Black Lives Matter: India’s national high jump record-holder Tejaswin Shankar leads anti-racism protest in USA | #students | #parents

Hundreds of thousands are coming on the roads demanding equal treatment towards the people of colour. The movement Black Lives Matter has been gaining pace ever since the death of George Floyd – the 46-year-old American.

Indians are no different in this struggle and two Indian students, including national high jump record-holder Tejaswin Shankar, are leading an anti-racism campaign on the campus of Kansas State University in the US.

The controversy on Kansas State University campus erupted on June 23, when the president of a student group called ‘America Students First’, Jaden McNeil posted on Twitter: “Congratulations to George Floyd for being drug-free for an entire month.”

An emergency Zoom meeting of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee was held in the wake of Neil’s tweet and being the marketing chair Tejaswin was part of the meeting.

Tejaswin has supported several other athletes of colour on a sports scholarship at the university by threatening an immediate pull-out from training and competition if the “hateful remarks” from the fellow students continued.

In an interview with The Indian Express, Tejaswin claimed he had only taken a principled stand by standing with athletes of colour.

“If somebody thinks of me like this, then why should I play for them? I don’t want people like these who make these comments on Twitter and days later support me in a competition when they can’t support me out of competition in personal life… It is my moral responsibility as a teammate to stand by the teammates,” Shankar was quoted as saying.

Another Indian student Vedant Kulkarni is leading another fight by voicing the concerns of the international students in the wake of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement announcement that international students in the US will have to return to their home countries if they are enrolled in programmes that are entirely online for the fall semester.

Kulkarni, who is majoring in Management Information Systems and Mass Communication and is Director of the Student Governing Association (International Affairs), was hounded by McNeil and his supporters on Twitter.

Responding to Kulkarni’s tweet that international students deserve to be in the USA, McNeil said: “You are entitled to nothing. Living in the US isn’t a human right.” And it was followed by trolls and abuses on social media for Kulkarni. However, several students stood behind Kulkarni and he even found support from the president of Kansas State University Richard Myers.

Myers put out a letter, asking the administration “to fast-track plans to combat racism, bigotry and other forms of social injustice”. The letter further stated: “Students, faculty, staff and alumni who are badly hurt or embarrassed for our university are rightly calling for social justice and demanding change. The university supports these demands and believes actions are needed.”

Myers also issued a statement denouncing the new “student visitor rules” as “immoral and counterproductive”.

Grant Chapman, Associate Provost for International Programs at the university, said in an email to The Indian Express that he agreed with “our Kansas State University president Richard Myres on this matter (student visitor rules)”.

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