First Indian Female President of Oxford Student Union Forced To Resign Over Racism Row
Oxford University Student Union’s first female Indian president has been forced to resign over several social media posts which the SU deemed to be “offensive” and “racially insensitive”.
Rashmi Samant, a student of MSc energy systems at Oxford University, was forced to resign five days after her appointment to the position of President after social media posts surfaced that were labelled as antisemitic and racist.
In a statement made on Facebook, Oxford Student Union’s Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) said that Ms Samant’s activity exhibited “clear evidence of wrongdoing.” The social media posts, dating to 2017, included a picture of Ms Samant in front of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, the caption reading “the memorial casts a hollow dream of the past atrocities and deeds.” Another picture, taken in Malaysia, included a caption that read “Ching Chang.” CRAE also highlighted a recent post where Samant “made a distinction between trans women and women, thereby implying that trans women are not women and perpetuating trans-exclusionary ideology.”
CRAE accused Ms Samant of “post[ing] racially insensitive captions on social media” and proceeding “to deny the harm caused by her actions when questioned.” CRAE then encouraged the President-elect to resign, stating:
“If Ms. Samant truly intends to grow, self-educate, and better herself, she must show remorse and recognise that she is not currently capable of representing the groups to whom she has caused offence. As such, we expect her immediate letter of resignation and a formal apology to the East-Asian, Jewish, and trans communities.”
In response, Ms Samant issued an apology for “unintentionally” hurting anyone, telling the Indian Media House that “they were the posts of a teenager who just had access to the world of social media.” However, Ms Samant was unapologetic to those with “malicious intent”, telling the Indian Express:
“I believe the cancel culture mob got me. There was a conscious attempt made to unearth posts made by me in the past (going back to 2017). These posts were always there. But no one raked up any issue during the election process. It was only after I won that they were brought up. I believe my posts were not malicious or racist. To take offense you have to perceive it in a certain manner. Perhaps, people assume the worst in fellow human beings these days.”
Ms Samant’s resignation sparked outrage in India, with the Indian Foreign Minister backing the student. The Minister of External Affairs of India, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, called Oxford University’s actions racist, stating that India, “as land of Mahatma Gandhi, can never ever turn [its] eyes away from racism. Particularly so when it is in a country where we have such a large diaspora.” The Foreign Minister continued, saying that India will “take up such matters with great candour when required.”
Twitter also banned Ms Samant, stating that her account was created when she was under the age of 13.