Attacks on students on the rise in India and globally, says report

T V Jayan New Delhi | Updated on November 27, 2019 Published on November 27, 2019

Free to Think 2019

After Turkey and China, India has seen the highest number of attacks

A new report tracking assaults on higher education community globally has put India on third place after Turkey and China in terms of number of attacks took place in recent times.

While the number of attacks reported in Turkey was 49 between September 2018 and August this year, China and India had 27 and 22 onslaughts each, according to the report Free to Think 2019, brought out by Scholars at Risk (SAR), an international advocacy network based in New York University.

JNU students

There was a total of 324 reported instances from 56 countries, up 10 per cent from 294 cases from 47 countries in 2018, the report said. The top three countries -- Turkey, China and India -- accounted for nearly 30 per cent of all cases, according to the report published last week. Ironically, the report was released a day after the Delhi Police lathi-charged hundreds of students from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi who marched to Parliament demanding a rollback in hiked hostel fees on last Monday.

The report has devoted a chapter to onslaughts on academic freedom that has been happening in India. It said national political tensions in the country have manifested in numerous incidents on campus, some of which turned violent, resulting in injuries to many students and university personnel, damage to university property, and campus closings. In addition, authorities have arrested scholars and students, both individually and en masse (with the numbers of detainees estimated in the hundreds); and several scholars and students have suffered professional or academic retaliation for critical expression.

"While these types of incidents are not necessarily new, the volume of attacks in India in recent years warrants a closer look at challenges facing scholars and students in the country," the report said. Among those instances from India figured in the SAR list include clashes that broke out in Manipur University, Delhi University, Punjabi University and Kolhan and Ranchi universities in Jharkhand.

Violent attacks

"The academic freedom monitoring project collects data on defined types of attacks on higher education. These include killings, violence, and disappearances; wrongful prosecution and imprisonment; loss of position and expulsion from study; improper travel restrictions; and other severe or systemic issues (including, for example, university closures or military occupation of campuses)," the report said.

"While they differ across states and regions and by severity and type, these attacks all share a common motivation: to control or silence higher education institutions and personnel," it observed.

Violent attacks on scholars, students, and their institutions are among the gravest threats to higher education, the report said adding "these attacks not only result in the loss of lives and injuries impacting hundreds if not thousands of immediate victims, but also severely compromise the university space more generally, by sending a message that certain ideas are off limits, and anyone who expresses them risks physical harm — even death."

Published on November 27, 2019
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