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India: Vicious nationalism rules - university students from Kashmir charged with sedition for cheering the Pakistan team during cricket match with India

Press reports and reactions from human rights and peace groups

5 March 2014

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[Media reports, commentary and reactions by human rights and peace groups]

The Indian Express - 5 March 2014

For ‘cheering’ Pakistan in India match, university in Meerut suspends 67 Kashmiri students
Written by Amit Sharma , Mir Ehsan | Meerut | March 5, 2014 7:58 am

Summary
SVSU vice-chancellor Manzoor Ahmed said the suspension was a “precautionary measure”.

A large private university in Meerut has suspended 67 Kashmiri students for allegedly cheering Pakistan during the India-Pak match at the Asia Cup on Sunday. The students were told to vacate their hostel rooms, and were escorted by police and university officials to nearby Ghaziabad. Some students are now back with their families in the Valley.

Groups of students were watching the match on TV in the community hall of the hostel at the Swami Vivekananda Subharti University (SVSU). A clash broke out soon after India lost, a result which the Kashmiris allegedly celebrated. No action was taken against the other group.

G S Bansal, the warden of the hostel, said the Kashmiri students had been punished for being “anti-national”. “By raising pro-Pakistan slogans, the Kashmiri boys did an anti-national act, and that was why we suspended them and did not take any action against the others,” Bansal told The Indian Express.

SVSU vice-chancellor Manzoor Ahmed said the suspension was a “precautionary measure”.

“There was strong resentment against the students who had shouted anti-national and pro-Pakistan slogans after Pakistan won the match. So as a precautionary measure, we temporarily suspended students of J&K for three days. We arranged for two buses to take the boys to Ghaziabad. We also sent three senior university officials with them,” Ahmed said.

Eyewitnesses said heated exchanges followed all-rounder Shahid Afridi’s last-over sixes off Ravichandran Ashwin, which quickly escalated to brawls, followed by several rounds of stone-throwing. “Security guards did not intervene for nearly an hour after the violence began. The students were ultimately forced to go to their rooms, but the groups clashed again on Monday,” said a student who spoke on condition of anonymity.

University registrar R K Garg said the students were sent home because the university feared more violence. “Meerut is communally sensitive. We were apprehensive that if word of the violence got out, outsiders would storm the campus and target students,” Garg said.

In Srinagar, families of the suspended students said they hoped for normalcy to return to the campus soon. “The university has ordered the students to leave for some time in order to avert confrontations between groups,” Abdul Majeed Khan of Uri said. Khan’s son is a second year student of BBA at the university. He added that the university administration had taken the right steps.

Shahid Bashir, whose son Talib Bashir had to leave Meerut, said, “The university has asked the students to leave for a few days. Most of the students have left for the Valley, while a few are staying in Delhi with friends. Once the situation improves, they will rejoin the university.”

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The Telegraph (UK)

Indian Kashmiri cricket fans to be charged for cheering Pakistan
Group of Kashmiri students in India have been suspended and face police charges for ‘anti-national’ celebrations of Pakistan’s victory

By Dean Nelson, New Delhi

5 March 2014

More than 60 Kashmiri Indian students are facing criminal charges and suspension from university because they cheered for India’s bitter cricket rivals Pakistan during their one-day international in Bangladesh last Sunday.

The students were watching the match on television in their hostel at Swami Vivekananda Subharti University in Meerut in a friendly atmosphere with the Kashmiris cheering Pakistan and non-Kashmiri students supporting India.

Sovereignty over divided Kashmir remains the main conflict between India and Pakistan and has been the cause of three of the four wars between the nuclear neighbours since their partition and independence in 1947 when the Maharajah opted to join India despite a Muslim majority.

Many Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control between the two halves of the state want independence from India or for their disputed state to be part of Pakistan, while the Hindu majority in Jammu wants to remain in India.

Although there was rivalry in the hostel there was no tension or violence until Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi won the match with two sixes and the Kashmiris started celebrating the victory.

Their celebrations angered their Indian compatriots and fights broke out between the two groups, which deteriorated into a pitched battle. Following the clashes, 67 of the Kashmiris were suspended from the university for shouting “anti-national and pro-Pakistan slogans” and packed onto coaches to take them to Delhi under police escort.

Police officials in Meerut said the university had filed a complaint against the Kashmiri students for ‘anti-national’ activities and damage to college property, although they do not appear to have been the aggressors.

Noor Mohammad Baba, head political science at Kashmir University said the students had been victimised for their failure to support the Indian cricket team. “There is a political issue and a vast population in Kashmir has grievances and dissent against India. Kashmiris express their political feelings against India by all means.

