On June 28, 2019, police reportedly detained at least twenty students during a demonstration at Allahabad University (AU) protesting a decision by the university to reform student government on campus.
On June 24, AU’s Academic Council voted to replace the student union with a student council, citing the recommendations of the Lyngdoh Committee, which was established in 2006 as per a Supreme Court mandate to reform student union elections in India. AU administrators argued that the university should adopt a system of student representation based on nominations, as indicated by Clause 6.1.2 of the committee’s report, which suggests that universities with larger campuses should adopt student council systems. Under the new proposed nomination system, students would elect class representatives who are then responsible for the election of student council officers.
The following day, students began demonstrating against this decision, arguing that the administration was eliminating direct elections in order to silence student union leaders who had been critical of AU vice chancellor for alleged misconduct.
Sources indicate that police officers were posted in large numbers across the campus in response to the protests, which would go on to include the burning of an effigy of the vice-chancellor and a hunger strike.
According to one source, an AU senior official issued letters to fourteen student leaders, ordering them to refrain from disruptive protest activities. The same source reported that the university also submitted the names of eighteen student leaders to police officials, requesting that they take unspecified action against the students.
On June 28, as the protests continued, police briefly detained at least twenty students, including student union vice-president Akhilesh Yadav. Available reporting does not suggest that the students were engaged in violent or otherwise destructive behavior.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about detentions of students in connection to the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly—conduct that is expressly protected by 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 party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting, retaliating against, or otherwise interfering in expressive activities, so long as they are carried out peacefully and responsibly. The use of detentions to restrict peaceful student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.