Sedition charges against Kashmiri students, who applauded Pak in cricket match, are dropped after HM seeks report
Meerut/Srinagar : It was a theatre of absurd: First, a case of sedition is slapped on a group of Kashmiri students for applauding Pakistan in the recent Asia Cup cricket match against India. Then, as the news played itself out in the national media, late at night, UP Principal Secretary (Home) Navneet Sehgal said the sedition charge has been withdrawn. No reason was sighted but sources said the decision came after the Union Home Ministry sought a report from the Uttar Pradesh Government on the dropping of the charge.
Around sixty Kashmiri students studying in the Swami Vivekananda Subharti University in Meerut were on Monday summarily suspended for three days and told to vacate the hostel after they celebrated Pakistan’s win in their hostel dormitory and lustily cheered Shahid Afridi and co. Pro-Pakistan slogans were also raised, which led to an altercation with other students and snowballed into vandalism and stone-throwing.
The suspension sparked immediate outrage in Kashmir Valley. Later, the decision to charge the students with sedition — the minimum punishment for which is three years and the maximum a life sentence -– further incensed the Valley. Incidentally, sedition is also a non-bailable offence which means the accused cannot be granted bail by the arresting authority. The accused has to approach a court to seek regular bail.
Using a sledgehammer to deal with what was merely expression of support for the Pakistan team, the Meerut district authorities also ordered a magisterial inquiry into the conduct of the students.
The students, who were escorted out of their hostel by security on Monday, said they were told their suspension was for three days but they had not been allowed to return since then. Each one of them was also told to cough up Rs 5000 in fine.
“The college never heard our side of the story. Some of us were crying as we had no money,” said a student who has returned to his home in Kashmir.
Across the border, Pakistan could not hide its glee. “If the Kashmiri students want to come and pursue their education in Pakistan, our hearts and academic institutions are open to them,” Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told reporters in Islamabad.
Around 200 Kashmiri students are enrolled in B.Tech and law courses in the university.
The UP government sat up and took notice only after J and K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah slammed the sedition charge as an “unacceptably harsh punishment,” which will ruin the future of the students and further alienate them. He asked the UP government to reverse the decision and personally took up the matter with his counterpart Akhilesh Yadav.
Omar, however, did say that what the students did was wrong. “The sad fact is that some of these students are recipients of the PM scholarship for Kashmiris. Perhaps they need to introspect,” he tweeted.
The opposition PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, too, demanded that the sedition charge be dropped and the university authorities should apologise to the nation. The ruling NC also closed ranks with rival PDP on the issue, forcing the Akhilesh government to realize that its peculiar kind of competitive politics -– wherein it is trying to woo both Muslims and Hindus -– could boomerang in an election year.