On June 16, 2016, Dr B.P. Mahesh Chandra Guru, a professor in the department of communications and journalism at the University of Mysore, was arrested for giving a speech on campus, more than a year earlier, which allegedly insulted religious sensibilities of members of the Hindu community.
According to reports, Dr. Guru gave a speech on January 3, 2015, at the University’s Human Resources Development Centre, which reportedly insulted the Hindu deity Lord Rama. Shortly thereafter, a criminal complaint was filed against Dr. Guru, charging him with violating Indian Penal Code Section 295A, which criminalizes “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” He reportedly appeared in court on June 16, 2016 (having been unable to appear at prior scheduled hearings) and was arrested. He was released on bail three days later. If convicted, Dr. Guru faces a potential three-year sentence.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention and prosecution of a scholar in retaliation for nonviolent expression on campus – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. State officials have a responsibility not to interfere with the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, so long as such rights are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Detention and prosecution aimed at limiting freedom of expression and opinion undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally. State officials have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of freedom of expression and opinion, due process and fair trial.