Members of global civil society organizations that work on the issues of racial justice, civil and human rights, caste equity, technology, disinformation, journalism, and gender-based violence have written a letter to the Indian-origin CEO of the American tech giant Google after Washington Post reported that a talk by the Dalit activist and the founder of Equality Labs, Thenmozhi Soundararajan was cancelled.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan was scheduled to give a talk to Google News employees for Dalit History Month.
“But Google employees began spreading disinformation, calling her “Hindu-phobic” and “anti-Hindu” in emails to the company’s leaders, documents posted on Google’s intranet and mailing lists with thousands of employees, according to copies of the documents as well as interviews with Soundararajan and current Google employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about retaliation,” Washington Post reported on Thursday.
“Soundararajan appealed directly to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who comes from an upper-caste family in India, to allow her presentation to go forward. But the talk was cancelled, leading some employees to conclude that Google was willfully ignoring caste bias. Tanuja Gupta, a senior manager at Google News who invited Soundararajan to speak, resigned over the incident, according to a copy of her goodbye email posted Wednesday internally and viewed by The Washington Post,” reads the report.
In an open letter, the global civil society activists write, “The series of events that led to harm, harassment, and discrimination that these BIPOC leaders experienced is unacceptable. Google must be held accountable for the caste discrimination and violence that happened in the company. We will not stand by as Soundararajan and Gupta are falsely maligned, harassed and smeared by opponents to caste equity.”
“We unequivocally oppose these assaults against caste oppressed leaders and their allies, and publicly state our commitment to working alongside Equality Labs and their Dalit leaders towards a more just and equitable society,” reads the letter.
“These actions are even more troubling given your comments in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, where you pledged to make a sustainable set of concrete commitments to move that work forward: internally, to build sustainable equity for Google’s Black+ community, and externally, to make your products and programs helpful in the moments that matter most to Black users,” it adds.
The activists have asked Google to add caste as a protected category into all of Google’s HR policies, effective immediately.
“Invest in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) measures to address caste equity, including creating space for caste equity DEI training, platforming caste-oppressed speakers and organizations, and developing a talent pipeline for caste-oppressed workers, with investments commensurate with its other DEI pledges,” it adds adding, “Reinstate Soundararajan’s talk on caste equity, remove all discriminatory content on Google’s internal company platforms that denigrates caste equity civil rights work, and targets her caste and religious identities.”
The letter has also requested google to expunge all negative marks on Tanuja’s Gupta’s employment record.