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: October 29, 2020

Attack Types: Other


Region & Country:Southern Asia | India

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 29, 2020, authorities reportedly raided the home of Islamic scholar, human rights defender, and journalist Zafarul Islam Khan in apparent retaliation for his nonviolent expressive activity.

Khan is a public intellectual who held teaching and research positions at various higher education institutions, including Jamia Millia Islamia and The Institute of Islamic & Arab Studies, in India, Imam University in Saudi Arabia, and The Muslim Institute in the United Kingdom. Khan is also the former Chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission for the Government of Delhi, India; the founding editor of Milli Gazette, a newspaper focused on issues within the Muslim minority community in India; and the Chairman of Charity Alliance, an organization that supports minority communities in India. Khan has produced reports and authored articles critical of government leaders and human rights abuses.

On October 29, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raided Khan’s home and confiscated Khan and his family’s phones. One NIA officer allegedly showed Khan a purported search order on their cell phone that called for the searching of the Charity Alliance office for alleged links to terrorist groups in Kashmir. NIA officers searched the Charity Alliance office, located below Khan’s home. NIA officers seized computers, documents, and hard drives from Khan’s home and the office. Khan’s son accompanied NIA officers to the police station to fill out a seizure memo.

Khan has denied allegations that he supported the separatist movement in Kashmir; he maintains his opposition to human rights abuses in Kashmir.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the raid of a scholar’s home and organization’s office, and confiscation of his and his family’s property in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association — 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. States have an obligation not to interfere with the rights to free expression and association, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.