"It’s not just that they will support Pakistan against India, they will equally celebrate a West Indian win.

"The problem is political but Kashmiris take means to express their frustration over the political status quo. Of late, Indian nationalism has been reduced to Pakistan bashing and anybody sympathetic to Pakistan is considered an enemy,” he added.

One Kashmiri student who was watching the match said there had been no problems until India lost.

“We were watching the match together with other students. They were supporting the Indian team and we supporting Pakistan team. It was fine till India lost the game, but after Pakistan’s victory, the Indian students were enraged and they started beating students from Kashmir.

"It was only after other students intervened that the violence stopped but they terrorised us and broke hostel furniture. They threatened us and asked us to pack our bags and leave immediately,” he said.

Omkar Singh, Meerut’s senior superintendent of police, confirmed a case had been registered against the students “for raising pro-Pakistan slogans and damaging property on a complaint filed by the University authorities. We are investigating the matter,” he said.

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Sedition charges against Kashmiri students for cheering Pak cricket team
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sedition-charges-against-kashmiri-students-for-cheering-pak-cricket-team/article5756948.ece

Sedition charges against Kashmiri students uncalled for: Omar Abdullah
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Sedition-charges-against-Kashmiri-students-uncalled-for-Omar-Abdullah/articleshow/31545114.cms

BJP against withdrawal of sedition charges against Kashmiri students cheering for Pak team (PTI | Mar 7, 2014)

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The Economic Times

The deep perils of cricket nationalism

ET Bureau, 6 March 2014

Harm was done to Indian nationalism by the management of a private university at Meerut, which packed off a group of Kashmiri students for cheering Pakistan instead of India in the Asia Cup cricket match.

The act privileged a view of nationalism as a monochrome expression of unvarying and uniform loyalty from all sections regardless of their own context, history and degree of integration into the so-called national mainstream.

When people of Indian origin in Britain, loyal and proud citizens of their adopted land, cheer India in a cricket match against England, xenophobic far right groups target them — to the dismay of Indians back home, including, presumably, the outraged nationalists in Meerut.

Many Kashmiris see their land as an occupied place, retained by brute force alone. Behaviour such as in Meerut only serves to strengthen this feeling, rather than to reduce any degree of alienation.

Backing the "wrong" team in a contest between nations is, often, a form of protest, against real and imagined offences against the concerned group. To suppress that protest is to add to grievances, not to attenuate them.

Kashmiris could well turn around and ask, how come no Kashmiri has ever played for the Indian team, if Kashmir is indeed an integral part of India? The "Hindu-Hindi-Hindustani" construction of Indian nationalism is just a form of chauvinism that excludes very many Indians.

Rather, Indian nationalism can only be conceived, in the spirit of liberal democracy that informs the Constitution, as celebration of an ongoing, multi-paced union of chunks of humanity that are diverse in regional, linguistic, religious, ethnic and cultural terms, through a process of sharing of rights, responsibilities and resources. Forced cheering is not celebration.

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The Hindu, March 8, 2014

Editorial: Abuse of sedition law

Cricket between India and Pakistan indeed incites great passion in both countries, and among the followers of the two teams patriotism often gets unduly mixed with the love for the game. However, for its sheer perversity and unreason, the action of the Meerut police in booking a group of students from Jammu and Kashmir on a charge of sedition beats all previous instances of the misuse of the penal provision. The ostensible ‘crime’ committed by the students seems to be that they cheered for the Pakistan cricket team during a closely fought one-day match against India and celebrated Pakistan’s victory. The charge of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code has been dropped, but only after the strong outrage evoked by this irrational act. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah appealed to his counterpart in Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav, and described the invocation of grave offences unacceptably harsh. The only small comfort is that no student has yet been named in the first information report even though the charges of promoting enmity between different groups, under Section 153-A of the IPC and causing mischief (Section 427), remain. The Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, a private institution in Meerut, says it sent back Kashmiri students from the hostel where the incident took place as a precautionary measure to prevent the incident from being given a communal colour. While the University authorities claim they had not lodged a complaint, the district’s Senior Superintendent of Police says the police acted only on a complaint from its Registrar.

