Students gather for the Exeter Unmask rally - Image: Sarah Ader

Considering that fact that most Indian national students spent about three months getting all our documents ready for a visa and poring over procedure, we’d not easily fall for phone calls demanding money and threatening deportation. But the fact that we received one of those phone calls is the problem, really. We know that “this is a scam” but the fact that one’s race makes them an easy target for such scams is disappointing yet not surprising, least of all in Devon.

This comes a whopping three weeks after the Bracton Law Society Whatsapp Group was exposed, and students of South Asian origin were among those heavily mocked, threatened, and referred to with slurs. We’ve got to deal with casual racism on nights out (explained in much detail, literally anywhere), and in addition, South Asian women especially must ward away the exoticizing comments about “Indian princesses”, and sexualized references to the Kama Sutra. It’s easy to forget though, caught up as we are in our own experiences, that us South Asians can be just as racist and misogynistic as the next person. The example lies within the Bracton Law Society itself – some of the most vile comments were expressed by a student of South Asian origin himself.

Exeter has a pretty well established community of South Asian students – there are Bollywood events around the year and Holi, and Diwali. We express our festivities like it’s a testament to our reputation as citizens of the subcontinent, we show locals how to do henna so that it doesn’t stain your clothes, and sometimes there are even samosas sold in the Forum.

Holi at Exeter – Image: Sachi Minami

But whilst a vibrant and visible presence is existent, support structures are negligible. For instance, not as a call out but rather an observation noticed by several – the Unmask rally held right after the Bracton event was vocally attended by the committee of the African Caribbean Society, Jewish Society, members from the Conservative, Labour, and Socialist groups, and Islamic Society, and the Students’ Guild, many of whom spoke at the event. The Asian Society (ASOC) however, even after repeated requests to attend, were not present and had no response.

Considering that South Asian students were targeted, that the whistleblowers of the Whatsapp Group consisted of a few students of British Asian origins, and that racist messages came from a South Asian as well – a presence would have been appreciated. As it stood, however, the South Asian speakers were either not officially affiliated with or speaking as a member of ASOC, instead being Nicky Avasthi, Shades, Bharath Syal (DVP Intersectionality) and myself.

Support needs to come from within, and whilst socials and Diwali events are incredibly necessary, especially to find a sense of community, we also need support structures and representation

That doesn’t give anyone else a pass, however. These support structures are required for a reason, and that reason is, plain and simple, events like the Bracton scandal or these telephone messages to Indian students. These incidents create fear and paranoia, and make students feel unsafe in a university environment. It’s not a feeling primarily caused by students but rather used by them; society makes the threat of deportation viable and hence, people prey on foreign students for their own amusement. I’m supposed to be having the time of my life, really. Maybe even studying for exams, I don’t know. Or at the very least – not sitting down to write yet another article about racism.

 

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