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Is it a crime to possess or wear clothing with national insignia of a neighbouring South Asian Country ? : An Open Letter to Secretary General of SAARC

by Harsh Kapoor, 9 November 2014

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sacw.net - 9 November 2014

To:
H.E. Arjun Bahadur Thapa,
Secretary General of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
SAARC Secretariat,
 Tridevi Marg, 
P.O. Box 4222,
 Kathmandu,
 Nepal
saarc at saarc-sec.org

9 November 2014

Your excellency,

I write to draw your attention to the recent filing of a police complaint against 10 young boys in the Kushinagar area located in the province of Uttar Pradesh in India on grounds of wearing the Tee shirts of the Pakistan Cricket Team. [see a news report in the Indian Media posted below] It is indeed astonishing that citizen’s of SAARC member states cannot take the risk of wearing clothing bearing insignia from national sports teams of another SAARC member state. In a similar incident in March 2014 some 60 odd students in a university in India were charged with sedition and faced expulsion from their university for cheering the Pakistan Team in cricket match broadcast on TV [ http://tinyurl.com/mq2mz2x ]. After all the SAARC member states are signatories to a common charter and a whole set of regional agreements that are meant to promote regional cooperation and mutual understanding and incidents like these clearly run counter to these commitments. What is wrong in reading books, seeing films, watching and appreciating sports events, being able to access handicrafts or clothing from countries that are members of SAARC. Why should these banal things which are lived and accepted as normal in other parts of the world be considered inimical to National interests of SAARC states?

Usually people would write a letter like this directly to the authorities concerning the country of wrongdoing, but I choose to write to you most of all, since you hold the fort for SAARC.

This may seem an extra-ordinary request concerning events in a particular SAARC member state but I would like to ask you to kindly take up this matter formally with the Govt of India and also with all member states of SAARC to ensure that the act of purchase or possession of commonly available sports goods bearing national insignia of SAARC member states should not become grounds of filing police complaints in any SAARC country against citizens of SAARC member states. Sir, please dont hold your horses on this even if it means creating a precedent, if not for anything else, you owe it to the tax payers in South Asia’s member states that fund the SAARC secretariat. However symbolic an initiative from you regarding this matter it would render a signal service to citizens of SAARC member states.

Yours sincerely,

Harsh Kapoor [as concerned South Asian]

copies to:

  • Mr Akhilesh Yadav
    Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh,
    5, Kalidas Marg Lucknow Uttar Pradesh, India
    cmup at nic.in
  • People’s SAARC Regional Secrerariat, Kathmandu, Nepal
    peoplesaarc at yahoo.com
  • South Asians for Human Rights
    345/18 Kuruppu Road (17/7 Kuruppu Lane), Colombo 08, Sri Lanka
    sahr at southasianrights.org
  • Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal & Asha Hans
    Co-Chairpersons, Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy – India
    pipfpd.india at gmail.com
  • Mr John Dayal, Member, National Integration Council of India
    john.dayal at gmail.com

[( http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/up-police-register-case-against-10-boys-for-wearing-t-shirts-of-pakistan-cricket-team/

UP police register case against 10 boys for wearing T-shirts of Pakistan cricket team

Written by Muzamil Jaleel | New Delhi | Posted: November 8, 2014

The Uttar Pradesh Police have registered a case against 10 boys in Kushinagar district for wearing T-shirts of the Pakistani cricket team during a Muharran procession. The boys have been charged for acting “prejudicial to national integration and causing communal disharmony”, sources said.

The sources said the boys, said to be aged under 12, were part of the Muharram procession in Kalyan Chapad Chotta, a village under the jurisdiction of the Kubersthan police station. They were playing with sticks, a tradition during Muharram processions especially in this region of Uttar Pradesh in which groups of boys exhibit their skills.

Sources said the police have named five boys in their case while the other five are yet to be named.

When contacted, SP Kushinagar Lalit Kumar Singh said “an FIR has been lodged but nobody has been arrested”. He did not want to explain as to why the case was registered.

Kushinagar DM Lokesh M told The Indian Express that it was a small issue and the district administration is trying to sort it out. “These children were wearing those T-shirts and once it was pointed out, they removed it immediately,” he said. He said the police have not given him any report yet. He said that Kushinagar district is communally sensitive.

The family members of the boys were not ready to speak because of fear. A police team had already visited the village for investigation.

A village elder, Liyaqat Ali, said this case has created tension in the village. “These are foolish children. They are 11-, 12-year-old children. They had bought these T-shirts from a shop and the elders had no idea about it,” he said. “If the police had an objection to this, they should have explained this to the children. What was the need to register a case,” he said. “The police case has created tension in the village. We are unable to understand as to why police filed a case of sedition against these children.”

A local social activist, Shakir Ali, however, said the issue was being unnecessarily exaggerated. “These T-shirts are readily available with a local sports shop. A group of boys had picked these T-shirts so that they could wear them during the stick playing tradition during the Muharram procession,” he said. “They had done it without knowing that it would get them into trouble. Once someone pointed it out, they removed it immediately.” He said there is a lot of fear among the Muslim population in the village after this incident, especially after police filed the case. “How is wearing a T-shirt of a country that is readily available in a store here seditious?’’ he asked.

Sources said activists of Hindu Yuva Vahini burnt Pakistani flags at different places especially at Padrona Subash Chowk in the district on Wednesday and sought action against the boys.)]