. It determines a person’s social status based upon their spiritual purity. This feudal system excludes those who are deemed unclean from all spheres, including education and employment.While caste discrimination has been officially banned in India, Pakistan and other countries of the region it is still practiced by South Asian communities.Human Rights Watch advocates that police continue to torture and detain Dalits and extort money without fear.Although a person might not disclose their caste history, it doesn't mean they are immune to discrimination. Certain surnames and professions are also associated with certain castes.Continue the storyAccording to Thenmozhi Soundararajan (founder of Equality Labs), a non-profit organization that aims to end caste apartheid, "untouchable" is an epithet. Our positions towards God are not determined by anyone, which is why we are called Dalits. It can be translated as one who is both broken and resilient.Pariyar is a great example of that resilience. After being persecuted in Nepal by dominant-caste people for his decrying of caste atrocities, Pariyar earned a bachelor's in education and moved to the U.S. to seek asylum.He was eventually able to quit his job as a restaurant manager and enroll at Cal State East Bay, Hayward, where earned a master's in social work. Pariyar stated that he was soon faced with ostracism at campus. The Nepali students remained at a distance and an Indian classmate of dominant caste blocked Pariyar's attempts to hold a conference on campus about Dalit rights. The conference never took place.Many people of dominant caste deny the existence of caste.Equality Labs in the United States has documented the practice of untouchability.The nonprofit conducted a survey among 1,500 South Asians living in the United States in 2016. It found that 1 out 3 students from the Dalit community reported being discriminated against while studying in the United States, and that 2 out 3 Dalits claimed they were treated unfairly at work in the United States.The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed an federal lawsuit against Cisco Systems on June 30, 2020. It was alleging that two dominant-caste managers had discriminated against a Dalit engineer. The suit was dropped in federal court by the department and refiled in state court. It is currently pending.Cisco stated in a statement that it does not tolerate discrimination and takes complaints of mistreatment very seriously.The statement stated that "while caste is not currently protected by U.S. discrimination law, we support legislative attempts to ensure a fair workplace for all." "In this instance, we fully and thoroughly investigated the concerns of the employees and found that he was treated fairly and well compensated and given opportunities to work on highly coveted projects. We would have remedied any discrimination or retaliation if we found it."Soundararajan said that the tech industry is a haven for caste bigotry. Scores of tech workers complained to Soundararajan that their supervisors or coworkers discriminated against them for their caste. She said that there were 250 complaints and it involved every tech company she could think of.Soundararajan shared screenshots from Blind, an anonymous forum for tech professionals, showing casteist comments. Some wrote crude comments about Dalits while others supported the caste system.VmBW03 wrote:"How could caste be considered derogatory?" It is beyond my comprehension. It's not different from a surname. It is like ethnicity. You don't have to be ashamed about your caste if you are proud of your ethnicity. For example, I am proud to be a Brahmin.Soundararajan points to the fact that many Indians are in leadership positions at tech companies who are predominantly Brahmins, or of the upper caste.Soundararajan stated that there is no way they don't know the ramifications caste has on their business. Ironically, many of these companies have South Asian operations and caste is a protected category. They have not implemented that globally, which has caused active harm to their caste-oppressed workers here in the United States.Microsoft, Facebook and Google, as well as Apple, Twitter and Google, are among the tech companies that say they don't tolerate discrimination at work and that their antiharassment policies protect against mistreatment based upon caste.Some tech workers have spoken out against discrimination based on caste in the United States. The newly formed Alphabet Workers Union issued a statement supporting the lawsuit against Cisco filed by California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in April. The statement contains the anti-discrimination policies in India by Google, but also points out that caste in the U.S. is not protected. It encourages Google to make caste equity a priority.She said that a large part of our journey as a community involves having open conversations about these taboo faults lines.Prem Pariyar (a social worker) distributes food to South- and Southeast Asian immigrants in Oakland, California, on April 3. This is part of a pandemic relief programme. (Nani Walker/ Los Angeles Times).The Cal State Student Assn. was formed after years of community organizing led by Dalits. In April, the Cal State Student Assn. passed a resolution requesting a ban on discrimination based on caste at its 23 campuses. This represents nearly half a billion students in California.Pariyar (37), was a key figure in the movement to request caste protections from the United States' largest public university system. Cal State spokeswoman, giving few details, said that the resolution was being discussed.I don't want my children to be untouchable Dalits. He said that he didn't want them to be restricted. They should not be considered untouchables in America.When his teacher asked him to bring water to class, he recalled the first time he was excluded from school. She took a sip. He said that he was an untouchable to his fellow students.All of the students began to laugh.This story first appeared in Los Angeles Times.