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: January 22, 2024

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):International Institute for Population Studies

Region & Country:Southern Asia | India

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 22, 2024, Indian police arrested a 23-year-old student at the International Institute for Population Studies (IIPS), after he protested a planned on-campus celebration of the consecration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

On January 20, a few dozen IIPS students signed a letter expressing concern that a planned celebration could spread hate and fear and ignite communal tensions on campus. The construction of the temple—on the site of a former mosque—has been highly politicized. The letter asked the institute’s administration to cancel the on-campus celebrations.

The arrested student reportedly helped lead the letter-writing effort. In addition, he updated his WhatsApp status to criticize the consecration day celebrations.

On January 22, another second student reported the first student’s WhatsApp status to the police. Police then entered IIPS’s campus, reportedly without coordinating with the institute’s authorities, and arrested the first student. Police booked him under Indian Penal Code Section 153 (A) and 295 (A), accusing him of acts intended to promote religious enmity. The student remained in police custody for two days before being transferred to a central jail and then released on bail.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary imprisonment and prosecution of a student in apparent retaliation for his expressive activity, conduct that 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 victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.