A talk on casteism at Google’s HQ was canceled in light of pressure from employees who claimed their lives were at risk if Thenmozhi Soundararajan was permitted to speak. Thenmozhi is the founder and executive director of Equality Labs, a nonprofit advocating for lower caste individuals, and former president of Ambedkarites Association of North America (AANA).
Soundararajan was supposed to host the talk to Google News employees for Dalit History Month. She appealed directly to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who comes from an upper-caste family in India, to allow her presentation to move forward, but no response was given.
The Washington Post reported that some Google employees sent out mass emails through the company intranet, calling Thenmozhi “Hindu phobic” and “anti-Hindu.”
This led to Tanuja Gupta, a senior manager at Google News who invited Soundararajan to speak, resigning over the incident.
Social Media to embed:
A senior manager at #Google, named Tanuja Gupta, resigned from the company on 1 June, after a Dalit rights activist was not allowed to give a presentation on caste following emails by employees calling her "anti-Hindu."https://t.co/UdKNT2VMtf
— The Quint (@TheQuint) June 2, 2022
“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 canceled a talk about caste equity. Google must address the casteism within its workforce that allows for these attacks to occur and continue,” Soundararajan said in a statement. “Despite us now being away from our homelands, the horror of caste has shaped us both. And as people of conscience, we have an imperative to not look the other way at how caste discrimination continues to grip our people relentlessly. As someone with caste privilege, you are now in the role to do the right thing to address this issue at a company where you have an opportunity to lead these conversations with grace.”
Soundararajan gave talks similarly planned for Google to Microsoft, Salesforce, Airbnb, Netflix, and Adobe employees.