On December 15, 2020, police arrested students and others during a nonviolent candlelight vigil that marked the first anniversary of a protest at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) against a controversial law known as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Enacted in December 2019, the CAA discriminates against Muslim migrants by excluding them from a pathway to Indian citizenship. The CAA sparked protests at universities across India, including at Jamia Millia Islamia University, where, on December 15, 2019, police entered the campus, clashed violently with students, and ultimately detained at least fifty students (see report).
During the anniversary vigil, police detained a group of participants, including students and family members of a prominent activist named Umar Khalid. Police held the demonstrators for several hours before releasing them.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students and others in an effort to restrict their nonviolent exercise of the rights 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 must refrain from restricting or retaliating against peaceful expression and assemblies. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and democratic society generally.