Google had earlier cancelled a diversity talk by anti-caste activist Thenmozhi Soundarajan, drawing widespread outrage.

Anti-caste activist Thenmozhi SoundararajanTHENMOZHI SOUNDARAJAN | COURTESY: PAX AHIMSA GETHEN/CC BY-SA 4.0
Atom Controversy Sunday, June 05, 2022 - 15:03

Days after a scheduled talk by US-based Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan was cancelled by Google, the Alphabet Workers’ Union (AWU) has spoken about about caste discrimination within the organisation and called for “action to establish caste-equity in the workplace”. The cancellation of the event is seen as a direct result of pro-Hindu groups within Google, as it came after a Washington Post expose on employees sending out mass emails internally, calling Thenmozhi “Hindu phobic” and “anti-Hindu”.

The organised workers of Alphabet, the holding company under which Google functions, said it stands with Thenmozhi and Tanuja Gupta, a senior manager who had invited Thenmozhi to speak at the event and resigned after it was cancelled. “We stand with Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Tanuja Gupta & all those who experience and speak out against caste-based oppression,” the AWU said. It also urged Google to take action on three fronts — adding caste to all HR policies in all locations, reinstating Thenmozhi’s talk and continue to bring in more Dalit and caste-oppressed speakers, and commit to addressing caste discrimination in the company with investments commensurate with its other DEI (Diversity Equity Inclusivity) pledges.

Thenmozhi, an internationally recognised anti-caste activist, was supposed to deliver her talk on April 18, as part of the company’s DEI programme for employee sensitisation. While most DEI programmes address race, gender and sexuality, anti-caste activists have been calling for the inclusion of caste in these discussions. However, before the talk, Thenmozhi was informed that had been put off. She then wrote to Alphabet CEO Sundar 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.”

She also pointed out that they were both Tamil, while Pichai is from a Brahmin family and she is from a Dalit one. “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.”

Read: Google cancelled Dalit activist’s talk on caste after pressure from employees

Thenmozhi was earlier the president of the Ambedkarites Association of North America (AANA) which has chapters in US, Canada and Mexico. She is also a part of the non-profit Equality Labs, which has made several representations against caste discrimination in the South Asian diaspora, such as the Cisco caste harassment case.

Read: Caste is part of the Silicon Valley ecosystem: Equality Labs director on Cisco case

Also read: Alphabet Workers’ Union supports lawsuit against Cisco in caste discrimination

Subscribe to TNM’s YouTube channel to watch Dhanya Rajendran’s upcoming interview with Equality Labs director Thenmozhi Soundararajan:

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