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: February 19, 2019

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Shree Guru Gobind Singh Tricentenary (SGT) University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | India

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 19, 2019, officials at Shree Guru Gobind Singh Tricentenary (SGT) University expelled a student after she posted political messages on social media about a suicide attack in Kashmir the prior week.

On February 14, a suicide bomber rammed a truck carrying explosives into a convoy carrying Indian security personnel; 40 members of the Indian Central Reserve Police Force, plus the bomber, were killed, and another 35 reportedly injured. A Pakistan-based militant group known as Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the days that followed, Sadaf Rafiq Zaffar, a 19-year-old student who hailed from Kashmir, posted messages on social media relating to alleged atrocities by Indian military on Kashmiri civilians. At around 9:00 am on the morning of Tuesday, February 19, a group of roughly 500 students began protests in response to the posts, demanding that Zaffar be dismissed from the university. The university’s disciplinary met shortly thereafter, and by 10:30 am, ordered Zaffar’s dismissal; the order dismissing Zaffar referred to the posts as “anti-national.”

Scholars at Risk is concerned about disciplinary actions by university authorities, against a student, in apparent connection to her peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression—conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a signatory. University authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with expressive activity, and to protect such activity, so long as it is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliation intended to punish such expressive activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.