On November 27, 2020, alleged staff members of Shah Mokhdum Medical College (SMMC) reportedly attacked a group of students on campus.
The students had arrived on campus just prior to a visit by a team of government officials who were to inspect the college. The scheduled inspection was a result of an appeal by the college, which had been ordered closed on November 2 for not meeting government standards. In addition to being closed, the college was ordered to stop admitting students and begin transferring already-enrolled students to other institutions. The November 2 notice came after roughly one year of inquiries and demands for improvements by government officials, as well as protests by students demanding improvements.
Students told news outlets that they were initially denied entry, but eventually allowed onto campus. Some of the students were reportedly photographing equipment that they alleged had been rented by the college in advance of the inspection—this, they claim, had become a common practice at the college—when alleged staff members began beating them with bamboo sticks and metal rods. The assailants reportedly locked the gates during the attack. Police were called to the scene and took at least eleven students to a hospital for treatment.
Police opened an investigation and arrested two suspects in connection with the attack: a college administrator’s wife and brother. Students accused the administrator and other staff of being behind the attack. The administrator, SMMC’s Managing Director, told reporters that no attack had occurred and accused the students of trying to sabotage the government’s visit to the campus.
Despite the attack, the government team carried out its visit on November 27. Afterwards, a representative told reporters that the college’s issues had not been resolved and the institution was not permitted to reopen. He further condemned the attack and called on the college to ensure the safety of its students.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by a violent attack on students, apparently intended to restrict expression or inquiry related to their institution. State and university authorities have a responsibility to take steps to protect students from violent attacks, investigate such incidents, and hold perpetrators responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent attacks on student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.