On December 16, Indian authorities reportedly arrested at least fifty students, professors, and activists outside the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (IIM-A) during a demonstration against recent police crackdowns on Indian university campuses.
University students protesting a controversial citizenship bill have been met with intense police force, including tear gas and baton charges. On December 15, for example, at least fifty students were detained and more than fifty were hospitalized when police cracked down on a protest at Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMI).
In response to the violent police crackdown at JMI, a group of university students, faculty, and activists gathered to protest outside the campus of IIM-A, one of India’s most prestigious business schools. Just as the protest began, police arrested roughly fifty demonstrators for allegedly “agitating on the footpath” outside the IIM-A campus. Photos appear to show plainclothes individuals assisting police in the arrests. Sources indicate that prior to the arrests, demonstrators peacefully chanted and held placards, condemning the use of force by police as well as the citizenship bill.
Police alleged that demonstrators had not sought permission for the protest and that they were disrupting traffic. Police released the demonstrators that same day. There is no public information indicating with the demonstrators face charges.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of students, professors, and others in an apparent effort to restrict the peaceful 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 a responsibility to refrain from restricting the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, arrests intended to restrict expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.