On December 12, 2022, police detained a number of students from various universities participating in a protest over the discontinuation of the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF), which was originally established to support students from minority communities.
On December 9, the Union Minority Affairs Ministry decided to discontinue the MANF, citing alleged redundancies with other fellowship schemes. The decision sparked immediate protests and backlash by student and minority rights groups that called the decision an injustice to minority communities and public education.
On December 12, the Student Federation of India and Krantikari Yuva Sangathan, organized a protest outside of the Ministry of Education, where students from various universities, including Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, and Ambedkar University, held posters and called for the restoration of the MANF. Dozens of police officers arrived and quashed the protest by forcibly taking a number of students into custody. Reports do not describe the reasoning for the arrest of students, though the protest was apparently peaceful. Reports by Edex Live and Times Now News suggest at least 100 students were detained. Video footage posted on Twitter shows police carrying and dragging students into buses.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by police detaining students for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – conduct which 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. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain safety and order, they also have an obligation to refrain from restricting nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, detentions aimed at restricting students’ freedom of expression and assembly undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.