On January 20, 2023, police detained 15 peaceful student protesters outside Hansraj College at the University of Delhi (DU). The Students’ Federation of India (SFI) had organized the protest in opposition to a ban on serving meat at the college.
As part of the protest, the students tried to submit to university officials a memorandum calling for the reversal of the ban. However, university officials closed the gates to the college, denying the students the opportunity to do so. About an hour after the start of the protest, police attempted to disperse the students and detained 15 when they refused to leave. Police stated the students were detained because they were disrupting traffic. The students were released later in the day.
Hansraj College’s principal Rama Sharma reportedly refused to reverse the ban on meat, stating that the college is vegetarian in accordance with Arya Samaj, a Hindu philosophy.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about police detaining students peacefully exercising 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 have a responsibility to respect and refrain from restricting or punishing the nonviolent exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)