On November 11, 2019, police and students from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) reportedly clashed during a protest over a residence hall fee hike and other proposed policy reforms.
For two weeks, JNU students had reportedly been protesting a residence hall fee hike, dress code, and curfew, among other items proposed by the university administration. Students claimed that university leadership declined to meet with them to discuss their concerns.
On November 11, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) convened hundreds of students on campus to continue their protest. The students gathered with placards and marched towards the All India Council for Technical Education auditorium, where JNU’s vice-chancellor and India’s Minister of Human Resource Development were expected to be present for a convocation ceremony.
Outside the auditorium and the AICTE campus, police had erected barricades. Reports indicate that the protesting students clashed with police and attempted to break through or remove the barricades. Police reportedly responded by firing water cannons and pushing the students back from the gates. Authorities detained a number of protesters.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a student protest. While students have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they also have a responsibility to exercise those rights peacefully and responsibly. State authorities likewise have a responsibility to ensure that their actions are proportionate, do not harm members of the higher education community, and are not undertaken to restrict or retaliate against peaceful expressive activity. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.