On June 9, 2023, a clash broke out between police and student members of the Kerala Student Union (KSU) during a protest march to the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit in Kerala.
The students were protesting the admission of Vidya Vijayan, a former Students’ Federation of India leader, to a PhD program, alleging that norms related to the Scheduled Caste/Tribe reservations had been violated. Vijayan is also accused of forging documents to obtain a position as a lecturer. An arrest warrant had been issued for her, and KSU members were protesting her evasion of the arrest.
After the students tried to topple police barricades and enter the university, police used water cannons to disperse them. Police also reportedly forcibly removed students including KSU’s State President, Aloshious Xavier.
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)