News Desk – California: Deelip Mhaske, renowned Ambedkarite and pioneer of caste bills in the USA, as well as the President of the Foundation For Human Horizon, a non-governmental organization with consultative status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, has expressed his warm appreciation for the decision made by the California Senate to prohibit caste discrimination under the American Civil Rights Act.
Mhaske extended his congratulations to State Sen. Aisha Wahab for introducing this crucial bill in the California Senate. He emphasized that since 2004, he has collaborated with state senators, US Congress members, and the White House Committee of Diversity and Inclusion, advocating for the inclusion of caste as a civil rights issue.
Mhaske revealed that the White House is currently reviewing a request to establish the White House Commission of Caste as a civil rights issue, which will report directly to the US President and ensure equal representation for South Asian communities and legal experts.
This development is particularly significant as Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to visit President Biden in June. Prime Minister Modi, belonging to a lower caste himself, has been actively supporting the elimination of caste-based discrimination and has offered his full support to Mr. Mhaske and his organization in enacting similar legislation worldwide.
Mhaske further emphasized that this victory aligns with the principles of equality espoused by India’s constitution, which was framed by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The Foundation For Human Horizon has also undertaken the initiative to introduce an equality day dedicated to Dr. Ambedkar at the United Nations.
While expressing excitement about the legislation, Mhaske remains cautious about certain groups celebrating this triumph for lower castes. He believes that this victory signifies India’s journey towards becoming a superpower and creating a casteless society—a vision that Dr. Ambedkar strongly believed in.
This legislation is part of a series of measures that will be introduced in various states and eventually in the US Congress through Representatives Ro Khanna (CA-17), Ami Bera, M.D. (CA-06), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), and Shri Thanedar (MI-13), all of whom currently celebrate the largest representation of Indian American Members of Congress. These members introduced a resolution in Congress to commemorate Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary.
Mhaske emphasized that this legislation is a triumph not only for Indian-American Dr. Ambedkar but also for the global Civil Rights movement. He emphasized that this legislation should not be perceived as targeting any specific religion, such as Hinduism, Islam, or Christianity, as caste discrimination exists within these communities as well.
In a recent White House event, the US Vice President passionately addressed the issue of social divide in India and its impact on her childhood, highlighting the significance of social equality within Asian communities in America. The driving force behind her statement was none other than Deelip Mhaske, an unsung hero and a true Ambedkrite, who pioneered the anti-caste legislation movement in the United States two decades ago.
In India, Deelip Mhaske is renowned for his work in establishing the Anti-Corruption movement alongside notable figures such as Shri Anna Hazare, Mayank Gandhi, and Jay Prakash Narayan from the Lok Satta NGO. During the 2004 Maharashtra elections, Mhaske and Hazare embarked on a remarkable journey across the state, garnering immense support and laying the foundation for a nationwide movement against corruption. Inspired by their success, Arvind Kejriwal and others later joined their cause. As a gesture of gratitude, Kejriwal invited Mhaske to run for the Lok Sabha election from the Jalna constituency.
However, Mhaske’s life took a disheartening turn when the Khairlanji Massacre occurred. Alongside his colleague Sabrina Buckwalter, he launched a series of print media stories to shed light on the horrific event. When these efforts seemed futile, Mhaske embarked on a three-day hunger strike outside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, urging the UN Human Rights Council to intervene. This bold move caught the attention of India’s Prime Minister at the time and led to justice being served for the Bhotamange Family, with 19 people convicted for their role in the massacre.
Deeply affected by the treatment of Dalits in India, Mhaske made a life-altering decision to leave his homeland and settle in the United States. His mission was clear—to make caste atrocities a global human rights issue. With an unbreakable network of connections with international agencies, prime ministers, and representatives from various countries, Mhaske tirelessly advocated for the inclusion of caste as a human rights concern. He even testified before the United Nations, playing a crucial role in the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to recognize caste as a human rights issue.
Mhaske’s personal journey is as remarkable as it is inspiring. Born into a family of landless laborers, he defied the odds by achieving academic excellence. He holds multiple degrees, including those from Government Law College, the Indian Institute of Technology, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School, Rutgers University, and most recently, John’s Hopkins University, where he became an expert in Artificial Intelligence. Mhaske’s educational journey stands as a testament to his perseverance and determination, making him the only Dalit to possess four post-master degrees outside India.
