On October 12, 2018, police and student groups violently clashed as students protested indirect elections to the student union at Maharshi Dayanand University (MDU), reportedly leaving multiple students injured.
Members of a conglomeration of student unions had gathered on the campus of MDU to protest student government elections scheduled for October 17. The protesters objected to a decision by local government authorities mandating that the election would take an indirect form, meaning student representatives, rather than the students themselves, would elect the president and other student government office-holders.
As the protesters approached a university gate, police used a technique known as a “lathi charge” — charging at the protesting students with batons — as well as teargas to disperse them. As many as fifty students were reportedly injured. Police later claimed that they were protecting student elections from “disruption,” while student leaders maintained their protest was peaceful. Police, however, alleged that students had thrown bottles and stones at them, later arresting 22 students and accusing more than 200 unnamed other protesters of rioting and violence.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a campus protest. While state authorities have a responsibility to ensure security and order, they must do so in a manner that is proportional to the situation and does not endanger students or others on campus or interfere with peaceful expressive activity. Likewise, while students have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they must exercise these rights peacefully and responsibly. Violence during a campus protest endangers the higher education community and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy.