Will raise Oxford University racism issue when required: Jaishankar

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External affairs minister S Jaishankar told the Parliament on Monday that India can ‘never turn eyes away from racism’ and will champion the fight against it after a BJP leader raised the issue of Rashmi Samant, the Indian student who resigned as the president of the Oxford University’s students’ union last month after controversy over some of her socials media posts.

“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,” Jaishankar said in the Rajya Sabha.

“We will monitor these developments very closely. We will raise it when required and we will always champion the fight against racism and other forms of intolerance,” the foreign minister said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Vaishnaw slammed the “cyberbullying” Sawant faced. Vaishnaw also called out the “continuation of attitudes and prejudices from the colonial areas, especially in the UK.” “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.

Samant, the first Indian woman to be elected president of the Oxford University Students Union, quit from her post days after her election in February. Her resignation came in the backdrop of some of her old social media posts that were deemed to be “racist” and “insensitive”.

Her posts, mostly on Instagram, including one with a play on words about the Holocaust and a photo of her visit to Malaysia with the caption “Ching Chang,” were termed offensive by Jewish and Chinese students of the university. Another post in which she separated “women” and “transwomen” in the caption and her comparison of imperialist Cecil Rhodes to Adolf Hitler during a Student Union debate also upset her fellows.

Samant apologised for the social media posts, some of which dated back to 2017, in an open letter. The Oxford University Chinese Society (OUCS) responded to Samant’s initial apology by saying: “Regrettably, we have not yet heard anything directly from Rashmi Samant.

Her long-overdue public apology does not seem sincere to the OUCS. In her apology letter, Rashmi seems to be avoiding addressing her mistakes directly, and it does not show her taking responsibility for her insensitivity to race or ignorance towards the trans-community. We cannot see Rashmi as the SU president we ‘rightfully deserve’ or trust.

Samant later announced her resignation as the president-elect on Facebook as she continued to face criticism. “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. It has been an honour to be your President-elect,” she wrote in the social media post.

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