On April 1, 2020, security officials reportedly beat a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student who tried to leave the campus while it was under lockdown due to Coronavirus.
At the time of the incident, JNU had suspended classes and ordered students to shelter in place to prevent the spread of the global pandemic known as COVID-19 or the Coronavirus. However, the student, Pranav Menon, reportedly had been given written permission by university security to leave campus. When he presented the letter permitting him to leave, the officers at the gates reportedly questioned its authenticity and refused to let him exit. A confrontation ensued, and Menon refused to comply with the officers’ orders to return to his dorm. Menon then threatened to cough on the officers and spread the virus; police reportedly responded by attempting to forcibly pick Menon up, and during the scuffle, at least one of the officers’ protective masks fell off. According to Menon, the officers then kicked him in the face; he was later taken to a local hospital, where medical professionals needed multiple staples to close injuries to his head.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent and irresponsible actions on campus during a crisis. While students have rights to freedom of expression and movement, they have a responsibility to exercise such rights peacefully and responsibly; likewise, university authorities must take measures to maintain a safe campus space and refrain from disproportionate or excessive responses, and to make efforts to deescalate potentially volatile situations. Violence on campus undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.