External Affairs minister S Jaishankar said in Parliament on Monday that India can “never turn eyes away from racism” after a BJP leader raised the issue of Rashmi Samant, a 22-year-old from Karnataka who was forced to step down from her post as the president of the Oxford University Students Union in February.
“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’ve strong ties with UK. We’ll take up such matters with great candour when required,” Jaishankar said on Oxford University’s racism row.
He said India is monitoring all such cases and the developments in it closely. “We will monitor these developments very, very closely. We will raise the issue when required and we will always champion the fight against racism and other forms of intolerance.”
Rashmi Samant, the first Indian woman president of the Oxford University Students Union, had to resign from her post in February, just five days after she was elected after some of her old social media posts were termed as “anti-Semitic” and “racist”, leading to outrage.
Despite issuing an open letter of apology for “unintentionally” hurting sentiments, the Oxford Students Union Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) and Oxford LGBTQ Campaign accused her of hurting the sentiments of various communities and insisted that she step down from her new post.
In a piece she wrote for News18.com earlier this month, Samant said she was unfairly targeted and her sentiments and regional background were insulted in the public domain. “The fact that I am a Hindu in no way makes me intolerant or unfit to be the President of the Oxford SU. Contrary to this, I understand the value of diversity in its true sense though my exposure to the intricacies of the developed world is limited,” she wrote.
On Monday, BJP leader Ashwini Vaishnav told Parliament that Samant was “cyberbullied to the point that she had to resign and even the Hindu religious beliefs of her parents were publicly attacked”.
“She overcame all the challenges to become the first Indian woman president of Oxford University student’s union. What treatment was meted out to her? Shouldn’t this diversity be celebrated? Instead, she was cyberbullied to the point that she had to resign,” he said.
The CRAE, however, had said Samant’s social post were “racially insensitive” and she refused to acknowledge the “the harm caused by her actions” when questioned. The social media posts in question referred to a picture of Samant in front of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial with a caption “The memorial casts a hollow dream of the past atrocities and deeds” and another photo from Malaysia captioned as “Ching Chang”.