“Will take up when required”: External Affair Minister Jaishankar after Indian student Rashmi Samant forced to resign as Oxford University’s student union president

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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said that India was monitoring the controversy surrounding Rashmi Samant, who was recently forced to step down as the president of Oxford University’s student union in the wake of an uproar over her past social media posts. Jaishankar’s statement came in response to a question by BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Ashwini Vaishnav, who said that the 22-year-old Indian student had fallen victim to racism in the UK.

Vaishnav said that Samant was cyberbullied and her Hindu beliefs by a faculty member. He said, “I want to bring the attention of the House to a shared global concern about racism. There appears to be a continuation of attitudes and prejudices from the colonial era especially in UK.”

Samant had become the first Indian woman to become the president of Oxford University’s student union. However, she found herself at the centre of a full-blown controversy after her past social media posts on other racial groups and gender were dug up. According to NDTV, her controversial social media posts included a holocaust reference during a visit to the Berlin Holocaust Memorial in Germany in 2017 and an Instagram caption on a picture of herself in Malaysia that read ‘Ching Chang.’ This had left Chinese students incensed.

In one of her campaign posts, Samant had separated women from trans women triggering demand for her resignation.

Responding to Vaishnav’s question, Jaishankar said in the parliament, “I note the sentiments of the House.” He added, “I do want to say that as a land of Mahatma Gandhi, we can never ever turn our eyes away from racism wherever it is. Particularly so when it is in a country where we have such a large diaspora.”

Jaishankar said that India had ‘strong ties with the UK’ adding that he will ‘take up such matters with great candour when required.’ “We will monitor these developments very, very closely. We will raise it when required and we will always champion the fight against racism and other forms of intolerance,” he added.

As for Samant, she issued a statement on her Facebook page, “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.”

Samant, who hails from Karnataka’s Udipi district, was pursuing MSc in energy systems at Linacre College at Oxford University. She has returned to India as the controversy over her social media posts gained momentum.

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