A Seattle politician who made history with a motion prohibiting caste-based discrimination is Radical Desi‘s Person of the Year.
The Surrey-based publication bestowed this honour on Councilmember Kshama Sawant for her “unwavering dedication to social justice”.
In the past, Sawant led the fight to increase Seattle’s minimum wage. Last week, Seattle became the first city in North America to ban caste-based bigotry.
“When you have an elected office that is genuinely dedicated to the interests of the marginalized communities and of working-class people, you can actually move mountains,” Sawant said on a trip to Vancouver in 2018.
In a Febuary 26 news release, Radical Desi stated that the Dalits [so-called untouchables] “continue to face oppression under a brutal caste system practised by orthodox Hindus in India for centuries”.
“The problem has spilled over to the Indian diaspora, and Dalits often complain of persecution at the hands of fellow Indians belonging to self-styled upper castes, even in the U.S. and Canada,” the publication maintained. “The demand to ban caste-based discrimination, like racism, has been growing for the last several years.”
Sawant decries poverty in America
Sawant is a political firebrand who grew up in the suburbs of Mumbai in a middle-class Brahmin family. From a young age, she was appalled by the “complete ocean of poverty and misery” in the city.
In those years, Sawant was puzzled why there was so much hunger in the midst of so many technological advances. These breakthroughs were actually making it possible to produce food for everyone.
She believed that when she immigrated to America at the age of 22, her new country would be able to solve some of these problems. She felt this way because her new homeland had the world’s largest gross domestic product. But she was in for a rude surprise.
“It was like a fast track in political education to come to the United States and see that again, here, despite this incredible wealth, you still have just brutal poverty and homelessness,” Sawant said in 2018. “Furthermore, in some ways, it was a worse prioritization of resource funding.”