Human Lives Human Rights: Indian police have arrested a number of Kashmiri students inside and outside of Kashmir for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s win over India in the T20 World Cup.
Around 300 students in two top Srinagar medical colleges gathered in two hostels watching the match on Sunday and burst into celebrations when Pakistan crushed India in the high-octane contest in Dubai.
Videos of the students shouting “Long live Pakistan” went viral. Footage also showed thousands of people in the city and several other towns cheering on the streets and setting off firecrackers in support of Pakistan.
On Tuesday, police opened two investigations under the Unlawful Prevention Activities Act (UAPA) and raided one of the hostels, but no one was detained, a police officer said.
“The videos are being closely scrutinised to identify cheerleaders who raised pro-Pakistan and anti-Indian slogans at the end of the match and indulged in anti-national activities,” the officer said.
Meanwhile, Police superintendent Vikash Kumar in Agra — a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh — told reporters on Tuesday evening that a complaint was filed at the Jagdishpura police station after “anti-national” messages were sent by students at Raja Balwant Singh (RBS) engineering college following the match between the two cricketing rivals.
On Wednesday, Uttar Pradesh Police tweeted that five people had been arrested in incidents throughout the state after “anti-national elements used disrespectful words against the Indian cricket team and made anti-India comments which disrupted peace.”
India has used the vaguely-worded UAPA legislation against thousands of Kashmiri residents, journalists and dissidents, according to activists.
It allows people to be held for six months — often rolled over — without being charged and bail is virtually impossible.
In a separate similar incident, police detained six residents in the Jammu region of the territory for questioning after a video showing them supporting Pakistan’s cricket team emerged on social media.
“Why is loyalty to the Indian cricket team being demanded from us? Is it a crime to cheer the victory of your favourite side? Many of us are petrified for being charged under terrorism laws or even being arrested or dismissed from college,” a medical student said.
Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti took to Twitter criticising the police action, saying “Instead of trying to ascertain why educated youth choose to identify with Pakistan, GOI (Government of India) resorted to vindictive actions.”
On Monday, a group of Kashmiri students in the northern state of Punjab reported being attacked after they celebrated Pakistan’s victory, and an Indian schoolteacher in Rajasthan was dismissed after she posted celebratory messages on social media.
Anger against New Delhi has simmered since August 2019 when Hindu nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi’s government cancelled the occupied region’s semi-autonomy and brought it under direct rule.
Since then, over 2,000 people have been arrested under the UAPA, with almost half of them still in jail, according to officials and rights activists.
Human Lives Human Rights calls on the Indian government to release and drop all charges against Kashmiris if the country claims to be democratic and allows freedom of expression.