On August 29, 2018, a group attacked Rajasthan University (RU) students Abhimanyu Poonia and Ranveer Singhania, in apparent connection with an upcoming student union election.
An election for student union positions at RU was scheduled for August 31, 2018. Reports indicate that students from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and the National Student Union of India (NSUI) were in close competition for the available positions. Poonia and Singhania are both members of the NSUI.
On the night of August 29, as Poonia and Singhania returned to their campus residence hall after canvassing door-to-door, a group of four to five people ambushed them. Sources suggest that the attackers had been in hiding, waiting for the students.
Following the attack, Poonia and Singhania were taken to Sawai Maansingh Hospital to receive treatment for their injuries. Singhania received eight stitches to his head. Both students left the hospital and held a press conference at RU, during which they accused the government of facilitating the attack in order to undermine Mr. Singhania’s candidacy. ABVP officials have challenged these allegations by claiming members from NSUI could have conducted the attack due to intra-party competition. The RU campus has reportedly been the site of several clashes between students from the two groups.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent attacks on university campuses. State and university authorities have a responsibility to prevent violence on campus, and to investigate and hold accountable perpetrators of such attacks. Likewise, while students have the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association, they have a responsibility to exercise these rights peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such attacks threaten academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.