SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 30, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Jamia Millia Islamia

Region & Country:Southern Asia | India

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 30, 2020, a civilian open fired on a group of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) students protesting a recently enacted citizenship bill, injuring one student.

Since December 2019, students at universities across the country have held protests over what is now referred to as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The legislation expedites citizenship for several religious minorities but does not include Muslims. Critics of the CAA have argued that it is discriminatory and violates the secular nature of India’s constitution. Students protesting the CAA have been met with intense police force, arrests, and other disciplinary measures.

JMI students continued their protest activities on January 29, organizing a march from the university campus to Raj Ghat, a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. (The students’ march fell on the anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination in 1948.) Sources indicate that there was a heavy police presence ahead of the students’ march.

As the students gathered on a street just outside campus, a young man walked in front of the students and brandished a handgun. The man began yelling at the students, including asking if the students wanted “azadi,” a term for “freedom” that has been used by protesters. As he began walking back, some protesters reportedly approached slowly and attempted to deescalate the situation, but he ultimately opened fire, striking one student in the hand. The gunman then continued to walk backwards and continued shouting before police apprehended him and took him into custody. Authorities transported the injured student to a local hospital, where he is reported to be in stable condition.

Shortly after the shooting, a large number of students from JMI and other universities protested the Delhi police, accusing them of not taking action when the gunman approached the protesters.

As of this report, SAR has not confirmed the identity of the suspect. Media outlets have reported that the suspect published Hindu-nationalist content to his Facebook profile shortly before the shooting. In one post, the suspect reportedly stated that he was taking his “final journey.”

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a violent attack on student protesters. State authorities have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent and respond to such violent attacks on student expression, including by investigating and holding perpetrators responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent attacks on student protests undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.