Dalit Women Fight


On April 17, 2014, AID and ASATA sponsored a report back from The Dalit Mahila Swabhiman Yatra (Dalit Women’s Self Determination March) at UC Berkeley.

ASATA members, students and community members gathered to hear the stories of the brave dalit women who raised their voices and are building collective power in the face of caste oppression in India. We learned about the caravan that traveled to cities and villages spreading awareness about the atrocities committed against dalit communities. Activist Asha Kotwal and filmmaker Thenmozhi Soundararajan shared footage of the dalit women-lead movement which is gaining more and more momentum. People were invited to engage in discussions about how caste oppression is maintained, and what the Indian diaspora in America can do to stand in solidarity with the the dalit women who continue to fight.

ASATA members meet Asha and Thenmozhi. Photo by Sabiha Basrai

AID (Association for India’s Development)
ASATA (Alliance of South Asians Taking Action)
IDEX (International Development Exchange)
Center for South Asian Studies at UC Berkeley
South Asian Advocacy Group at SJSU
Townsend Center and Center for Race & Gender (CRG) working group on Muslim Identities & Cultures

The event was live tweeted:


National Day of Action Against Deportations - April 5, 2014

Today is April 5th, National Day of Action Against Deportations. ASATA stands with the millions of individuals and organizations around the country who are calling for comprehensive, meaningful, and humane immigration reform, including an immediate halt on deportations. 

Yesterday, ASATA members joined Gamaliel Foundation members in an all-women’s delegation to Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office, in sisterhood with We Belong Together: Women for Commonsense Immigration Reform. We met with Congressional Aide Jose Hernandez (pictured here), to demand that Rep. Lee push this issue through the House of Representatives. Mr. Hernandez, on behalf of Rep. Lee, accepted a dinner plate that read “11 million need a plate at the table.”, and pledged the Congresswoman’s support.   

The Town Hella Needs a Raise!!!!!

ASATA members joined East Bay hotel, restaurant and stadium workers on March 27, 2014 and marched for our jobs, our rights and OUR POWER! Hundreds of Oakland workers took to the streets to demand raising the minimum wage.

ASATA members oppose Oakland’s Domain Awareness Center

On March 4th, 2014, the Oakland’s city hall was crowded with people protesting the the city’s plans to build the Domain Awareness Center (DAC). 

The DAC is a $10.9MM surveillance hub that would integrate data from public and private cameras, license plate readers, facebook and twitter feeds, and other sensors to spy on the people of Oakland.Studies have shown that video surveillance has no positive impact on crime. Conversely, history has shown that government surveillance has been used to systematically target and repress organizing by our communities in Oakland.

Hundreds of people participated in the public comment period during the Oakland City Council meeting where the decision to approve the DAC plan was being decided. 

In the days leading up to that meeting, ASATA members shared resources about the issue and some participated at a training at the Lighthouse Mosque to prepare talking points when addressing the City Council. 

Muslim communities know what a culture of surveillance means and know how it feels to be unfairly targeted. Before the City Council meeting started, a press conference took place on the steps of City Hall lead by members of the Lighthouse Mosque. ASATA member Nadia Hussain gave a speech about how surveillance does not make our communities safer. And as the sun began to set, everyone was invited to participate in evening prayers before going inside and facing the City Council. 



The meeting continued late into the night as various Oakland residents, and community organizers voiced their opposition one by one. ASATA member Devika Ghai’s turn to speak came at 12:00am. When she said that as a Hindu, she would not stand by while our Muslim brothers and sisters were targeted, the entire courthouse erupted in cheers — shedding light on the need for more solidarity and work against Islamophobia within our diverse communities. 

Check out the live tweets from that night


The final vote was made after 1am where the Council decided not to approve the Domain Awareness Center surveillance of the City of Oakland and instead limited the program to the Port only. This is a partial victory for the hard work folks have done organizing against this plan. But clearly, the work continues. 

Kalpana Sharma - Manufacturing Choice

ASATA members attended a lecture at UC Berkeley on February 27, 2014: Manufacturing Choice - The media and Indian elections: A talk by Journalist Kalpana Sharma

Kalpana Sharma is a Bombay-based independent journalist, columnist and media consultant. She spoke to us about the way news media has changed in India over the last few decades. Her descriptions of media monopolies, and how TV news reduces complex issues into adversarial binaries — invisibilizing the voices of people truly impacted by political changes — is all too familiar for those of us who know Fox News and CNN in the U.S. There are no rules in India about cross-ownership of media
Business interests have completely captured media.

Sharma focused specifically on the role of journalists, the corruption of reporting outlets, and the manipulation of voters in India. She left us with an optimistic realization that many Indian voters are able to see through the inaccurate and skewed data being reported on TV.

The success of the Aam Aadmi party shows that people are fed up with corruption. The support for this “common man” party could be a direct response to the lack of transparency in governance. Regardless of how Aam Aadmi performs, their message is resonating and has led to renewed civic engagement. 

