The Uttar Pradesh police on Thursday slapped sedition charges on a group of Kashmiri students of a private university in Meerut for reportedly cheering Pakistan’s victory against India during a cricket match on Sunday. The action sparked outrage in Kashmir, where both the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rallied behind the students.
While the Swami Vivekananda Subharti University (SVSU) in Meerut suspended 65 students for three days earlier this week, the university authorities on Wednesday evening lodged an FIR at the Jaani police station against “unidentified students of a particular group”.
Following the FIR, the police have registered a case against “unidentified students of a particular group” under Sections 124-A (sedition),153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.) and 427 (damage to government property). The minimum punishment for a sedition offence is three years and the maximum is life sentence.
Meerut SSP Onkar Singh said a case of sedition was registered based on the details provided by the university authorities. “The case will be investigated and action can be taken if anyone is found guilty. But how can we investigate a case against unidentified students,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted that the “sedition charge against Kashmiri students is an unacceptably harsh punishment that will ruin their futures and will further alienate them”.
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While stating that “what the boys may have done in Meerut is misguided, (but) it certainly isn’t illegal,” Abdullah tweeted, “Have just spoken to CM UP who has assured me he will personally look into the matter of the Kashmiri students in Meerut.”
He further tweeted, “I believe the university did what it had to to control the situation but this action by the UP Govt is uncalled for & should be reversed.”
PDP spokesperson Nayeem Akhar said the UP government’s action would lead to further alienation. The separatist leadership also expressed concern. “This reflects that Kashmiri people are under suppression in every place’’ said Syed Ali Geelani. Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq termed it as a reflection of communal mindset and racial bias.
Meanwhile, the Meerut SSP said a magisterial inquiry is already underway. “We are waiting for the findings of the magisterial inquiry and will take action after that,” said District Magistrate Pankaj Yadav.
Mukesh Wallia ,general secretary, Meerut Bar Association, said the FIR filed by the SVSU was “weak”. Pointing out that the FIR was lodged against “unidentified” students, he said, “If that particular group is unidentified, how can these students be suspended?” he said.
Most of the students who returned to their homes in the Valley said they would not go back to the university as they feared for their lives.
Ajaz Ahmad, a student, alleged that the Kashmiri students were targeted after the match. “The window panes of our hostel were broken. We all slept in one room as we were afraid that we would be attacked at night,’’ he said.