A prominent Indian-American Dalit activist fighting against the recent caste discrimination bill in California Assembly died of a heart attack as he passionately spoke against it at a city council meeting in Cupertino, sending shock waves amongst the Hindu American community in the country.
Milind Makwana, according to his close friends and family, spoke at the City Council meeting on July 18 against SB403, the anti-caste discrimination bill in California State Assembly.
Throughout the day, the Cupertino-based activist participated in various meetings and the City Council hearing, speaking passionately against it and stating that the bill was anti-Dalit.
Tragically, he collapsed moments after the hearing at the Cupertino City Council.
"Milind had this clear conviction that Dalits and Bahujan are also Hindu. He was passionate about Justice for underprivileged communities and, at the same time, wanted mutual trust and harmony among all communities,” his wife Purvi Makwana said in a statement issued by the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS).
“All his life, he had stood for Dharma. I urge the community to support and take forward Milind's dream of Justice, Harmony, and Dharma," Purvi said. This past weekend, the community started a fundraiser and raised more than USD 280,000.
Living, growing, and assimilating in a foreign land is a challenge for any immigrant community, and the micro-minority Hindu community is not an exception to this rule. Milind became highly alert and concerned by California’s SB403 Bill, “Discrimination on the basis of ancestry,” that unjustly branded the Hindu-American community based on the castes, HSS said in a statement.
Milind was representative of the Hindu community and was a marginalised Hindu based on the so-called caste structure. However, he was of the firm opinion that this so-called law to protect the marginalised community was, in fact, counterproductive and regressive.
For Milind, this law was branding wrongly and a cause of potential social division among the Hindu-American community, HSS said in its statement.
Milind was an active volunteer at Sewa International USA.
"Milind's loss is a great shock to all, and a much sadder part of it is that God has taken away such a gem of a karyakarta (volunteer) so early. As we remember his life, let us also reflect on the importance of caring for our well-being. This tragic incident serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility of life,” said Arun Kankani, president of Sewa International.
As a Sewa volunteer, Milind visited Tamil Nadu in 2015 to witness and participate in relief work as massive floods hit the state. He regularly volunteered at the California Bay Area Sewa chapter, participating in various service activities and fundraising events.
He was also a member of the Ambedkar-Phule Network of American Dalits and Bahujans (APNADB), and he has written books, created creative games for children, and countless other activities over the years.