02 June, 2022

Google’s plan to talk about caste bias led to ‘division and rancor’


Two days before Soundararajan’s presentation, seven Google employees sent emails to company leaders and Gupta “with inflammatory language about how they felt harmed and how they felt their lives were at risk by the discussion of caste equity,” according to emails sent by Gupta. Some of the complaints “copied content from known misinformation sites to malign the reputation of the speaker,” Gupta’s emails said — sites and organizations that have targeted academics in the United States and Canada who are critical of Hindu nationalism or caste hierarchy.

Then the controversy within Google migrated to an 8,000-person email group for South Asian employees, according to three current employees. After Gupta posted a link in the email group to a petition to reinstate the talk, respondents argued that caste discrimination does not exist, that caste is not a thing in the United States, and that efforts to raise awareness of these issues in the United States would sow further division. Some called caste equity a form of reverse discrimination against the highest-ranked castes because of India’s affirmative action system for access to education and government jobs. Others said people from marginalized castes lack the education to properly interpret Hindu scriptures around castes.