FREMONT, Calif. (Diya TV) — The word caste conjures up a number of meanings, but no matter how you define it, it is distinctly tied to division within South Asia. And thus the first-ever Caste Conference (CasteCon) was held in Silicon Valley to dispel misconceptions relating to this concept that is being litigated in the West. At a time the State of California is close to passing SB 403, America’s first caste discrimination law, hundreds gathered to hear activists, academics and pandits discuss ways to “dissolve caste consciousness.”

Of note was the first public appearance by Sundar Iyer, one of the men accused of caste discrimination by a Dalit colleague at Cisco Systems. After years of litigation, the State of California’s Civil Rights Division (CRD) withdrew charges in April against Iyer and Ramana Kompella after the court considered sanctioning the CRD for inconsistencies in their case.

The CRD’s case against Cisco Systems remains, but settlement talks have dissolved.

In a statement to Diya TV, Iyer said “he was CRD’s best and only example of alleged Dalit caste discrimination, despite having offered every top leadership position in his Cisco startup (including the head of engineering position that [the plaintiff] claims discrimination for), to another senior Dalit.” 

The bill has mobilized and also divided the South Asian community in California. Community members in other regions are watching closely to see how this matter is ultimately handled by the Golden State.