On June 30, 2023, Indian police reportedly detained the president and secretary of the University of Delhi branch of the All India Student Association (AISA). The detention occurred during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the university during its hundredth anniversary celebrations.
Police reportedly detained Abhigyan Gandhi, AISA president, and Anjali Sharma, AISA secretary, at their personal residences. According to AISA, the officers showed no warrant and informed Gandhi and Sharma that their names were on a list called “Circle of Suspicion.” The students tweeted photographs of police officers sitting outside their apartments. Their detentions lasted for five hours. AISA responded by sending a letter about the illegal detentions to Model Town Police Station and the Subdivisional Magistrate of Delhi. The Delhi Police denied the claim of illegal detentions.
According to Gandhi and Sharma, their detainment was a part of ongoing attempts by the authorities to suppress dissent and an apparent attempt to prevent AISA from “creating a ruckus” or acting as a “threat to the safety of the [Prime Minister’s] convoy.” AISA had recently put up posters across campus questioning an increase in tuition fees and a reduced government budget for education.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about police detaining students to prevent them from exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression on campus. These rights are 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 order and safety, they must do so in a manner that is proportionate and does not violate fundamental human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such acts to prevent nonviolent student expression 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)