According to The Washington Post, Google was accused of hostile and casteist workplace practices after cancelling a lecture by a Dalit rights activist for Google News employees. Thenmozhi Soundararajan, a Dalit rights activist based in the United States and the founder and executive director of Equality Labs, a charity that fights for Dalits, was set to speak to Google News staff in honour of Dalit History Month (April). However, it was cancelled when some employees raised their concerns, as per the newspaper.
According to the allegation, some employees began spreading falsehoods about the activist, labelling her ‘Hindu-phobic’ and ‘anti-Hindu’ in letters to business officials, citing Google’s intranet and mailing lists as well as current Google employees. Soundararajan then pleaded with Google CEO Sundar Pichai to let her presentation proceed, but her request was denied. This prompted some employees to believe that Google was deliberately disregarding caste prejudice.
‘During this time, opponents of caste equity internally spread misinformation about Soundararajan and Equality Labs in order to disrupt the civil rights event till its eventual cancellation,’ Equality Labs claimed in a statement. ‘ The campaign for caste fairness is based on compassion, empathy, and justice. I cannot convey how traumatising and unfair Google’s actions were against its workers and me, as the business wrongfully cancelled a discussion about caste fairness. Google must address the casteism within its staff that enables and sustains these attacks,’ Soundararajan explained.
She also blasted Pichai and demanded an explanation from the Google CEO about the situation. ‘ (He) is Indian, Brahmin, and grew up in Tamil Nadu. There is no way you can grow up in Tamil Nadu and not be aware of caste politics,’ Soundararajan told The Washington Post. Google, on the other hand, has refuted these charges.
‘Caste discrimination has no place in our workplace. We also have a very clear, publicly disclosed policy prohibiting retribution and discrimination in our workplace,’ Google spokesperson Shannon Newberry told. Tanuja Gupta, the senior Google News executive who invited Soundararajan to speak, left as a result of the event, according to a copy of her departure email shared internally on Wednesday and reviewed by The Washington Post.
‘Having been in the organisation for 11 years, I had many reasons for leaving, but this was the only one I needed. I observed four women of colour mistreated and silenced while performing my work and supporting caste justice within the organisation. The fact is that these are not individual incidents; rather, they are part of a trend’, Gupta said in her June 1, 2022 resignation email to nearly 15,000 recipients.