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: March 14, 2021

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):English and Foreign Languages University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | India

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 14, 2021, police detained 14 English and Foreign Languages University students peacefully protesting outside the campus gate.

According to news reports, the students began a 24-hour hunger strike demanding the university reopen facilities, including the dormitories and the library, which had been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Shortly after their strike began, university administrators reportedly invited six students into campus to discuss their concerns. The students returned to the protest site after apparently being told to end the hunger strike. At roughly 5:30 PM, police on the scene took 14 students into custody, claiming that public gatherings were prohibited due to local elections that were being held. Police brought the students to a local station and released them a few hours later. Students reported to media outlets that police “manhandled” them and that some female students had their clothing torn by police.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about arbitrary detentions apparently intended to restrict the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly on campus — 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 restricting or retaliating against the nonviolent exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, detentions intended to restrict nonviolent student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.