Hyderabad: A scheduled talk by US-based Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan was cancelled by Google due to the pressure from employees. Tanuja Gupta, a senior manager at Google News who invited Thenmozhi to speak, resigned over the incident.
The talk was scheduled in April as part of Dalit History Month. The presentation was supposed to be part of the company’s Diversity Equity Inclusivity (DEI) program for employee sensitisation.
According to a Washington Post report on June 2, groups of Google’s employees sent out mass emails to the company’s leaders, calling Thenmozhi, as “Hindu phobic” and “anti-Hindu.” The employees claimed that their ‘lives were at risk’ if Thenmozhi went ahead.
The report also added that members of the groups said there is no caste in the United States, that there is no caste discrimination, and called caste equity a form of ‘reverse discrimination against upper castes’ because of India’s reservation system.
Google spokesperson Shannon Newberry wrote in a statement that caste discrimination has no place in the tech giant’s workplace. “We also have a very clear, publicly shared policy against retaliation and discrimination in our workplace,” she added.
Thenmozhi is the Executive Director of Equality Labs, a non-profit that advocates for Dalits, or members of the lowest-ranked caste. She has previously given talks on caste at Microsoft, Salesforce, Airbnb, Netflix, and Adobe.
“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,” Thenmozhi said in a statement.