On February 21, 2023, student activists and police clashed during a protest march to the Kalamassery police station in Kochi city in Kerala. The march was staged by Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and Kerala Students Union (KSU).
The two student groups had organized the march to protest the state budget, high state taxes imposed by the state government, and the aggressive behavior by police toward protesters. The police stopped the march with barricades, and when activists attempted to topple the barricades, turned water cannons on them. According to police, protesters pelted them with stones, injuring four officers; police responded by charging the students with batons. Six IYC members were injured. Police arrested twelve activists, releasing them on bail after IYC leaders staged a siege outside the police station.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of violence in the course of a student protest. While state authorities have the right to take reasonable measures to ensure order, they must also exercise restraint and refrain from disproportionate actions, actions that may result in unnecessary harm, and or actions which encroach on the 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. Likewise, while students have the right to publicly assemble and express themselves on and off campus, such actions must be conducted peacefully and responsibly. Violence in the course of an on-campus protest, coming from any source, undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)