Incident of alleged racism in Britain against an Indian origin
On Monday, India gave back to the United Kingdom (UK) in a tit for tat way. Taking note of an incident of alleged racism in Britain against an Indian, the government on Monday said it will take up the issue with the UK when required and said “India will never turn our eyes away from racism wherever it is.” Giving this assurance in the Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said India will take up with the UK when required. He also described India as the land of Mahatma Gandhi and said “it can never turn its eyes away from racism.” This reiteration came when BJP MP Ashwini Vaishnav drew the attention of the House to the incident of racism and cyberbullying that forced Indian-origin Rashmi Samant to resign as president of the Oxford University Students Union. The Minister said New Delhi has strong ties with the UK and will take up such matters with “great candour” when required.
It is widely considered that India is extremely unhappy with the British Parliament, which debated on India’s farm laws last week, on pressures by some Khalistani Groups operating in London. India summoned the British High Commissioner to expresses displeasure also.
“I note the sentiments of the House,” Jaishankar said. “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,” he said. Rashmi Samant, the first Indian woman to be elected as president of the Oxford University Students Union, was forced to resign within five days of her appointment over several of her social media posts that were labelled anti-Semitic and racist. Vaishnav said she was cyberbullied and her parent’s Hindu religious beliefs were publicly attacked by a faculty member.
Raising the issue through a zero hour mention, Vaishnav said there appears to a continuation of attitudes and prejudices from the colonial era in the United Kingdom.
“As a friend of the UK, we also have concerns about its reputational impact,” Jaishankar said. “What I do want to say is that we have strong ties with the UK (and) we 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.
Raising the issue through a zero hour mention, Vaishnav said there appears to a continuation of attitudes and prejudices from the colonial era in the United Kingdom. Samant, a bright student from Udupi, Karnataka, overcame all challenges to become the first Indian women president of the union, he said. But “what was the treatment meted out to her?” he asked. “Shouldn’t this diversity been celebrated?” “Instead of that, she was cyberbullied to the point that she had to resign. Even the Hindu religious belief of her parents was publicly attacked by a faculty member, which went unpunished. If this happens at an institute like Oxford what is the message that goes out to the world,” he said. While she did issue a public apology for ‘unintentionally’ hurting anyone’s emotions, Samant believes she was unfairly targeted as a ‘conscious attempt’.
Vaishnav also referred to Prince Harry’s wife Meghan Markle‘s accusations of racism by UK royals. “A behavior of a society is actually a reflection of its beliefs and value system. If such practices of racial discrimination are followed at the highest level in society what would be the following at the lower levels,” he asked. Stating that the two instances were not isolated, he said the treatment of migrants and their segregation in the UK on a racial basis is very well known all over the world.
Quoting a recent report which said the death rate among people of Asian origin because of COVID-19 is higher than the death rate in other communities in the UK, the MP said “Doesn’t it raise a major question about equitable access to health and indeed the entire basic human rights issue?”
He went on to state that India is a country with a large diaspora in the UK. “There is a natural concern for all of us. The era of colonialism is over but the mindset seems to be still persistent. This is where the UK has to change. If it wants our respect, it has to change,” he said.
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