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: September 13, 2018

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Mahatma Gandhi Central University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | India

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 13, 2018, a group of fifteen people reportedly attacked Shakti Babu, a student at Mahatma Gandhi Central University (MGCU), in apparent retaliation for his alleged criticism of MGCU’s vice-chancellor over social media.

According to media sources, Babu had been supporting the MGCU Teacher Association in their campaigns against the university’s alleged lack of transparency. On September 11, Babu shared via Facebook videos and photos of a candle march he attended, which was organized in support of MGCU professor Sanjay Kumar who was the victim of a violent attack on August 17 (see report). In his repost of the protest event page, Babu allegedly made comments critical of MGCU’s vice-chancellor. Shortly thereafter, Babu reportedly began receiving threatening calls. (Other faculty and students at MGCU also reported receiving similar threats.)

On September 13, Babu met with the Teachers Association president to discuss the threats. Shortly after this meeting, a group of 15 people attacked Babu as he was leaving campus. Babu was then taken to Patna Medical College and Hospital to treat his injuries.

Following the attack, Babu filed a first information report (FIR) against the MGCU vice-chancellor, administrative secretary, and chief proctor, accusing the administration of planning the attack. The university administration denies Babu’s claims and has allegedly increased private security on campus.

Some MGCU students and faculty claim that Babu’s attackers were also responsible for the violent attack against professor Kumar, who had also made comments critical of the vice-chancellor over social media..

Scholars at Risk is concerned about an apparently targeted attack on a student in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression. State officials have a responsibility to investigate such attacks, hold perpetrators accountable, and take reasonable steps to ensure the security of higher education communities and prevent future attacks. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and democratic society generally.