Rashmi Samant | Facebook
Rashmi Samant | Facebook
Text Size:

New Delhi: Various societies at the Oxford University in the UK have denied student leader Rashmi Samant’s charge that she was asked to resign as the students’ union president due to her religious beliefs.

The comments come as the controversy over Samant deepened after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha earlier this week. He said India can’t ever turn its “eyes away from racism”, adding it will take up such matters with the UK when required.

Samant, who was elected president of the Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) president in February, was asked to quit amid allegations of insensitive social media posts she had made in the past.

Speaking to ThePrint Thursday, Anvee Bhutani, the incoming chairperson of Oxford’s Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) said: “Samant’s nationality or religion were never brought into the conversation, apart from when she brought them in herself, and this wasn’t a plot to try and conspire to remove her from office.”

Bhutani added: “The past two OUSU presidents have been women of colour and the current sabbatical team is also all women of colour, including other Indian and Hindu women.”

Earlier this month, the Oxford University Hindu Society had also released a statement on Facebook rejecting the charge that the institution is intolerant towards Hindus.

“Recent coverage of these events in Indian media have distorted the focus… from Ms Samant’s evasion of accountability to the subsequent Hinduphobia that has been prompted. We believe that diverting the focus away from the harm of Ms Samant’s actions and instead portraying the Oxford student community as a brutally intolerant place projects a false narrative,” the statement read.

In an earlier interview to ThePrint, Samant had said foreign universities should have regulations to protect students of colour from being “cancelled”.


Also read: Yale University is accused of bias against Asian American and White applicants


‘Anti-semitic, racist and transphobic’ social media posts

The 22-year-old Rashmi Samant, who hails from Udupi in Karnataka, became the first Indian woman to be elected as OUSU president on 11 February. She won 1,966 out of a possible 3,708 votes in the election.

In her manifesto, Samant had proposed “decolonisation of syllabi”, removing all statues on campus found to be imperialist, tackling institutional homophobia and transphobia, and improving access to better-quality mental health resources.

However, she had to step down on 16 February after some of her old social media posts emerged, which were called anti-semitic, racist and transphobic.

In one post, she had captioned a photo from Malaysia, “Ching Chang”. In another photo of her posing outside a Berlin Holocaust Memorial, the caption was perceived to be a pun on the Holocaust. It read: “The memorial *CASTS* a *HOLLOW* dream of the past atrocities and deeds.”

Samant was also accused of separating “women” and “transwomen” in the caption of a post uploaded before the election, which was perceived as transphobic.


Also read: Former Ashoka University V-C Pratap Bhanu Mehta now resigns as professor


Samant’s ‘failure to take accountability’ led to resignation

Rashmi Samant later apologised in an open letter. However, CRAE and other Oxford societies deemed the apology inadequate and called for her resignation. 

In her interview to ThePrint, Samant claimed: “Had I looked a certain way, then I am sure I would have been given the benefit of doubt… In my case they immediately rushed to conclusions. Racism now does not exist overtly but in covert behaviour like this.” 

However, CRAE’s Bhutani defended the institution, highlighting that a candidate in Samant’s election who was initially a frontrunner, Pierce Jones, had to drop out of the race after allegations of racism were made against him.

Bhutani emphasised that racism allegations are taken “extremely seriously” by the student body, and it was Samant’s “failure to take accountability” that ultimately led to calls for resignation.

Oxford faculty member’s ‘Sanatan Dharma’ post

Abhijit Sarkar, a postdoctoral history researcher at New College, Oxford, has also come under scrutiny for his social media posts about Samant’s parents. He had said that followers of ‘Sanatan Dharma’ of Hinduism should not be allowed to become OUSU leaders.

On Instagram, he posted a picture of Samant’s family members, claiming they were “celebrating the destruction of a mosque and the establishment of a Hindu temple in its place”.

In its statement earlier this month, the Oxford University Hindu Society disapproved of Sarkar’s behaviour, demanded he apologise to Samant and resign from his position as a member of the university’s faculty.

In an interview with Republic TV Monday, Samant also called for Sarkar’s resignation, adding: “He found it suitable to stalk, harass and publicly defame me because I’m a Hindu… To make it all worse, my parents were the topic of the conversation.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth wing Friday demanded the Oxford University take action against those who made “hateful remarks” on the faith of Samant’s parents.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)


Also read: These 6 children books by Dr. Seuss won’t be published again, over ‘hurtful & wrong’ imagery


 

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

VIEW COMMENTS

7 COMMENTS

  1. So what, if it’s not against Indians and Hindus? The point remains that she was a legitimately elected leader who was forced out of office by a bunch of woke, perennially offended hypocrites who levelled 3 flimsy accusations and charges. Accusations of ‘racism, ‘transphobia’ and ‘anti-semitism’ are serious charges that invite legal and criminal proceedings in the real world. Rashmi and some of the British Hindu groups that support her have been going around seeking comments on her social media posts (that were the basis of these accusations) from the communities that she supposedly offended. No one seems to be finding it offensive. So who on earth gave these bunch of self-righteous hypocrites the license to run a malicious campaign using these communities’ names? They better be prepared to face legal consequences because that is where this is going. Bullies are the worst cowards

  2. The Oxford Societies are as sold old as IE, The Print and the countless media outlets! Nobody cares for the truth and respectful coexistence in these crazy times!

  3. There is no doubt that there were hinduphobic racial attacks on Rashmi Samant. Now, push is coming to shove, people are being called out for being racists and bigoted, which they are. They are trying sugar coat their racism. Let this be a lesson for all Indians who wants to give their hard earned money to these institutions. India needs to put tax on students who pick these institutions for study.

  4. Will they ask the professor who publicly proudly says he broke idols belonging to a Hindu deity, to resign? The professor has done actions which are equally if not more dangerous than views. It is with the support of these kind of “Brown people” that “White people” have colonised India and ruled it for over 200 years , committing innumerable atrocities on Indian people. Blatantly Hinduphobic!

  5. Leftists eating each other, how amusing.

    According to Abhijit Sarkar, Karnataka is a hotbed of islamophobia.

    Do Kannadigas have anything to say about this?

    If wokistanis had a country of their own, it would be in perpetual civil war

  6. Where does this leave the Mahatma, He wrote worse stuff when in South Africa. Should we now take down his statues? May be we should. Is there no room for reform once you say something?

    • The clamour for statues of Mahatma Gandhi to be taken down are many. the University of Ghana did so. There are calls for removal of Gandhi statues in Leicester and Manchester and in many other parts of the world.

      That the Mahatma was anti-black is a fact. But it is debatable whether his statue needs to be taken down.

Comments are closed.