India says president of Oxford students union was VICTIM of 'racism'

India says pioneering female president of Oxford students union was the VICTIM of ‘racism’ after she was forced to quit over ‘racist’ social media posts by ‘cancel culture mob’

  • Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told MPs he would talk to UK about Rashmi Samant
  • Ms Samant claimed that a ‘cancel culture mob’ had brought about her removal
  • She was accused of racism after a picture in Malaysia had words ‘Ching Chang’
  • She was ‘insensitive’ to Jews after posting a photo at Berlin Holocaust Memorial
  • Ms Samant apologised for posts but resigned under pressure from campaigners

The first Indian female president of Oxford University’s students’ union has been backed by India’s foreign minister after she was forced to resign.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told MPs he would talk to Britain about Rashmi Samant after she had to step down due to old social media posts.

He suggested her treatment was ‘racism’ and vowed his country would ‘never ever turn our eyes away from’ it.

Ms Samant, an energy systems master’s student at Linacre College, claimed a ‘cancel culture mob’ had brought about her removal.

The student, from Karnataka in south-west India, was accused of racism after she captioned a photo of herself in Malaysia with the words ‘Ching Chang’.

Ms Samant previously claimed the phrase ‘Ching Chang’ translates from Mandarin to ‘eat the plants’ – an inside joke about her vegetarianism.

But Mandarin speakers said the term is a reverse Google Translation not used by native speakers.

She was also ‘insensitive’ to Jews after posting a photo at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, saying: ‘The memorial *CASTS* a *HOLLOW* dream of the past atrocities.’

Ms Samant issued an apology for the posts but resigned under pressure from the Oxford Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality and the LGBTQ+ Campaign.

Ms Samant (pictured), an energy systems master’s student at Linacre College, claimed a ‘cancel culture mob’ had brought about her removal 

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (pictured) told MPs he would talk to Britain about Rashmi Samant after she had to step down due to old social media posts

Mr Jaishankar told MPs yesterday he would discuss the issue with Britain, adding: ‘As the land of Mahatma Gandhi, we can never ever turn our eyes away from racism.

‘Particularly so when it is in a country where we have such a large diaspora. We have strong ties with the UK. We will take up such matters with great candour when required.’

Ashwini Vaishnaw, from the Bharatiya Janata Party, claimed her treatment was a ‘continuation of attitudes and prejudices from the colonial areas’.

What did Rashmi Samant say?

‘Holocaust ‘pun” (June 2017): ‘The memorial *CASTS* a *HOLLOW* dream of the past atrocities and deeds. Reflecting on it gives us the power to live with the past vouching for a bettecr future. #holocaustMemorial #uniqueArchitecture’.

‘Ching Chang’ (December 2019): Following a post from Malaysia in which she used the caption ‘Ching Chang’, one Chinese student told Cherwell it was ‘awful’ that Ms Samant appeared to ‘show no remorse for the use of a phrase which has been used to make fun of Chinese people for our whole lives.’  

‘Women vs transwomen’ [date N/A]: In an Instagram post, she wrote ‘women, transwomen and men’. By separating ‘women’ from ‘transwomen’, she was accused of transphobia. 

‘Cecil is like Hitler’ (February 2021): At a union debate uploaded to YouTube, Ms Samant commented on Oriel’s statue of Cecil Rhodes: ‘If an organisation would come up to you and give you a heap of money to set up a scholarship and say ‘I want to name this the Hitler fund or the Hitler scholarship’, would you do it?’

Before she stepped down, Ms Samant apologised to ‘every student who has been hurt by my actions or words and seek a chance to gain your trust in me again’.

She wrote in Cherwell: ‘I fully acknowledge my shortcomings over the years and the past few days in my capacity as President-elect.

‘I come to you with an apology and a willingness to learn. I earnestly seek your help in making amends for my mistakes.’

Despite her apology, Ms Samant announced on February 16 she had decided to resign as President-Elect.

She wrote on Facebook: ‘In light of the recent events surrounding my election to the Presidency of the Oxford SU, I believe it is best for me to step down from the role.’

She added: ‘It has been an honour to be your President-Elect.’

But when she returned to India she claimed she had been a victim of a ‘cancel culture mob’ fuelled by ‘anti-Hindu prejudice’.

She told the Indian Express: ‘There was a conscious attempt made to unearth posts made by me…

‘It was only after I won that they were brought up. I believe my posts were not malicious or racist.’

Oxford’s Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality told the Times: ‘There is no suggestion of malicious intent; as such, CRAE is confident in its firm recommendation that the president-elect should stand down from her position.’

Graduate student Ms Samant became the first female Indian President of the Oxford University Student Union following their biggest-ever turnout for voting.

Indian MP Shobha Karandlaje hailed Ms Samant’s landmark win on social media, describing her success as a ‘moment of pride for [the] whole [of] Udupi!’

The postgraduate student had studied at the Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka before accepting a postgraduate place at Oxford University.

Ms Samant, who went to school in Manipal and Udupi, is the daughter of Vathsala Samant, a homemaker, and businessman Dinesh Samant, the Times reports.

Her manifesto (pictured)  included plans to ‘tackle institutional homophobia and transphobia, first through conducting a university-wide consultation with the LGBTQ+ community’

Indian MP Shobha Karandlaje hailed Ms Samant’s landmark win on social media, describing her success as a ‘moment of pride for [the] whole [of] Udupi!’

