On October 15, 2022, police detained at least 40 students for their participation in a campus protest at the University of Delhi (DU), in support of imprisoned and former DU professor Gokaranaga Saibaba.
A group of five members of the All india Students Association (AISA) held the protest outside DU’s Faculty of Arts to demand the release of Saibaba and five others imprisoned for allegedly having links to the Communist Party of India (Maoist), an organization banned by India’s government. Students gathered in response to the Supreme Court’s decision earlier that day to suspend the Bombay High Court’s acquittal of Saibaba.
Campus security officers reportedly ordered the students to disperse, claiming that they did not have permission to hold the protest. According to the Hindustan Times, the DU proctor Rajni Abbi later said that students were told that they were not permitted to gather in support of “someone who had been convicted by law.” When students continued to hold the protest, DU administrators informed the police, while more students joined the protest. Police detained 40 students and brought them to two police stations before releasing them without charge.At least one student was reportedly hospitalized after his arm was dislocated during the police response.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about higher education administrators arbitrarily denying students’ expressive activity and police detaining students peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression on campus – conduct which is 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. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the arrest of students for on-campus expressive activity undermines academic freedom, university autonomy, and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)