On December 19, 2019, police reportedly arrested several University of Hyderabad (UoH) students, placing them in “preventive custody” in an apparent attempt to prevent them from protesting a citizenship bill recently signed into law.
Beginning December 13, students have held protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which expedites citizenship for several religious minorities but does not include Muslims. Critics of the bill have argued that it is discriminatory and violates the secular nature of India’s constitution. During the protests, students have been met with intense police force and arrests.
On December 19, UoH students had planned to join a protest to be held at the Exhibition Grounds, followed by a march towards the city’s Public Gardens. While the students were on their way to the protest, police reportedly intercepted and detained them, and brought them by bus to the police station. Authorities indicated that 50 students were detained because they had attempted to go to the protest without a permit. Students allege that police authorities had approved their request for permission to hold a protest on December 18, but reversed the decision the next morning. Hours after taking them into custody, police reportedly released the students.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of students 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.