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: May 14, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Government Medical College (GMC)

Region & Country:Southern Asia | India

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 14, 2023, a clash broke out between students at the Government Medical College (GMC) in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) over the film, “The Kerala Story.” Five students were injured in the clash.

The fighting broke out with another student who had sent a WhatsApp message calling the movie a “must watch.” More students subsequently stepped in and escalated the violence. According to some reports, someone not currently enrolled at the school was responsible for the escalation. Both sides—those supportive of the movie and those opposed to it—accused each other of starting the fighting.

Five students required medical treatment at the hospital. Four were released quickly with minor injuries; the fifth student had more serious wounds needing several stitches. The school reportedly suspended 10 students in connection to the fighting.

“The Kerala Story,” is a controversial Bollywood movie based on a true story of three women from Kerala who were allegedly forcibly converted to Islam and recruited into joining ISIS. The Chief Ministers of some Indian states led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, have made the film tax-free to watch. The Chief Ministers of other states have sought to ban the movie.

Scholars at Risk is concerned by reports of students violently attacking other students for their affiliation with another student group. Students must refrain from violence, especially on campus, and respect the right to freedom of association and freedom of expression. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, violent attacks on campus undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)