On March 1, 2020, police reportedly locked the gates of the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), in Hyderabad, in order to prevent students from participating in an off-campus protest over citizenship-related legislation.
EFLU students found police guarding the shuttered gates as they attempted to make their way to a protest over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which expedites citizenship for several religious minorities but does not include Muslims. Critics of the CAA argue that it is discriminatory and violates the secular nature of India’s constitution. Since December 2019, students at universities across the country have held protests over the CAA and related policies, including a national citizens register. Many of the student-led protests of the CAA have been met with intense police force and arrests.
The protest that EFLU students were attempting to attend was scheduled to take place in Hyderabad’s Moazzam Jahi Market. Police locked EFLU’s entrances shut after learning that the students planned to attend the protest. Police later cited concerns that the students’ participation in the protest could lead to unrest and that rival student groups were planning an attack on the protesters; this latter allegation has not been corroborated. According to students, police kept the gates shut for roughly two hours. Some students reportedly climbed over the gates and protested the police action.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by efforts by police to restrict the nonviolent 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 nonviolent expression or assembly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.