In the first known case of its kind in the United States, an Indian-American has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging discrimination based on caste, reports the weekly India Abroad in its July edition.
Pinaki Mazumder, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, filed the case alleging his former department chair “harbored individual hostility against (him) based on (Mazumder’s) inferior caste.” The dean, Pramod Khargonekar is a Brahmin, the highest caste in the Hindu hierarchy. Mazumder is a Kayastha, which is one rung lower.
Mazumder alleges that Khargonekar’s “bias” affected his performance reviews and pay raises. He also complained that Khargonekar allowed another Brahmin research student to take files from Mazumder’s computer without his knowledge.
“I never imagined I would have to take such a traumatizing step when I left India 20 years ago,” Mazumder told India Abroad. The University of Michigan has dismissed the allegations. “The University of Michigan College of Engineering faculty is quite diverse, including many highly successful faculty members from India,” said spokeswoman Julie Peterson.”