On June 7, 2017, police in the Uttar Pradesh state in India arrested eight students from Lucknow University for their participation in a peaceful demonstration protesting the use of university funds.
The protest was reportedly organized by members of two leftist student groups, All India Students’ Association, a student wing of the Communist Party of India, and the student wing of the Samajwadi Party (SP). The groups objected to what they claimed was unfair allocation of resources: the university’s decision to fund a gala they alleged supported the newly elected state government, and its previous refusal to fund other academic programs. The students reportedly attempted to bring their complaints to the Vice Chancellor, but when he refused to meet them, they decided to protest in front of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, an official in the newly elected state government who was attending the gala. The students waved black flags and surrounded his motorcade.
Police on the scene response to the protest with force, including pushing, dragging and caning student-protesters. The police also arrested at least 14 people on charges including “unlawful assembly,” “rioting,” “assault or criminal force against a public servant,” and “criminal intimidation.”
On June 10, eight students from Lucknow University and three members of the SP party student wing who were arrested during the protest were denied bail and remanded to judicial custody until June 24. The students are: Satwant Singh, Nitin Raj, Pooja Shukla, Anil Kumar Yadav, Ankit Kumar Singh, Rakesh Kumar, Madhurya Singh and Apoorva Verma; the members of the SP student wing are Mahendra Yadav, Vineet Kumar Kushwah and Ashok Kumar Prabhat. The eight Lucknow University students have also reportedly been suspended.
Members of Uttar Pradesh’s state congress and the Indian National Congress party, including Ajay Kumar, Deepak Singh, and the leaders of NSIU, the congress’ student wing, are supporting the incarcerated students. On June 12 they staged a protest in Lucknow, and subsequently met with the students and offered them support in helping to get them released.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about reports of violence and arrests of students during a campus protest. While authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, minimize the risk of physical injury, and otherwise respect academic freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of association and other applicable human rights standards. Scholars at Risk is also concerned about the suspension of students in apparent retaliation for non-violent exercise of the rights to academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association. State and university have a responsibility not to interfere with such rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibility. State and university actions limiting the rights to academic freedom, free expression and association on campus have a chilling effect on academic freedom and university autonomy, and undermine democratic society generally.