How the Twitter CEO stirred the ‘caste’ nest in India; a participant speaks out

The picture that put Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey in the eye of the storm

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stirred a hornet’s during his visit to India. Though he visited several places and people including IIT Delhi , the Taj Mahal, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, Shah Rukh Khan, none of it made the headlines like this picture where he is holding a poster with casteist connotations.

Clicked at a roundtable meeting, the photo shows Jack holding a poster ‘Smash Brahminical patriarchy.’ Mediaperson Barkha Dutt, who was a part of the roundtable has given her version of what happened at the meet.

“What angers me is lies by @Twitter : @vijaya apologised & cried for being tone deaf on caste bias; in public her apology exact opposite. She says photo private. Photo taken & mailed to us by Twitter. Twitter fails to brief @jack; then transfers blame to women invited. SHOCKING,” tweeted Dutt.

Read here how the events unfolded.

A picture was shared by a journalist and it took Twitter by storm, accusing Jack of inciting hate among people in India.

It started with the following Tweet

The picture was taken at a roundtable whost participants included some women journalists including Barkha Dutt, Nilanjana S Roy, Amrita Tripathi, and Anna Vetticad participated and Twitter’s Legal Head Vijaya Gadde.

Dorsey also took part in the event, following which he along with the other six women participants posed for a picture. While taking the picture, the Twitter CEO can be seen holding a placard carrying an illustration of a woman that read ‘Smash Brahminical patriarchy.’

Twitter, whose monthly active users globally averaged 326 million in the July-September quarter, was then accused of ‘bigotry’ and ‘racism’ after the poster went viral.

Former finance chief of software exporter Infosys, Mohan Das Pai tweeted ‘As an Indian I am disappointed at Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s ‘Smash Brahminical Patriarchy’ placard – will Minister @Ra_THORe (Rajyavardhan Rathore) pl take action for this hate mongering against an Indian community,spreading hatred? @[email protected]” adding that inciting hate against any community is wrong.

Twitter responded by saying that the poster was gifted to jack by a participant. “It is not a statement from Twitter or our CEO, but a tangible reflection of our company’s efforts to see, hear, and understand all sides of important public conversations that happen on our service around the world,” it the microblogging site tweeted.


Late on Monday, Vijaya Gadde, legal, policy and trust and safety lead at Twitter who accompanied Dorsey to India, apologised.

“I’m very sorry for this. It’s not reflective of our views. We took a private photo with a gift just given to us – we should have been more thoughtful,” she said in a tweet. “Twitter strives to be an impartial platform for all. We failed to do that here & we must do better to serve our customers in India.”

Here is a first person account from Barkha Dutt 

Angered by Twitter India’s response to Barkha Dutt posted her version of the roundtable leading to the photograph.

“Watching how poorly @TwitterIndia has handled its meeting with a group of women journalists & more so, because it has been so dishonest about it, I am taking the unusual step of sharing some details about what happened from my perspective, at the meeting w/ @jack @vijaya,” she said.

“We were invited to share our experience of abuse & trolling on @TwitterIndia & given few minutes each to make our points. I focused mine on organized bullying, rape threats etc. A Dalit activist spoke of how Caste Slurs were not part of Twitter’s Report Abuse parameters. When the Dalit activist pointed out that Caste was to India what Race is to America & asked why Twitter did not see caste slurs as abuse @vijaya broke into tears and apologized to this invitee. We were all a bit taken aback but reassured that Twitter was sincere,” tweeted Dutt.

“I did not see any poster at the group conversation either before the meeting, during it or after. As we were walking out some folks mentioned a photo. Some of the invitees did not want to be photographed, others like myself didnt care. I did not notice any poster in @jack hand. It is important to note that the photo itself was both taken by and mailed to the group by a staff member of @TwitterIndia & we were specifically encouraged to tweet it. I did not but want to underline that @vijaya is untruthful in calling it a “private photo” given who sent it.”

“Since @TwitterIndia reps cried & apologized to the Dalit activist for its platform enabling caste bias, I assume she gifted @jack the poster. But from everything I know now she never asked @jack to pose with it. That decision was his & his alone.”

“While I had no knowledge of the poster, Brahminical Patriarchy is a fair & entirely mainstream phrase in the way that we now know the intersectionality of Feminism & the critique of upper caste hegemony. It is NOT an attack on Brahmins but on hierarchy much like White Privilege. The wilful distortion of the phrase Brahminical Patriarchy is unfair & untruthful. As a woman of privilege I am not in a position to tell a Dalit woman that her experience of gender & caste bias is not legitimate.”

While Brahminical Patriarchy is a phrase about bias of caste & misogny combining, personally I would not have knowingly posed with @jack holding that poster because he clearly does not know India, caste fault lines & above all he is an outsider to our country & internal issues. So while I am happy to debate Brahminical Patriarchy I do not think @jack or @twitter had any basis to get into it with the poster. That said, it reflects on Twitters poor handling of the interaction, lack of briefing to @jack @vijaya, mailing us the photo, urging us to tweet it.”

Upper Caste bias & sexism not separate for millions of Dalit women. That is Brahminical Patriarchy for them. Yet I would not have posed with holding poster. He chose to hold it himself. Photo was mailed by Twitter Staff. said one thing in private, another in public.

Finally – you got a taste of what many, strong, opinionated women go through everyday. Unlike some of us who stand up to bullying and hold our own, you guys played all sides & were truthful to none, So I broke my silence. But nice you got a taste of your own meds :).



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here