On December 22, 2019, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Urdu Arabi-Farsi University expelled undergraduate student Ahmed Raza Khan for calling on students to protest a citizenship bill that had recently been signed into law.
Since December 13, students across India 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 protests, students have been met with intense police force, arrests, and other disciplinary measures.
Khan, a history student, posted a Facebook message on December 17 criticizing the citizenship bill; next to the message was an image of a poster calling for students to protest.
On December 22, in response to the post, university administrators reportedly made the decision to expel Khan; they notified him of their decision via WhatsApp on December 24. One administrator later claimed that Khan’s call to protest represented an effort to disturb the atmosphere on the campus that impacted the safety of hundreds of students.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the expulsion of a student in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent 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 party. University authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliation intended to punish such expressive activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.