On October 9, 2018, Punjabi University students reportedly clashed violently during a protest over female residence hall curfews. At least ten students were reported injured.
Since September 2018, Democratic Students’ Organization (DSO) has organized protests against a curfew on female residence halls at Punjabi University. (Male residence halls are not subject to such curfews.) Reports indicate that university authorities reportedly refused to meet with DSO members to discuss their demand to lift the curfew. Female students reported that university authorities had called their parents, urging the parents to send their daughters home.
On October 9, DSO members gathered outside of the Vice-Chancellor’s office to protest the curfew. Another large group of students from different campus organizations engaged in a counter-protest and eventually clashed with the DSO students. During the clashes, students reportedly broke the windowpanes of the Vice-Chancellor’s office. Police arrived at least an hour after the clashes began and arrested seven students for criminal intimidation. At least ten students were injured, including several who were hospitalized.
In response to the clashes, the university closed for the remainder of the week and reopened on October 15.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent clashes during a student protest on campus. While students have the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, that exercise of those rights does not extend to violent activity. In addition to the harm to student protesters and the campus community, such violence undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and freedom of expression. Higher education authorities have a responsibility to protect peaceful campus expression and take reasonable steps to avert and respond to violent confrontations, in accordance with internationally recognized standards.