Rashmi Samant, the woman from Karnataka who recently became the first female Indian elect of Oxford University Student’s Union, relinquished her post after being abused, bullied and targeted for being a Hindu and over her views against colonisation.
In what appeared like a coordinated attack, Rashmi Samant’s old social media posts were dredged up, accusing her of being racist, anti-semitic, Islamophobic, transphobic and even for her Hindu roots. Samant was elected to the prestigious post on February 11 and within a week, She tendered her resignation after facing a barrage of online criticism and abuse.
The controversy erupted after Cherwell, a weekly student newspaper published by Oxford, reported that Rashmi had commented on an image on Instagram of herself in Malaysia with the words “Ching Chang”, a pun involving the Holocaust. In another caption, Rashmi drew a comparison between Former Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (present-day South Africa) Cecil Rhodes and Adolf Hitler in a Student Union presidential debate. Samant was also accused of separating ‘women’ and ‘transwomen’ in a caption.
In addition, the Oxford Student Union’s Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) and the Oxford SU LGBTQ Campaign also criticised the President-elect on social media for her allegedly callous social media posts and for refusing to take accountability for the same.
Rashmi Samant attacked for her being a proud practicing Hindu
Besides the aforementioned allegations, Rashmi was also targeted for being a devout Hindu. One of the faculty members in Oxford even penned a post, dragging Rashmi’s parents into the controversy, attacking them for having a Lord Shri Ram display picture on their social media accounts while alleging that Rashmi’s student council elections were funded by Prime Minister Modi.
INSANE! Rashmi Samant the 1st Indian President of Oxford SU stepped down bcz she ws bullied,abused for being a Hindu and also for old random posts. What’s worse a faculty in Oxford attacked her parents for a lord Sri Ram DP while accusing her of being funded by PM @narendramodi pic.twitter.com/lufikbawaT— Maya (@Sharanyashettyy) February 28, 2021
In a particularly vile post, the member of the Oxford University accused Rashmi of being Islamophobic by alleging that she came from coastal Karnataka, which the faculty member termed as “a bastion of Islamophobic far-right forces”. The professor also attacked Samant for her views on decolonisation and in doing so, also demonstrated the perverted understanding of the Hindu culture and traditions prevalent among many westerners.
“…Far-right Desi forces hate White people and Western modernity because they want to reinstate Sanatan Hindu “culture” with its inherent caste-based tortures and the most violent form of patriarchy. Of course, they are always ready to destroy statues of non-Hindutva people, be it Muslims or Christians or liberal Hindus,” the post read.
Rashmi defends herself, claims being Hindu and chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is not a crime
Rashmi subsequently resigned from her elected position and returned to her home in the Udupi district of Karnataka but not before posting an open letter on her Facebook account after she was subjected to online bullying and cancel culture. In her letter, Rashmi described the privilege of being elected as the President of the Student’s Union at Oxford as one of the greatest honours of her life.
She subsequently also spoke about the cyberbullying she had to face for her Hindu faith and social media posts that she had posted in the distant past. Rashmi was particularly hurt by the unwarranted attack unleashed against her parents by a Faculty member and for insulting their religious sentiments and regional background in the public domain.
Defending her Hindu roots, Rashmi said, “The fact that I am a Hindu 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.”
Rashmi then went on to explain her reason for resignation. ” I stepped down because my values taught me to be ‘sensitive’: sensitive to the feelings of the people who reposed their faith in me, sensitive to my convictions that above all we need to respect fellow human beings, and sensitive to the welfare of the student community that deserves a working SU, and at the personal level, sensitive to the effects of cyberbullying that is targeted against me in the name of ‘sensitivity!”
In an interview with India Ahead News, Samant defended herself, stating that the social media posts by her were made 5 years ago, when she was still a teenager and had not formed her convictions about the issues. She also added that the captions made by her, which were touted by many racist and anti-semitic were made in pun and not with a malicious intent to hurt others.
Indian president elect of Oxford student union Rashmi Samant quits over racist social media post. Rashmi tells @nehakhanna_07 that her posts were misinterpreted. Watch this exclusive conversation on her side of the story.— India Ahead News (@IndiaAheadNews) February 27, 2021
Watch the full show here: https://t.co/vN8Msqw8Gn pic.twitter.com/GjgQayL073
In her post, Rashmi had also asserted that colonisation is perceived differently by colonisers and the victims of colonisation. She wrote that she had run a campaign focusing on the habit of colonisers to impose their perspective on the indigenous people and had called for introspection of the granted notions of colonisation.
When asked about her parents being dragged into the controversy by a faculty member of Oxford University, Samant said that being Hindu and chanting “Jai Shri Ram” is not a crime and she was perturbed that her parent’s religious feelings and manifestations were openly insulted and attacked as a means to pressurise her into resigning from the post.