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Uber took 5 months to understand that the name ‘Swastika Chandra’ has nothing to do with Hitler

Uber sparked controversy by banning Swastika Chandra from its services in Australia, citing her first name as "potentially offensive." Chandra, rooted in Hindu culture, defended her name's meaning amid debates over cultural sensitivity.

By: ANNIE SHARMA
Updated on: Apr 23 2024, 08:32 IST
Uber's decision to ban Swastika Chandra's account in Australia stirred debates about cultural understanding and sensitivity in the digital age. (unsplash)

Uber, the popular cab-hailing service, found itself embroiled in controversy after banning a passenger named Swastika Chandra from accessing its services in Australia. The incident, which occurred in October 2023, sparked debates about cultural sensitivity and the interpretation of names.

Swastika Chandra, a resident of Australia with roots in Fiji, was shocked when Uber informed her that her account was banned due to her first name being a "potentially offensive" word. Chandra, who explained that "Swastika" means 'good luck' in Sanskrit and is a common name in her native country, expressed her frustration at the decision. Despite understanding the association with Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party, Chandra remained steadfast, proud of her name's historical and cultural significance. She emphasised that the swastika symbol holds positive connotations in Hindu culture, predating its misuse by Hitler.

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Swastika Chandra's Response

In an interview with A Current Affair, Chandra recounted her experience of encountering the pop-up notification from Uber, instructing her to change her name on the app. Despite facing initial resistance from the company, Chandra stood her ground, supported by The Hindu Council and the NSW Attorney-General's office. It took five months for Uber to grant an exemption, allowing Chandra to rejoin the platform.

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Uber's Response

Uber, in a statement to news.com.au, apologised to Chandra for the inconvenience caused and acknowledged the delay in resolving the matter. The company reiterated its commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all users, citing a global policy of restricting access to accounts with potentially offensive names. Uber emphasised its willingness to address cultural nuances and evaluate incidents on a case-by-case basis. Following a review of Chandra's request, Uber reinstated her access to the app.

The controversy surrounding Uber's ban on Swastika Chandra's account highlights the complexities of cultural interpretation and sensitivity in the digital age. While Uber ultimately reinstated Chandra's access and apologised for the delay, the incident underscores the need for companies to navigate such situations with diligence and cultural understanding.

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First Published Date: 23 Apr, 08:32 IST
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