06:12 GMT14 April 2021
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    Rashmi Samant, 22, the first-ever Indian woman to be elected president of the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU), was forced to step down from her position within a week of being elected because of her past social media posts. Samant claims she is being targeted due to her Hindu faith.

    The University of Oxford on Wednesday was subjected to intense criticism on Indian social media after several of its student groups, including the famed Oxford India Society, debunked the "misleading narrative" of Indian student Rashmi Samant, who alleged that she had been forced to step down as the student union president-elect due to being a Hindu.

    "Neither her nationality nor her religion are what prompted the calls for her resignation. Her narrative of this being a racist attack against her undermines real experiences of racism of students at the university", read a joint statement issued by the campus groups Oxford India Society, Oxford Hindu Society, and Oxford South Asian Society.

    The campus outfits claimed that Samant's "refusal" to apologise for her past social media posts is what triggered calls for her resignation as president-elect of the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) last month.

     

    Many prominent Indian social media users, including the governing Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) foreign policy department chief Vijay Chauthaiwale, lambasted the British university after its campus groups turned the table on Samant in the ongoing row.

    ​Samant's case has attracted widespread attention in India, with Foreign Minister Subramaniam Jaishankar stating in parliament this month that New Delhi was "closely monitoring" the developments.

    UK Police Open Probe Into Samant's Cyberbullying Claims

    Meanwhile, police in the United Kingdom have initiated a probe against one of the university's professors, Dr Abhijit Sarkar, who has been accused of racially vilifying Samant in a social media post.

    Sarkar allegedly made derogatory references to Samant's home state of Karnataka, describing it as a "bastion of Islamophobic far-right forces". A complaint against Sarkar was filed on Tuesday by UK-based Hindu outfit Global Hindu Federation, with Thames Valley Police reportedly probing the incident as a "hate crime".

    ​Oxford University on Tuesday also confirmed that it had launched a separate probe to corroborate the allegations by Samant, with a university spokesperson stating that it had "strong policies" in place to check online harassment.

    "The university is fully committed to creating an environment where people of all backgrounds, including our Hindu students and staff, can feel welcome, valued, and respected", said the spokesperson.

    The 22-year-old Samant returned to India after the controversy and is currently completing her MSc course in Energy Systems remotely, claiming that all of the "cyberbullying" she has been receiving in the wake of her resignation made it difficult for her to return to the UK at this stage.

    Samant claimed that she has already apologised for her past social media posts, which involved disparaging remarks against Jews and East Asians as well as transgenders. However, the storm over her past posts refused to die down as she was forced to step down from her position as president-elect of OUSU within a week of being elected.

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    United Kingdom, India, Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), oxford university
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