SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: May 03, 2018

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Aligarh Muslim University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | India

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 2, 2018, student groups from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) reportedly clashed violently during a protest over a portrait display on campus. At least 41 people, including students and police officers, were reportedly injured.

Student activists from Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), right-wing, religious Hindu groups, reportedly approached the campus to demand the removal of a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, from the school’s students union. The HYV and ABVP activists reportedly raised anti-Jinnah and pro-India slogans, burned a picture of Jinnah in effigy, and attempted to enter campus. As they attempted to do so, a group of AMU students armed with sticks reportedly confronted them. Shortly thereafter, police dispersed the protesters.

Later that day, AMU students reportedly numbering near 1,000 gathered near the university gate and attempted to march towards the local police station to demand registration of criminal cases against the right-wing activists. Police reportedly used tear gas and a coordinated baton tactic known as a lathi-charge to disperse the crowd. At least 28 students and 13 police officers were injured in the confrontation.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence and threats to retaliate against or prevent student expression on and off campus. Student activists and members of the public have an obligation to respect academic freedom, university autonomy, and the right to free expression on campus. Likewise, state authorities have an obligation to ensure the security of academic communities, to prevent future attacks, to hold perpetrators of violent attacks accountable, and to refrain from interfering with the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.