Rashmi Samant, the woman from Karnataka who made history by being the first female Indian president-elect of Oxford University Students' Union, has relinquished the post amid a row surrounding some of her old "racist" social media posts.
Days after her election, some people trawled through her old social media posts and found some of them as "racist" and "insensitive". The 22-year-old, who projected herself as an 'inclusivity' candidate, faced heat over a reference to the holocaust during her visit to Berlin Holocaust Memorial in Germany in 2017 and an Instagram post with a photo of herself in Malaysia with the caption "Ching Chang", which Chinese students perceived as offensive.
Past comes back to haunt Samant
Along with a photo of her at the memorial, she made a pun of words with the caption: "The memorial *CASTS* a *HOLLOW* dream of the past atrocities and deeds".
A student of MSc in energy systems with a focus on sustainability at Oxford University's Linacre College, Samant also attracted criticism from the LGBTQ+ community over a campaign post caption that separated women and trans women.
The controversy surrounding her social media posts refused to die down even after she issued an apology in 'The Oxford Student' newspaper. She had won the election bagging 1,966 out of 3,708 votes and was scheduled to assume the role of the president in June this year.
'Unfair to judge based on old social media posts'
While leaving London for her home in Karnataka on Wednesday, Samant said it was not fair to judge her based on her historic social media post and described herself as a sensitive person.
"I do not hate any community. Everyone thinks I am a terrible person and I am not. I have friends in all these communities and I love them. I was a totally different person five years ago. People don't realise until it happens to them," she was quoted as saying by Times of India.
Defending her holocaust post, Samant said she was young when she wrote that post and didn't mean to be insensitive. "I was trying to make a pun on words and I am a non-native English speaker," she said.
Amid backlash, Samant returns to home in Karnataka
Oxford Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) and Oxford LGBTQ+ Campaign had called for her resignation after her social media posts resurfaced. In a statement, CREA said she not only posted racially insensitive captions on social media but "proceeded to deny the harm caused by her actions when questioned".
In a statement, Oxford University Students' Union sabbatical officers said, "We sincerely apologise for the hurt and discomfort caused by the actions of the President-elect. Racism, transphobia, and antisemitism have no place in our organisation".
However, UK-based Free Speech Union defended her, with its founder and journalist Toby Young terming her resignation over the posts as "disappointing". Young said Samant's apology "should have been enough".
An alumnus of Manipal Institute of Technology, Samant said she resigned because the students didn't think her apology was sincere enough and that she didn't want to start the presidency with lack of trust. Samant said she has deactivated her social media accounts and returned to India to take a break "from all this".