On March 23, 2018, police reportedly detained and used violent force against Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students and faculty participating in a peaceful protest march.
The march was organized by the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union and the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association to raise a variety of concerns, including most notably a new compulsory attendance policy, and the university administration’s alleged inaction over a professor accused by several women of sexual harassment.
Over two thousand students and faculty reportedly followed the march route to the Indian Parliament complex; however, they were stopped en route by police barricades. Police on the scene reportedly used batons and water cannons against the marchers, and briefly detained at least 20 students; police have filed at least 25 first information reports against students. A female journalist covering the march reported that she and female student protesters had been groped by male police officers on the scene.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force and detention, apparently to retaliate against and prevent the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct which is protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to not interfere with such rights and to refrain from the use of force and detentions intended to restrict them. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions have a chilling effect on academic freedom and due process, and undermine democratic society generally.