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First Indian female president of Oxford University students’ union QUITS

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The first Indian female president of Oxford University’s students’ union has been forced to step down after ‘racist’ and ‘insensitive’ social media posts from her past were unearthed just days after her election.

Rashmi Samant – who campaigned to decolonise the Oxford syllabus and remove ‘imperialist’ statues – last night announced she is withdrawing as President-Elect of the union following criticism of several online posts dating as far back as 2017, for which she has since apologised.

The student, from Karnataka in South-West India, had captioned a photo of herself in Malaysia with the words ‘Ching Chang’, made a ‘pun’ about the Holocaust while at a memorial in Berlin, and referred to ‘women’ and ‘transwomen’ separately in an Instagram post.

Ms Samant previously claimed that the phrase ‘Ching Chang’ translates from Mandarin to ‘eat the plants,’ which was an inside joke between herself and her friends due to her vegetarianism. 

However, Mandarin speakers claim that ‘ching’ cannot be written in pinyin and that this translation is a reverse Google Translation of the phrase, not a term used by an authentic native speaker. 

Critics slammed the posts as ‘racist’ and ‘insensitive’, with the Oxford Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality and the LGBTQ+ Campaign both calling on Ms Samant to resign shortly after she was elected.

Ms Samant, who has also courted controversy for comparing British imperialist Cecil Rhodes to Hitler in a Student Union debate, appears to have since deleted both her Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Today she was defended by the Free Speech Union, whose general secretary Toby Young said it was ‘disappointed’ to see Ms Samant resign from her post, adding in a statement: ‘She has apologised for the things she said and that should have been enough.

Rashmi Samant (pictured) last night announced she is withdrawing as President-Elect of the Oxford Student Union after apologising for several widely criticised social media posts

In an open letter published by student newspaper Cherwell, Ms Samant apologised to ‘every student who has been hurt by my actions or words and seek a chance to gain your trust in me again’.

She added: ‘I fully acknowledge my shortcomings over the years and the past few days in my capacity as President-elect. 

‘I come to you with an apology and a willingness to learn. I earnestly seek your help in making amends for my mistakes.’ 

Despite her apology, Ms Samant yesterday announced on Facebook that she had decided to step down as President-Elect.

‘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,’ she revealed.

Graduate student Ms Samant became the first female Indian President of the Oxford University Student Union last week following their biggest-ever turnout for voting.  

Indian MP Shobha Karandlaje hailed Ms Samant’s landmark win on social media, describing her success as a ‘moment of pride for [the] whole [of] Udupi!’  

The postgraduate student had studied at the Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka before accepting a postgraduate place at Oxford University. 

Ms Samant, who went to school in Manipal and Udupi, is the daughter of Vathsala Samant, a homemaker, and businessman Dinesh Samant, the Times of India reported.

Her manifesto (pictured)  included plans to 'tackle institutional homophobia and transphobia, first through conducting a university-wide consultation with the LGBTQ+ community'

Her manifesto (pictured)  included plans to ‘tackle institutional homophobia and transphobia, first through conducting a university-wide consultation with the LGBTQ+ community’

Indian MP Shobha Karandlaje hailed Ms Samant's landmark win on social media, describing her success as a 'moment of pride for [the] whole [of] Udupi!'

Indian MP Shobha Karandlaje hailed Ms Samant’s landmark win on social media, describing her success as a ‘moment of pride for [the] whole [of] Udupi!’

According to Oxford University, Ms Samant received 1,966 of the 3,708 votes cast for SU President – which is more than all three of her opponents combined.

But Ms Samant was thrust into controversy after social media posts recently emerged which saw her branded ‘insensitive’ and ‘racist’. 

In one, she was seen posing at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial in June 2017.

The caption reportedly read: ‘The memorial *CASTS* a *HOLLOW* dream of the past atrocities and deeds. Reflecting on it gives us the power to live with the past vouching for a better future. #holocaustMemorial #uniqueArchitecture’.    

The comment was perceived as a ‘pun’ on the Holocaust, an atrocity during which millions of Jewish people were murdered by the Nazis.

After being approached by a concerned student, Ms Samant reportedly said she ‘completely condemns’ the Holocaust and insisted she was ‘not being insensitive.’ 

Following a post from Malaysia in which she used the caption ‘Ching Chang’, one Chinese student told Cherwell it was ‘awful’ that Ms Samant appeared to ‘show no remorse for the use of a phrase which has been used to make fun of Chinese people for our whole lives.’ 

It is understood a by-election will now be held to elect a new SU President. Pictured: Oxford University Student Union

It is understood a by-election will now be held to elect a new SU President. Pictured: Oxford University Student Union

Oxford SU President-Elect steps down: Who is Rashmi Samant?

Rashmi Samant was last week elected as the first Indian female president of the Oxford University Student Union after its biggest-ever voter turnout.

The postgraduate is studying for an MSc in Energy Systems at Linacre College.

She previously attended the Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka before accepting a postgraduate place at Oxford University.

Ms Samant, who went to school in Manipal and Udupi in southwest India, is the daughter of Vathsala and Dinesh Samant, a businessman from Parkala and a homemaker. 

The student, who speaks several languages, has previously held the position of Women’s Representative at Linacre College.

She was also on the Student Council in India as a Sabbatical Officer.  

Her course ends this year but her father Mr Samant said she was expecting to serve a year in the Students Union post before returning to India next year.

Ms Samant has also since apologised for the post which separated ‘women’ and ‘transwomen’.

The Free Speech Union today said it was ‘disappointed’ to see Ms Samant resign from her post, adding: ‘She has apologised for the things she said and that should have been enough.’

A spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Publicly shaming young people and hounding them from the public square just because they’ve said something a bit daft on social media will deter all but the most boring to get involved in student politics. 

‘I hope Rashmi runs for office again soon.’

Free speech campaigner Calvin Robinson added: ‘Whilst we must do all we can do clamp down on racism where it still exists, we must also not lose perspective and context should always be considered. 

‘Rashmi’s comments were entirely inappropriate, there’s no doubt about that, but she has since apologised. It is now our job to forgive her and move on.

‘We need to get to a point where we can accept someone for the person they are today, without trudging through their social media history from years ago in order to find evidence to discredit them. 

‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Cancel culture is unforgive and unhelpful; it’s a misguided approach at social justice. 

‘We’d do far better to remember the British value – the Christian value – of forgiveness.’

It comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced a series of measures aimed to protect free speech.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Williamson warned against the ‘chilling effect’ of ‘unacceptable silencing and censoring’ on university campuses.     

In an interview with the Oxford Student ahead of her win, Ms Samant had described her priorities as ‘decolonisation and inclusivity’, alongside introducing ‘Covid interventions for all’ and improving access to mental health resources.

The MSc Energy Systems student, who moved to the UK from southwest India in October, had planned to lobby the University to ‘remove all statues proven to be imperialist’, and ‘conduct a comprehensive consultation on decolonisation of syllabi.’

Her manifesto also included plans to ‘tackle institutional homophobia and transphobia, first through conducting a university-wide consultation with the LGBTQ+ community.’     

It read: ‘Being a BAME woman from a former British colony, Rashmi is empathetic towards the struggles faced by marginalised groups.’  

The current Sabbatical Officers of the Student Union yesterday released a statement in the wake of the controversy.  

They said: ‘As your elected representatives and in recognition of the Office we hold, we sincerely apologise for the hurt and discomfort caused by the actions of the President-elect.

‘Oxford SU has a no tolerance policy towards discrimination. Racism, transphobia, and antisemitism have no place in our organisation.’ 

It is understood a by-election will now be held to elect a new SU President.  

Ms Samant, Oxford University and the Oxford University Student Union have been contacted for comment.    

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