In Agra, despite college authorities making it clear that no anti-India slogans were raised inside the campus, three Kashmiri students were arrested by police after a local Bharatiya Janata Party member filed a complaint after the India-Pakistan cricket match on 24 October. When they were brought to the Agra court, local lawyers roughed them up and declared that nobody from the Bar Association will plead their case. This is what you get instead of justice in Uttar Pradesh, a state ruled by the Right-wing BJP government.
The entire exercise looks motivated by the way BJP leaders are after these students, perhaps to draw mileage for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.
Ideally, support for a particular team should not be tagged to someone’s politics or ideology. Let sports remain what it is meant to be. Cricket, after all, is a gentleman’s game.
Cheering for other teams is not sedition
Meanwhile, in an important interview, former Supreme Court Judge Deepak Gupta told The Wire that “celebrating and cheering for any team or player is not sedition and it’s ridiculous to think it is so.” It may be offensive to some, but it is not illegal in any way. Gupta said that there is no place for sedition in a civilised democracy.
It was a sheer display of sportsmanship by Indian captain Virat Kohli when he reached out to his Pakistani counterpart Babar Azam and hugged him and his teammate Mohammad Rizwan. Kohli also lauded the Pakistani cricket team for their performance in the 24 October match. However, while players from both India and Pakistan spread messages of love and friendship, some people used the match to further their politics. Virat Kohli taught us an important message of sports, whether it was by giving credit to the opponent or standing by his teammate Mohammad Shami.
Despite all these messages, Kashmiri students were attacked, beaten and roughed up at a few colleges in India. With all that’s taken place in the aftermath of the match, the message is clear — sport is no longer sports but a means to patriotism and nationalism.
All three families whose sons were arrested, belong to the marginalised section of society and do not have the financial resources to travel from Kashmir to Agra to meet their wards or hire any lawyer. Two families are even finding it hard to meet their daily expenses. One of them is an orphan. Pursuing studies was only made possible because of the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) scholarship.
When the Agra lawyers’ association decided not to provide legal help to Kashmiri students, we moved to other places to plead the case. It was then around 6 pm, that Delhi-based lawyer and activist Tamanna Pankaj called us and assured us help and said she would speak to the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) for legal aid and action. We have arranged Mathura-based prominent lawyer advocate Madhuvan Chaturvedi through APCR and he will defend all three arrested students legally in court now.
Aftermath of India-Pakistan match
Around 12 more students were assaulted in Bhai Gurdas Institute of Information and Technology Sangrur, and four students were assaulted in Kharar, Mohali, after the India-Pakistan match.
NSUI activists in Karnataka also filed complaints to Chikkaballapur police in Karnataka against Kashmiri students for posting a congratulatory message in favour of Pakistan after the World Cup match.
These incidents have increased the sense of insecurity and anxiety among Kashmiri students as well as their parents and relatives in Kashmir.
Slapping or booking students with Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act charges is unacceptable and harsh, and will ruin their futures and will further alienate them. No doubt they raised slogans that hurt the sentiments and emotions of people, which is not a justifiable act, but we must understand that it will result in their career assassination.
The youth of Jammu and Kashmir
We must respect everyone’s point of view and control our emotions, especially when it hurts the sentiment of others.
We hope that in the larger interest of society and country, the medical students and students booked with sedition charges in Agra are seen sympathetically and not charged with any offence. They should take effective measures to prevent such incidents and address the sense of insecurity among Kashmiri students and workers living elsewhere in India. We must make sure that the relationship between Kashmiri students and others remains cordial. They should be given a chance to return to studies for a bright future. We need to counsel students who are guilty of mistakes like raising controversial slogans than react with penal charges.
The Narendra Modi government must act to restore their faith in the ethical standing and fairness of our Constitution. It needs to build trust and win the hearts of these students through dialogue and not book them under serious and draconian laws. It should treat the people of Kashmir as human beings and gain their confidence.
Reconciliation with students is the only way to further the cause of engaging with the youth of Jammu and Kashmir. The Modi government should have an amnesty for students who have posted objectionable comments.
Nasir Khuehami is the National Spokesperson of J&K Students Association. He tweets @NasirKhuehami. Younus Rashid is the National General Secretary of J&K Students Association. He tweets @YounusRashid97. Views are personal.