Recognized as the Father of the Anti-Caste movement in the USA, Mhaske has spent the past two decades working tirelessly through his nonprofit organization, the Foundation For Human Horizon. Accredited by the United Nations, this NGO has actively collaborated with presidential campaigns and emerged as a respected voice within the Indian diaspora in the United States.
Mhaske’s efforts have included hosting a Presidential Campaign fundraiser for President Biden at Ambassador David Cohen’s house and organizing fundraisers for various US congress members across the nation. He has become a well-known figure in South Asian communities and within the corridors of the US Congress, where he annually celebrates Diwali and Dr. Ambedkar’s Birth Anniversary.
Remarkably, Mhaske has garnered broad support from Asian communities in the United States, as well as frequent visitors from Indian politicians, including the Prime Minister himself. Despite his anti-caste movement, Prime Minister Modi recognizes and supports Mhaske’s work in promoting Dr. Ambedkar’s legacy, even organizing the celebration of his birth anniversary at the United Nations Headquarters. In fact, Prime Minister Modi has referred to Mhaske as “Ambedkar’s man at the United Nations,” showcasing the deep trust the Prime Minister places in him.
One of Mhaske’s significant achievements within the US Congress was his historic step in 2006. Following the blacklisting of American reporter Sabrina Buckwalter by the Indian government after the Khairlanji Massacre, Mhaske, alongside other Dalit activists, met with New Jersey Black Caucus, Senator Christopher H. Smith, and then-Senator (and now Vice President) Mike Pence. Their goal was to raise awareness about caste atrocities worldwide before the US Congress Committee on International Relations.
This historic gathering, supported by 32 US congressmen and senators, marked the first committee meeting at the US Congress, resulting in the introduction of Bill 315 to include caste as a civil rights issue in the USA. Presently, more than 12 states, including California and Seattle, are considering passing laws against caste discrimination, thanks to Mhaske’s advocacy as a federal employee.
Notably, Mhaske has actively participated in the last four US presidential campaigns. During President Obama’s campaign, he provided copies of Dr. Ambedkar’s speeches to then-candidate Obama, which ultimately influenced President Obama’s acclaimed speech in the Indian Lok Sabha, where he acknowledged Dr. Ambedkar’s groundbreaking work.
Recent achievements include the passing of US Congress resolution 1196, which condemns atrocities against Dalits, Tribals, and other minorities in India. Spearheaded by Representatives Ilhan Omar, Jim McGovern, Rashida Tlaib, and Juan Vargas, this resolution also supports a bill aimed at protecting Asian Americans from caste-related discrimination in the USA.
One of Mhaske’s earliest successes in the US Congress was garnering the support of Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, who introduced a bill that is soon to become law. Currently, Mhaske has secured the backing of almost 200 US congressmen and women, including Vice President Kamala Harris and President Biden, leaving him just short of the simple majority required (218 of 435) for his cause.
He remains hopeful that by the next US presidential election in 2024, caste will be recognized as a civil rights violation in the USA. Mhaske’s presence at the White House celebration of social equality hosted by Vice President Harris suggests that this goal may soon be realized.
He firmly believes that the inclusion of caste as a civil rights issue will not divide Indians but rather strengthen the dream of a “Casteless Society” in both the USA and India. Prime Minister Modi views this as the birth of the second era of the Ambedkar Movement, one that will enhance India’s global image and solidify its position as a superpower.
Mhaske’s leadership and advocacy have gained recognition from not only India’s Prime Minister but also from global figures such as the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Iceland, the United Nations Secretary-General, President Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris. In addition to building India’s global image, Mhaske actively assists marginalized students in learning artificial intelligence—a theme of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s 132nd Birth Anniversary celebration at the United Nations.
However, when discussing the approach of various Dalit groups to the new legislation in California and Seattle, Mhaske expresses caution and disappointment. He points out that many of these groups, previously unheard of, have gained international media attention in recent years through their association with anti-India sentiments, thereby creating divisions within the Indian diaspora.