On September 23, 2017, security forces violently clashed with Banaras Hindu University (BHU) students as they marched to protest the university’s response to a case of alleged sexual harassment. Several students and a faculty member, along with two journalists, were reportedly injured during the incident.
On the night of September 21, a first-year female student was reportedly molested by a group of men just outside campus. According to the alleged victim, security guards stationed nearby did not come to her aid and a residence hall warden responded inappropriately to her report of the incident. BHU students, including the alleged victim, protested the university’s response almost immediately following the incident.
On the night of September 23, a large group of students marched to the university Vice Chancellor’s house to demand talks with him about the incident. BHU security guards reportedly stopped the students and, with the assistance of local police used tear gas and batons to disperse the students. Several students, a faculty member, and two journalists were reportedly injured in the clash. The police reportedly filed first information reports against 1,200 students in connection with the protest.
In response to the incident, BHU officials closed campus three days earlier than anticipated for the Dussehra holidays.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about reports of violence and the use of force against students in response to a nonviolent 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 institutional autonomy, academic freedom, and other applicable human rights standards. The use of force in response to a nonviolent campus protest threatens the well-being of higher education community members, and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy.