"This will ruin their lives"
In Indian-administered Kashmir, seven students from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences have been arrested.
Under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the students allegedly celebrated India’s defeat in the 2023 Cricket World Cup final.
This move has garnered criticism, with the UAPA being considered very harsh by various rights groups.
The law, making bail nearly impossible, has been predominantly used by India’s government against political dissenters.
According to a senior police officer in Kashmir, a confrontation occurred between the accused and some non-local students while watching a cricket match on TV.
Australia won the match by six wickets, securing their sixth men’s ICC Cricket World Cup title.
In the police officer’s statement, he said:
“A non-local student submitted a written complaint naming the seven Kashmiri students for abusing and threatening him and raising pro-Pakistan slogans.
“On the basis of the complaint, the case has been registered under the UAPA”
The students from outside Kashmir, situated at SKUAST’s Shuhama campus, claim that the seven Kashmiri students chanted slogans against India and in favour of Pakistan following India’s loss.
The complaint by the 20-year-old student, who has not been identified, read:
“After finishing the match they [students] started abusing me and targeting me for being a supporter of our country.”
The seven students face charges under Section 13 of UAPA, linking to advocating, abetting, or inciting unlawful activity.
Additionally, they are charged under Sections 505 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, addressing the intent to incite offence against any other class or community and criminal intimidation.
In response to criticism over applying terrorism charges in a sports-related case, the police issued a statement on Tuesday defending their actions. It said:
“It is not about dissent or freedom of expression.
“It is about terrorising others who may be nourishing pro-India feelings or anti-Pakistan feelings.”
In response to the incident, an anonymous SKUAST official told Al Jazeera:
“If the students would have approached us, we could have sorted the matter out internally. The complaint did not reach us.
“Even if our children made a mistake out of emotional foolishness, the harsh charges on them should be dropped.
“This will ruin their lives. We are requesting the government to save their future.”
This isn’t the first instance of Kashmiri students facing charges related to cricket.
In October 2021, police invoked the same UAPA law against students from two medical colleges, accusing them of celebrating Pakistan’s victory over India in the Twenty20 World Cup.
However, the charges were later dropped.
During the 2014 Asia Cup tournament, around 60 Kashmiri students were suspended by a college in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s win against India.