ASATA has participated in petitions to hold Narendra Modi accountable for his role in the 2002 Riots and to deny his visa for visiting the U.S. India’s mainstream media has named Modi as the likely winner of the upcoming elections. As we all continue to follow the news coming from India, it is helpful to have the context and analysis of a journalist like Sharma.

The event was live tweeted by the Center for South Asian Studies at Berkeley.


ASATA members with Journalist Kalpana Sharma. 

Totally Radical Muslims Zine - East Bay Express

ASATA’s sponsored project the Totally Radical Muslims Zine was featured in the East Bay Express. Check it out!

Asian Americans For Civil Rights and Equality Retreat


Devika, Nadia, Vin, Sabiha and Preeti at the AACRE retreat, January 2014

On January 25, 2014, six ASATA members attended the Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality (AACRE) retreat. 

The day-long retreat was an opportunity for all the AACRE member organizations to hear updates on each others’ work, talk about what we are as a network together, and hear some advice/lessons learned from other organizers who have done coalition building work. 

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Not Your Asian Side Kick

ASATA members participated in a conversation on feminism, solidarity, Asian American identity, intergenerational activism (with a shoutout to BASS), and more — and as a bonus you get to see /hear from our very own Taz Ahmed!

You can  watch the video here: http://notyourasiansidekick.com/

Indian Penal Code Section 377

ASATA members joined many other U.S. Based South Asian LGBT*Q organizations in sighing on to the below statement and attending a protest in front of the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. 

As organizations and individuals who value inclusion and justice, we are deeply disappointed with the Indian Supreme Court’s shameful decision to uphold Indian Penal Code Section 377, which criminalizes homosexual sex.  We oppose 377 and any other measure that discriminates against LGBTQ peoples in our communities.  And as immigrant-based groups, we are especially concerned about the impact this setback will have on South Asians who worry that their government does not welcome them.

We stand in solidarity with activists from Naz Foundation, the lead plaintiff calling for a repeal of 377; Humsafar Trust, a leading HIV/AIDS and sexual minority support and advocacy group in India; Voices Against 377, a diverse group of organizations and Indian leaders who oppose the ban; and countless other groups, writers, activists, politicians and community organizers that have worked tirelessly to construct growing spaces where LGBTQ people can live without fear of violence or discrimination in India. We are deeply inspired by their renewed determination to repeal 377. 



Photos courtesy of Trikone Bay Area and Preeti Shekar

Living in Caste: Identity as Resistance

Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA) and Association for India’s Development (AID) [Berkeley and Bay AreaChapters] Present:

Living in Caste: Identity as Resistance

December 4th, 2013

Cory Hall, Room 521, UC Berkeley

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Caste and untouchability constitute an integral part of the South Asian psyche; As immigration and mobility of people from South Asia continues, caste, consciously or unconsciously forms a part of the interaction between those of South Asian origin, new additions to the diaspora and non-South Asians as well; An understanding of the existence and pervasiveness of caste is something that needs to be named and recognized. 

Further, the practice of untouchability, is a millennia old practice that pre-dates Apartheid and penetrates deeper in the mindset of even the so-called “modern” South Asian; We seek to raise the consciousness of progressives on this issue as it morphs in the presence of modernity and hides in plain sight in the experiences of those who live it in their everyday lives, either through interactions with the South Asian and Indian diaspora or even with family and friendships in South Asia.

We will be screening excerpts from the 2005 film India Untouched; Director Stalin K. spent four years traveling the length and breadth of the country to expose the continued oppression of “Dalits”, the “broken people” who suffer under a 4000-year-old religious system. It exposes the continuation of caste practices and Untouchability in Sikhism, Christianity and Islam, and even amongst the communists in Kerala. But the film highlights signs of hope, too: the powerful tradition of Dalit drumming is used to call people to the struggle, and a young Dalit girl holds her head high after pulling water from her village well for the first time in her life. Spanning eight states and four religions, this film will make it impossible for anyone to deny that Untouchability continues to be practiced in India.

This will be followed by a Panel Discussion; Panelists:

T. Sound: Aligning with scholars who have compared untouchability in India with racism in the US, T. Sound, a second generation Indian American, speaks of Black Indians and invisible communities. She has addressed the politics of Indian identities in America, the presence (and widespread denial) of caste consciousness and prejudice, and the often unrecognized contributions of Dalits to debates such as the 2005 controversy over representation of Hinduism in California school textbooks. T. Sound has taken up a a traditional Dalit vocation of singing and storytelling. A performer, filmmaker, and transmedia artist, she will include song and story in her presentation. She has visited India extensively to research and raise awareness about Dalit exclusion and discrimination in India and diaspora;

Harish Wankhede: Currently working as a Visiting Scholar at the Center for South Asia, Stanford University, his academic research is to see the interconnections between socio-religious identities (Dalit, Adivasis and Muslims), democracy and Institutional policies. Harish’s doctoral thesis is on ‘Secularism and Social Justice: Religious Minorities and Pursuit of Equality’, awarded by the Center for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Harish teaches Political Science at the Ram Lal Anand College of the Delhi University. For the last 5 years, he has contributed research articles and journalistic essays in some of the major periodicals, magazines and newspapers in India

Please RSVP on the Facebook page: