US Caste Discrimination Case Against 2 Indian-Origin Engineers Dismissed

The two Cisco engineers- Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella – were accused of harassing a colleague due to his caste.


The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) has dismissed a caste discrimination case against two Indian-origin Cisco engineers, a decision welcomed by the Hindu American foundation.

A mediation conference between Cisco and the CRD is still set for May 2.

The two Cisco engineers- Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella – were accused of harassing a colleague due to his caste.

“Two Indian-Americans endured a nearly three-year nightmare of unending investigations, a brutal online witch-hunt, and a presumption of guilt in the media after the CRD sullied their reputation alleging that they engaged in discrimination based on caste,” said Suhag Shukla, executive director of Hindu American Foundation (HAF).

“We are thrilled that Iyer and Kompella have been vindicated along with our position that the state has no right to attribute wrongdoing to Hindu and Indian Americans simply because of their religion or ethnicity,” Mr Shukla said.

The HAF filed a claim in US District Court asserting that CRD’s case against Cisco and the engineers infringed on the civil rights of Hindus living in California by “unconstitutionally and falsely” asserting that Hinduism mandates caste discrimination. HAF’s filing took no position on the facts of the case.

According to court filings, Iyer, the CEO of the division, was accused of harassment on the basis of caste despite evidence that he actively recruited “John Doe,” who self-identifies as Dalit and on whose behalf CRD filed suit, and offered Doe a generous starting package with stock grants valued in the millions.

In a statement, HAF said these same court records showed that Iyer also hired at least one other self-identified Dalit who held one of the only three leadership positions in the division. This individual was also offered the other two leadership positions, including the one John Doe claimed discrimination over, prior to Doe filing his discrimination complaint, HAF said.

“This trial presents a cautionary tale of the legal morass that awaits Indians, Hindus and all South Asians, if the state of California adopts a policy that applies to only South Asians and institutionalized false and negative claims that stigmatize our community,” said Samir Kalra, HAF’s California based managing director.

“If you want to know why we’re opposed to ethnically profiling South Asians with the creation of caste as a stand-alone category, this case launched by the CRD is a brutal illustration of a fate that can befall any South Asian working in the state,” he said.

Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of Equality Labs – a Dalit-led advocacy group – said, “whatever the outcome of mediation, Equality Labs stands with all caste-oppressed workers and communities who have found their voice in breaking the silence around caste discrimination and turning pain into power as they work to make all American workplaces and educational institutions safe from discrimination.

“We also thank the California Department of Civil Rights and John Doe for their courage and their commitment to the pursuit of this case. We also stand firmly committed to continuing the obligations of the caste equity movement to ensure that all workplaces and educational institutions are safe from caste.” The move was welcomed with jubilation by the large American Hindu community and the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA).

“We always knew that the case had no basis in actual fact and was foisted upon the defendants by overzealous lawyers at CDFEH, something we had pointed out in various public webinars and articles,” said Nikunj Trivedi, President and Founder of CoHNA. “We are glad that they have come to their senses and done the only right thing left to do after they faced a motion for sanctions from the defendants.” “As a Dalit American, I watched in dismay how my voice was ignored by the people and groups claiming to represent folks like me. I ask if the City of Seattle or Harvard and Brown universities will rescind their policies now that the only case in the country alleging caste discrimination has been dismissed by the complainant without a word of testimony from either side,” said Dalit Activist and CoHNA Steering Committee Member Aldrin Deepak.

“I hope that the newspapers and websites that spent three years vilifying Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, and my whole Hindu community alongside them, will show some shame and remorse and apologize. But, we are not hopeful,” Mr Deepak added.