Sirf News has received a complaint from Siddhartha Gupta, an Indian resident of Chicago, who had been working in the United States on an L1B visa. He says he was fired recently from his job for sharing a mainstream media report at the time when Tablighi Jamaat appeared to be spreading coronavirus in the country with impunity, affecting the union government’s early initiative to check the spread of the disease by imposing a nationwide lockdown.
Notwithstanding the evidence of foreigners of COVID-ravaged countries joining the meeting in thousands at the Nizamuddin Markaz (centre) of Delhi and then spreading across the country without informing the authority — more importantly, the fact that this was not Gupta’s opinion but a report published by IndiaTimes — his employer SAP America Inc sacked him in the name of preserving tolerance and plurality in their country. Gupta wrote to Sirf News in an email (edited), “I posted a news report from IndiaTimes on Facebook on 5 April 2020, which was about the Tablighi Jamaat accelerating the spread of coronavirus in India, spitting, walking nude, and misbehaving with the female healthcare personnel in hospitals in India. Most of them were suspected COVID-19 patients due to the congregation they held against government warnings for social distancing. Instead of cooperating with the nurses and doctors, they were trying to spread the infection intentionally to other patients and hospital staff. Having seeing news about thousands dying in Italy, China, Spain, the US and all being under lockdown for several weeks, this particular news made me anxious as I was constantly worried about my old parents in Delhi (where the congregation was held) and fellow citizens of India.”
IndiaTimes is the name of the website that hosts the content of the country’s largest circulated dailies The Times of India, Navbharat Times, The Economic Times and other news publications of Bennett, Coleman and Company Limited.
Of course, Gupta had added his own comments to the link. He acknowledges that his language might have been harsh. But then, he had pulled down the post from Facebook.
Gupta writes (edited), “In the heat of the moment late evening, I posted this news on my Facebook wall using harsh language, highlighting the extremist actions by Tablighi Jamaat members. Even though I shared the news, I was concerned about the well-being of my family and my fellow countrymen as the spread of COVID-19 was getting out of control… I used some words that I did not intend to mean and I should not have used such language.”
“… I took corrective actions soon by changing my comments and later on deleting that post altogether. Further, I released a public apology on Facebook, stating that I did not mean any harm to anyone,” Gupta writes in the email.
“But in the meantime,” he says, “some social media vigilantes, who are pro-Tablighi Jamaat, started threatening me on Facebook and on FB Messenger. They said that they would make sure that I got fired from SAP.”
“The screenshot of my unedited post was taken out with a display of my LinkedIn information and circulated on Twitter overnight, tagging SAP America CEOs Jennifer Morgan and Christian Kein and the HR of SAP in large numbers (more than 700 retweets),” the Indian worker in the US says.
“These IT cells/trolls of radicals with vested interests also threatened me over the phone. One of the callers was a person who called himself Dr Farooqui. He called from the number +1 901-619-5629, warning me that I was on their radar and that they would get me fired. That’s exactly the thing members of what appeared like a gang were writing on Twitter,” Gupta writes.
The Indian worker in the US then says that he explained his position, describing all that had transpired on social media surrounding his Facebook post, to the human resource department of his employer. Yet, on 9 April this year, his service with the company was terminated.
SAP America Inc wrote to the Indian employee they were sacking, “While your apology was appreciated and appropriate, your behavior with regards to the original post was a demonstration of poor judgment and was contrary to several SAP policies. Your posted comments that included encouraging violence, regardless of intent, is contrary to a number of company policies including our Global Anti-Discrimination Policy, the “Violence in the Workplace,” “Expected Behavior and Unacceptable Activities” and “Social Networking Policy” sections of our U.S. Employee Manual, and SAP’s Security Policy. Your behavior, including the highly inflammatory nature of the post along with the negative impact to SAP, has negatively impacted SAP’s brand and reputation.”