The reckless invoking of the grave charge of sedition for minor expressions of views that may be contrary to conventional notions of patriotism is an unacceptable affront to India’s democracy. The Supreme Court has made it clear that it cannot be invoked unless there is actual incitement to violence and intention to cause disorder, and that merely using words that indicate disaffection against the government cannot be termed sedition. The police officers who included Section 124A in the FIR appear to have no understanding of this aspect of the law. Nor did they take into account the adverse effect such a measure would have on the psyche of students and others from Kashmir residing or working elsewhere in the country. It was only recently that the Jammu and Kashmir cricket team was subjected to a midnight search of hotel rooms on the eve of a Ranji Trophy match in Jammu. The Uttar Pradesh government should take quick steps to drop the case and bring back the Kashmiri students to the same campus and let them resume their studies. Otherwise, this will be another ugly episode that will intensify the alienation of Kashmiris from the Indian mainstream.

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National Interest: Mr Tebbit goes to Meerut
by Shekhar Gupta (March 8, 2014)
Booking Kashmir’s kids for cheering Pakistan paints a shameful and wrong picture of India — and of cricket.
http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/national-interest-mr-tebbit-goes-to-meerut/

After Meerut, Greater Noida university expels Kashmiri students ‘who cheered for Pakistan’
Shafaque Alam, TNN | Mar 9, 2014
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/After-Meerut-Greater-Noida-university-expels-Kashmiri-students-who-cheered-for-Pakistan/articleshow/31702247.cms

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
270-A, Patpar Ganj, Opposite Anand Lok Apartments, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110 091
Phone 2275 0014 PP FAX 4215 1459
Founder: Jayaprakash Narayan; Founding President: V M Tarkunde
President: Prof. Prabhakar Sinha; General Secretary: Dr. V. Suresh
puclnat at gmail.com; pucl.natgensec at gmail.com

07th March, 2014

PRESS STATEMENT

PUCL condemns the move of Meerut Police and UP Government to book 67 Kashmiri students of Swami Vivekanand Subharthi University, Meerut under sedition law, namely Section 124-A, IPC, for allegedly cheering in support of Pakistan during the Asia cup cricket match. The use of the harsh provision of sec. 124A IPC against the students has shocked the nation, for apart from criminalizing a trivial incident, the law invoked carries a sentence of upto life imprisonment. Though the sedition charges were dropped later due to political intervention, they not only go on to show the way in which Kashmiris are treated across the nation but also raise another important issue of the way draconian provisions of law like the anti-sedition law is routinely abused to silence citizens, muzzle free speech, intimidate anyone even remotely questioning government and state policy and brutally ensure that citizens conform to what is considered politically right by the ruling political elite and establishment.

Sec. 124A IPC was made by the British government to crush and silence freedom fighters during the independence struggle and had been famously used against Mahatma Gandhi and Balgangadhar Tilak, both of who were convicted for 6 years under this law.

For the last 100 years, both the colonial British state and independent Indian governments have used anti-sedition laws as a tool of repression to silence anyone from questioning their actions. This draconian law has been invoked earlier against author and activist Arundhati Roy, well known doctor and PUCL National Vice-President Dr. Binayak Sen, journalist Seema Azad and cartoonist Aseem Trivedi.

PUCL strongly believes that Section 124A is an archaic and repressive law which has a ’chilling effect’ on freedom of speech and expression of Indian citizens as enshrined in Article 19 (1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. As long as it is in the law books it will continue to be abused to silence dissent and prevent challenges to ruling interests. Jawaharlal Nehru made a promise to the nation in India’s First parliament that sec. 124A IPC is unacceptable and that the law will be repealed. PUCL has been demanding not just the repeal of sec. 124A IPC but also clones of the law in other statutes like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

The Meerut police, have charged the students not only under Sec. 124A, but also u/s 153A IPC (promoting enmity between different communities) and sec. 427 IPC (committing mischief). PUCL strongly condemns the registration of criminal case as unacceptable and unwarranted for the alleged incident is trivial.

Such whimsical, vengeful and capricious abuse of the criminal laws by the police will only result in further alienation of Kashmir youth and not help to build emotional and social bonds with the rest of people in India. It is time that civil society becomes more sensitive to the need to address Kashmiri alienation by making Kashmiris feel welcome and included whenever they visit any city or region of India.

It is therefore that PUCL demands that not just sec. 124A, but the FIR filed against unnamed Kashmiri students be unconditionally withdrawn. PUCL also demands that the suspension of the students by University authorities should also be withdrawn.

Sd/- Dr. V. Suresh, National General Secretary, PUCL
Prof. Prabhakar Sinha, National President, PUCL

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PIPFPD Press Release: March 12, 2014 - This is not just about cheering for the ’wrong’ cricket team
http://www.sacw.net/article7918.html