Rashmi Samant, Indian president-elect of Oxford student union quits over ‘racist’ social media posts
New Delhi, Mar 12: After being elected the first Indian woman president of the University of Oxford's Students' Union, a 22-year-old student from Karnataka's Udupi was forced to quit after some of her old social media posts that were deemed to be "racist" and "insensitive".
Rashmi Samant, a student of MSc in Energy Systems, contested the elections for Presidency of Student Union and won the election. She had positioned herself as an "inclusivity" candidate in the election and campaigned to "decolonise" the Oxford syllabus and to remove all statues proven to be imperialist, including that of Christopher Codrington at the Conference of Colleges.
One Instagram post that showed her at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin in 2017 was captioned: "The memorial *CASTS* a *HOLLOW* dream of the past atrocities and deeds" and another photo from Malaysia captioned as "Ching Chang".
Speaking to leading newspaper, Rashmi said that was her first trip to Europe. "I was young and I didn't know better. I did not mean to be insensitive. I was trying to make a pun on words and I am a non-native English speaker."
Although Rashmi apologised in an open letter as soon as the posts emerged but as the clamour for her resignation refused to die down, she announced on Facebook on Tuesday that she has decided to quit as president-elect.
She wrote: "I wish to ask a question to all who termed me insensitive and racist citing my social media posts of the past. Are you being sensitive when you judge a person's worth based on social media captions of a non-native English speaking teenager that were posted years before the person formed convictions on issues of race? Let me reiterate this: those posts are not a reflection of my hatred towards communities. They were the posts of a teenager who just had access to the world of social media. I again reiterate my apology to those genuinely hurt for my ignorance but not to those with malicious intent targeted me on 'insensitivity'."
However, the student union expressed regret and said it has a no-tolerance policy towards discrimination. There will now be a by-election.
Rashmi also claims that her parents and religion were dragged into the controversy and subjected to hateful messages.
Following a backlash over some old social media posts,Twitter even suspended her account over the post.
Even after a suspension of 36 hours and deleting all of her followers, Twitter restricted her account again hours after restoring her account.
Post which, Samant questioned the social media giant for curtailing her right to free speech.
When I thought I could not be humiliated even more, my account was suspended. Restored after 36 hours with zero followers. Freedom of Speech? https://t.co/yXgblIDAcs— Rashmi Samant (@Rashmidvs) March 9, 2021
Twitter has alleged that Samant, a 22-year-old MSc student in energy systems, concealed her true age when she created her online account, which was against its regulatory guidelines.
A similar story had come to light in 2019 involving physicist Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar, who had completed his masters and PhD from Cambridge University.