On October 23, 2023, police detained over two hundred students from three universities— Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia University, and the University of Delhi—as they attempted to stage a protest outside the Israeli embassy in solidarity with Palestine.
The incident occurred against the backdrop of a Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, during which over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals were killed and more than 200 abducted, and the Israeli military’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip which, as of the end of November, has reportedly killed approximately 15,000 Palestinians. The violence led to heightened tensions around speech on campuses around the world.
Police had set up barricades to prevent the students from reaching the Israeli embassy. Police officials stated that the protestors did not have the necessary permission to conduct the protest. The protesting students alleged that they were “manhandled” by the police when being detained, resulting in several injuries. The police refuted the allegations. The protestors chanted slogans in support of Palestine.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about police allegedly detaining students for exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression – 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. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of detention to restrict or deter nonviolent student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.