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Karnataka Woman Forced to Step Down as Oxford Students’ Union President Plans Legal Action Against Faculty Member

Rashmi Samant, the 22-year-old from Karnataka who was forced to step down from her post as the president of the Oxford University Students Union, is likely to take legal action against a faculty member who allegedly put up a photo of her mother alongside a ‘Jai Shri Ram’ poster and suggested that the family has Islamophobic tendencies.

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.

She says she was unfairly targeted, and pointed out to the fact that there was a conscious attempt made to unearth posts made by her going back to 2017. “These posts were always there. But no one raked up any issue during the election process,” she told a newspaper.

In a piece written for earlier this month, Samant said she only stepped down because her values taught her to be ‘sensitive’: sensitive to the feelings of the people who reposed faith in her, sensitive to her convictions that above all we need to respect fellow human beings, and sensitive to the welfare of the student community that deserves a working Students Union.

She said what hurt her the most was the fact that her parents were dragged into the controversy and their religious sentiments and regional background were insulted in the public domain.

The 22-year-old had also defended her comparison of Cecil Rhodes to Adolf Hitler on, saying she was by no means attempting to demean the experience of the Holocaust.

“My intention was not to hurt my Jewish friends by mitigating Hitler’s crimes, but rather to bring to notice that both Rhodes and Hitler’s intentions were borne of the same virus of bigotry and hatred that bred targeted violence. It was an attempt to kindle the sensitivity of those who are far removed geographically and historically from the realities of the colonial enterprise. Far from being insensitive, the analogy stemmed from the deeply shared sensitivity to the disturbing experience of exclusion,” she wrote.

“I championed the cause of decolonisation because I deeply felt that much of the syllabus selectively ignores and often appropriates oppression in the guise of development and philanthropy. I did run for inclusivity and still stand for it!” she added.

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”.

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