On July 17, 2020, dozens of security guards reportedly beat two students at Roorkee Institute of Technology (RIT) apparently for violating a lockdown rule set in place to curb the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Benjamin Djarty and Ibrahim Diaby are international students who were living in a hostel close to the college campus. The students had reportedly left the area regularly without permission, angering university management and campus security personnel and violating lockdown rules at the time.
Sources offer conflicting reasons as to why authorities had confronted the two students. Police reports show that the college administration had previously contacted police in an effort to forcibly remove the two students from the campus. The police had advised against this course of action, recommending that the administration contact the embassy. The administration then reached out to a private security agency, which sent 18 men to remove the students. Other college sources allege that the authorities were trying to prevent the two students from leaving the hostel and violating the rules.
Sources state that security personnel initially attempted to remove Ibrahim with force. Benjamin heard the commotion and left his room to help Ibrahim. College authorities and security personnel then allegedly beat the two students with bamboo sticks and dragged them across the floor before police arrived. The students were hospitalized at the Aarogam Hospital in Roorkee. Using video footage, Roorkee police arrested 16 individuals who were involved in the attack on the two students, including the Director of the Roorkee Institute of Technology. Police charged the perpetrators under “sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapon, 149 (unlawful assembly), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 325 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt, and 504 (intentional insult).”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent and irresponsible actions on campus. 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, violent, or excessive responses to irresponsible acts by students. Violence on campus undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.