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Google cancels caste-based talk with Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan!

The latest incident reinforces the growing spread of casteism and the fight back by the progressive Indian diaspora

Sabrangindia 06 Jun 2022

Google cancels caste-based talk with Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan!

Announcement of a caste-based talk by Google received double the heat on June 2, 2022 when the company announced that it had cancelled the talk with US-based Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan.  According to The News Minute, the move angered many workers who in the past spoke about caste-based discrimination within the system.

On April 18, Founder and Executive Director of Equality Labs, a non-profit organisation working for Dalit and marginalised groups’ rights, was to talk to Google News employees for Dalit History Month. Yet according to the Washington Post, employees retaliated by spreading disinformation, calling her “Hindu-phobic” and “anti-Hindu” in emails to the company leaders. The result was that Soundararajan’s talk was cancelled even though she appealed directly to CEO Sundar Pichai, a dominant caste person. The US paper reported that some employees accused the company of willfully ignoring caste bias while the senior manager Tanuja Gupta, who invited Soundararajan, resigned over the incident.

Meanwhile, Alphabet Workers Union from the holding company of Google, said it stands with Thenmozhi and Gupta. “We stand with Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Tanuja Gupta & all those who experience and speak out against caste-based oppression,” the AWU said. Further, members urged Google to add caste to all HR policies in all locations, reinstate Thenmozhi’s talk and bring in more Dalit and marginalised speakers to address caste discrimination.

To all this, Google spokesperson Shannon Newberry issued a statement saying, “Caste discrimination has no place in our workplace. We also have a very clear, publicly shared policy against retaliation and discrimination in our workplace… We also made the decision to not move forward with the proposed talk which — rather than bringing our community together and raising awareness — was creating division and rancor.”

Thenmozhi is an internationally recognised anti-caste activist. While most of the company’s Diversity Equity Inclusivity (DEI) programme address race, gender and sexuality, caste is still a minimally discussed issue. When Thenmozhi heard about the cancellation of her talk she wrote to Pichai saying, “I cannot find the words to express just how traumatic and discriminatory Google’s actions were towards its employees and myself, as the company unlawfully cancelled a talk about caste equity. Google must address the casteism within its workforce that allows for these attacks to occur and continue.”

On top of this recent issue, there have already been instances of a lawsuit against Cisco for alleged caste discrimination and a Dalit person complaining of caste discrimination on the campus of the California State University (CSU). These incidents well-establish the existence and spread of the caste system all over the world.

According to Dalit Rights Activist Vidya Bhushan Rawat, a large chunk of the Indian diaspora has migrated to the UK and the US while carrying its caste-based sitgmas. He talked about how the Indian society failed to introspect on these matters as did the diaspora and the issue remained ignored. This polarisation between the oppressed and oppressors has worsened in recent years during the BJP-regime.

However, he also talked of hope when the CSU decided to include caste in its policies. He congratulated the Dalit diaspora for this achievement and said that the community has to work towards ensuring that there is a global acknowledgement of this issue.

Related:

Stop Killing Us: Sanitation workers

India will remember Gail Omvedt forever

Internationalising Caste

Combat caste-based discrimination: IAAAC to US tech CEOs

Google cancels caste-based talk with Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan!

The latest incident reinforces the growing spread of casteism and the fight back by the progressive Indian diaspora

Google cancels caste-based talk with Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan!

Announcement of a caste-based talk by Google received double the heat on June 2, 2022 when the company announced that it had cancelled the talk with US-based Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan.  According to The News Minute, the move angered many workers who in the past spoke about caste-based discrimination within the system.

On April 18, Founder and Executive Director of Equality Labs, a non-profit organisation working for Dalit and marginalised groups’ rights, was to talk to Google News employees for Dalit History Month. Yet according to the Washington Post, employees retaliated by spreading disinformation, calling her “Hindu-phobic” and “anti-Hindu” in emails to the company leaders. The result was that Soundararajan’s talk was cancelled even though she appealed directly to CEO Sundar Pichai, a dominant caste person. The US paper reported that some employees accused the company of willfully ignoring caste bias while the senior manager Tanuja Gupta, who invited Soundararajan, resigned over the incident.

Meanwhile, Alphabet Workers Union from the holding company of Google, said it stands with Thenmozhi and Gupta. “We stand with Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Tanuja Gupta & all those who experience and speak out against caste-based oppression,” the AWU said. Further, members urged Google to add caste to all HR policies in all locations, reinstate Thenmozhi’s talk and bring in more Dalit and marginalised speakers to address caste discrimination.

To all this, Google spokesperson Shannon Newberry issued a statement saying, “Caste discrimination has no place in our workplace. We also have a very clear, publicly shared policy against retaliation and discrimination in our workplace… We also made the decision to not move forward with the proposed talk which — rather than bringing our community together and raising awareness — was creating division and rancor.”

Thenmozhi is an internationally recognised anti-caste activist. While most of the company’s Diversity Equity Inclusivity (DEI) programme address race, gender and sexuality, caste is still a minimally discussed issue. When Thenmozhi heard about the cancellation of her talk she wrote to Pichai saying, “I cannot find the words to express just how traumatic and discriminatory Google’s actions were towards its employees and myself, as the company unlawfully cancelled a talk about caste equity. Google must address the casteism within its workforce that allows for these attacks to occur and continue.”

On top of this recent issue, there have already been instances of a lawsuit against Cisco for alleged caste discrimination and a Dalit person complaining of caste discrimination on the campus of the California State University (CSU). These incidents well-establish the existence and spread of the caste system all over the world.

According to Dalit Rights Activist Vidya Bhushan Rawat, a large chunk of the Indian diaspora has migrated to the UK and the US while carrying its caste-based sitgmas. He talked about how the Indian society failed to introspect on these matters as did the diaspora and the issue remained ignored. This polarisation between the oppressed and oppressors has worsened in recent years during the BJP-regime.

However, he also talked of hope when the CSU decided to include caste in its policies. He congratulated the Dalit diaspora for this achievement and said that the community has to work towards ensuring that there is a global acknowledgement of this issue.

Related:

Stop Killing Us: Sanitation workers

India will remember Gail Omvedt forever

Internationalising Caste

Combat caste-based discrimination: IAAAC to US tech CEOs

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