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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Germany's Ambassador Remarked "India is not a Country of Rapists"

Verdict :

Possible time of origin : March 09, 2015

Circulation platforms : Internet

Circulation geography : World

Original Message Version Under Analysis:
New Delhi, 9th March 2015
Dear Prof. Beck-Sickinger, 
it has been brought to my attention that you denied an internship to a male Indian student, giving "the rape problem in India" as a reason. Let me make it clear at the outset that I strongly object to this.
The 2012 Nirbhaya rape case has refocused attention on the issue of violence against women. Rape is indeed a serious issue in India as in most countries, including Germany. In India, the Nirbhaya case has triggered a lively honest, sustained and very healthy public debate - a public debate of a quality that wouldn't be possible in many other countries. The Indian Government and Indian civil society organisations are very committed to tackling the issue.
Yesterday we celebrated International Women's Day at the German Embassy here in Delhi with many local activists including many men. Your oversimplifying and discriminating generalization is an offense to these women and men ardently committed to furthering women empowerment in India; and it is an offense to millions of law-abiding, tolerant, open-minded and hard-working Indians. Let's be clear: India is not a country of rapists.
I would encourage you to learn more about the diverse, dynamic and fascinating country and the many welcoming and open-minded people of India so that you could correct a simplistic image, which - in my opinion - is particularly unsuitable for a professor and teacher.
Sincerely yours,
Michael Steiner  
Source: Germany's ambassador to India, Michael Steiner wrote in an open letter to the Professor on March 09, 2015.

Analysis by Merofact Awareness Team: 
First of all we want to mention that the reason behind this open letter above from Germany's ambassador to India, Michael Steiner, is revelation of scandalous half thread of messages surfaced on question-and-answer website Quora. We were already mourning for Nirbhaya, and the series of events that followed till that day surrounding controversy over the documentary "India's Daughter", specially after BBC broadcast it, is just added insult to the injury for many common indians.
The viral post on quora involves description of email exchanges between a lady Professor in Germany and a male internship aspirant student in India. The first snapshot posted on quora from the likely longer thread of email exchanges between them reads "Dear Sir,
unfortunately I don’t accept any Indian male students for internships. We hear a lot about the rape problem in India which I cannot support. I have many female students in my group, so I think this attitude is something I cannot support.
With kind regards,
This is how the Professor denied the internship aspirant a temporary working opportunity in her laboratory! This is undoubtedly an utterly hideous comment and an unfathomable thought. Moreover this can not by any means be disregarded or downplayed as this is coming from a Professor in science. Fortunately sanity prevailed and things went in a way exactly as it could be after the catastrophic messages became viral. What followed within few hours after this is, Germany's ambassador to India, Michael Steiner wrote an open letter to the ProfessorProfessor Margret Wintermantel of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) made a statement that the case was a "regrettable one-off and apparently a huge misunderstanding"The implicated Professor apologized saying "Ich habe einen Fehler gemacht" (Deutsche / German) and even the University also posted an detailed explanation on the issue. All these happened the same day quora post appeared.
Now let's ask ourselves what we know about the first direct victim affected by those discriminating thoughts (if true). First of all we hope he gets whistle-blower immunity. As the identity of the implicated Professor didn't remain hidden even for few hours after the quora post. Whereas the smart quora post from his (student) self declared colleague starts with
"NOTE: While writing Answers, please DO NOT expose the Email and Phone of the professor. Respect the privacy of others.".
Though he didn't post any snapshot of any messages he or his colleague has send to the Professor under public scrutiny now.
So how everyone came to know about the identity of the implicated Professor? The quora post allowed everyone to know the information on the Department, University, Address with Country, even allowed an explicit proof to the domain name of the sender's email. Though names and email ids were removed, a simple thumbnail image of the sender slipped the attention of the equal opportunity seeker. 
Few hours later Deccan Chronicle posted a report on that discriminating comments along with an image of the Professor Annette Beck-Sickinger, the professor at Institute of Biochemistry, Leipzig University, Germany. Source of the image was credited to www.uni-leipzig.de. Hindustan Times reported after the Prof. apologized and again with her close up image, except photo courtesy was given to biochemie.uni-leipzig.de/agbs.  
When we translated the University explanation on the issue, we came to know that in her module on 'Bioorganic Chemistry' in the University, have 4 student from India out of a total of 30 students. And 2 Indian students are currently working in her laboratory as part of lab courses. At the University of Leipzig 44 students from India are currently enrolled, of which only 15 are female.(Dear Deutsche reader, please correct us if we've misinterpreted anything from the original post on the University website). Translation of the University posted explanation by Washington Post reports that "the student was rejected for the internship because no openings were available. The university added that the e-mail conversation between Beck-Sickinger and the student began when the student did not accept that reasoning and engaged Beck-Sickinger in a conversation about the “social conditions in Germany and India. Still, the professor apologized for making “defamatory” comments about Indian society."
The Local (Germany) quoted the Professor saying “Of course I have nothing against male Indians and I have accepted several Indian students in the past.... However my lab is full and I currently cannot take any student. This led to an unpleasant discussion with one of the Indian student."
Huffington Post India quotes the Professor saying "I apologize if this caused any misunderstanding, but the e-Mail was taken out of the context,".
The English version of the university post on her apology can be found here.  On March 12, 2015 University website posted a statement of the President of Leipzig University saying "No doubt, our colleague Beck-Sickinger has made a mistake. By apologising, she took the right step. I never assumed that she might not be telling truth. Having now read the e-mail exchange, I am sure about one point that is very important to me: The alleged rejection e-mail which has been spread on the internet was never written in this form. Professor Beck-Sickinger is telling the truth. Her comments on the issue of violence against women in India were not in her first answer but were made in reply to a provocative e-mail which followed the initial e-mail. To say it clearly: I do not tolerate these comments. However, I accept Professor Beck-Sickinger's apology. And I can say that the published e-mail has obviously been faked." Apparently University president Beate Schucking made this statement after reading and analyzing the long thread of all email exchanges between the Professor and the aspiring student. Though Leipzig University is not allowed to publish all those emails (at least just now) due to data protection regulations.
What we understand is, after proper damage control in place, investigation process have been initiated. We'll keep you updated on this very serious turn of an issue.
On March 11, 2015 BBC reported yet another addition to the chain of events on this controversy. A second Indian student now complained that the same professor rejected him for a placement on the same grounds. BBC Trending claims to have seen an email where the professor allegedly wrote: "thanks a lot for your application. Unfortunately I do no longer accept any male Indian guests, trainees, doctorial students or PostDocs due to the severe rape problem in India. I cannot support a society which is not able to respect females in any aspects. I think cultured people cannot close their eyes." According to the student as BBC reported this exchange with Dr Beck-Sickinger took place in early 2014. 

2 comments:

  1. prof from germany apologized within about 3 hours after the issue went viral, whereas the rape convict of nirbhaya case in india have no remorse after nearly 3 years. if this is the big cultural difference people is talking about

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    Replies
    1. we do understand your point, but it can be called little exaggerated as it compares a university professor with a rape convict. to be fairly opinionated, we should rather compare people of equivalent status.

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