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: May 28, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Aligarh Muslim University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | India

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 28, 2020, police arrested two Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students in apparent retaliation for their participation in protests against a controversial citizenship law.

Farhan Zuberi, a Masters student of social work and former member of the AMU Student Union, and Ravish Ali Khan, an undergraduate student of social work, participated in campus protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The CAA, which was enacted in December 2019 and excludes Muslim migrants from a pathway to citizenship, sparked protests at universities across India. While anti-CAA protesters were by and large peaceful in their actions, reports indicate that police frequently responded with violence and arrests of the prosteers. On December 15, for example, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at students holding a protest in the AMU campus (see report).

On May 28, 2020, Zuberi and Khan were driving off campus when police reportedly stopped them and brought them to Mandrak police station. After six hours in custody, Khan was reportedly released while authorities transferred Zuberi to the Civil Lines police station. According to police, Zuberi faces eleven charges, including “attempt to murder,” “sedition,” and “rioting,” in connection to his participation in the December 15 protest at AMU.

On September 4, it was reported that the High Court granted Zuberi bail while he awaits trial.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention and prosecution of a student in apparent retaliation for his nonviolent exercise of the right 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 an obligation to refrain from retaliating against nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.