According to Oxford University, Ms Samant received 1,966 of the 3,708 votes cast for SU President – which is more than all three of her opponents combined.

But Ms Samant was thrust into controversy after social media posts recently emerged which saw her branded ‘insensitive’ and ‘racist’.

In one, she was seen posing at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial in Germany in June 2017.

Oxford SU President-Elect steps down: Who is Rashmi Samant?

Oxford student Rashmi Samant

Rashmi Samant was last week elected as the first Indian female president of the Oxford University Student Union after its biggest-ever voter turnout.

The postgraduate is studying for an MSc in Energy Systems at Linacre College.

She previously attended the Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka before accepting a postgraduate place at Oxford University.

Ms Samant, who went to school in Manipal and Udupi in southwest India, is the daughter of Vathsala and Dinesh Samant, a businessman from Parkala and a homemaker. 

The student, who speaks several languages, has previously held the position of Women’s Representative at Linacre College.

She was also on the Student Council in India as a Sabbatical Officer.  

Her course ends this year but her father Mr Samant said she was expecting to serve a year in the Students Union post before returning to India next year. 

In an interview with the Oxford Student ahead of her win, Ms Samant had described her priorities as ‘decolonisation and inclusivity’, alongside introducing ‘Covid interventions for all’ and improving access to mental health resources.

The MSc Energy Systems student, who moved to the UK from India in October, had planned to lobby the University to ‘remove all statues proven to be imperialist’, and ‘conduct a comprehensive consultation on decolonisation of syllabi.’

Her manifesto also included plans to ‘tackle institutional homophobia and transphobia, first through conducting a university-wide consultation with the LGBTQ+ community.’

The caption reportedly read: ‘The memorial *CASTS* a *HOLLOW* dream of the past atrocities and deeds.

‘Reflecting on it gives us the power to live with the past vouching for a better future. #holocaustMemorial #uniqueArchitecture’. 

The comment was perceived as a ‘pun’ on the Holocaust, an atrocity during which millions of Jewish people were murdered by the Nazis.

One student, known as Ethan, chose to message Ms Samant explaining why her Holocaust post was offensive. 

In messages seen by Cherwell, Ms Samant responded: ‘I completely condemn the Holocaust in that caption and am not being insensitive.

‘It is upto [sic] the interpreter. I am by the end of the day [sic] a non-native English student. I wouldn’t even dare to be insensitive about something like that’. 

When told her actions were perceived as insensitive, she replied: ‘I don’t agree with you there.’ 

Ethan told Cherwell: ‘The main problem I have with her responses is that she focused her election slate around inclusion and acceptance, but when she was called out for ignorance, she has made no effort to recognise her mistakes’.  

Following a post from Malaysia in which she used the caption ‘Ching Chang’, one Chinese student told Cherwell it was ‘awful’ Ms Samant appeared to ‘show no remorse for the use of a phrase which has been used to make fun of Chinese people for our whole lives.’

Ms Samant also apologised for an Instagram post which separated ‘women’ and ‘transwomen’.

The Free Speech Union said last month it was ‘disappointed’ to see Ms Samant resign from her post.

A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘She has apologised for the things she said and that should have been enough.

‘Publicly shaming young people and hounding them from the public square just because they’ve said something a bit daft on social media will deter all but the most boring to get involved in student politics. I hope Rashmi runs for office again soon.’

Free speech campaigner Calvin Robinson added: ‘Whilst we must do all we can do clamp down on racism where it still exists, we must also not lose perspective and context should always be considered.

‘Rashmi’s comments were entirely inappropriate, there’s no doubt about that, but she has since apologised. It is now our job to forgive her and move on.

‘We need to get to a point where we can accept someone for the person they are today, without trudging through their social media history from years ago in order to find evidence to discredit them.

‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Cancel culture is unforgive and unhelpful; it’s a misguided approach at social justice.

‘We’d do far better to remember the British value – the Christian value – of forgiveness.’

It is understood a by-election will now be held to elect a new SU President. Pictured: Oxford University Student Union

In an interview with the Oxford Student ahead of her win, Ms Samant had described her priorities as ‘decolonisation and inclusivity’, alongside introducing ‘Covid interventions for all’ and improving access to mental health resources.

The MSc Energy Systems student, who moved to the UK from India in October, had planned to lobby the University to ‘remove all statues proven to be imperialist’, and ‘conduct a comprehensive consultation on decolonisation of syllabi.’

Her manifesto also included plans to ‘tackle institutional homophobia and transphobia, first through conducting a university-wide consultation with the LGBTQ+ community.’

It read: ‘Being a BAME woman from a former British colony, Rashmi is empathetic towards the struggles faced by marginalised groups.’

The current Sabbatical Officers of the Student Union released a statement in the wake of the controversy. 

It said: ‘As your elected representatives and in recognition of the Office we hold, we sincerely apologise for the hurt and discomfort caused by the actions of the President-elect. Oxford SU has a no tolerance policy towards discrimination. Racism, transphobia, and antisemitism have no place in our organisation.’ 

It is understood a by-election will now be held to elect a new SU President.
  

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