SRINAGAR: Sixty-seven Kashmiri students who were suspended by a private university in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly cheering for Pakistan during the India-Pak cricket match last week were on Thursday booked for sedition. The charges were, however, withdrawn late in the night.
The UP administration said it had informed the Indian Home Ministry that it had dropped the charges after conducting a review. The ministry had sought a report on the incident from Uttar Pradesh, reports said.
“UP Principal Secretary (Home) Navneet Sehgal said the sedition charge has been withdrawn (against the students of Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, SVSU),” a PTI report said.
Omkar Singh, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) communally sensitive Meerut, where the SVSU is located, said the sedition charges were dropped against the Kashmiri students after the enquiry conducted to probe the allegations proved wrong. However, he said, the charges under sections 153A, 427 IPC remain unchanged.
“The two charges are currently being investigated. The law will take its own course,” Singh told a Srinagar-based news agency GNS. When asked if the charges have been dropped because of outrage in Jammu and Kashmir, Singh said the police “didn’t act on political considerations.”
“The investigations revealed that the charges under sedition were not applicable against the students. So, we had to drop them,” the SSP Meerut said, adding, “We’ll also listen to the version of Kashmiri students. This is what police is for. To listen to all.”
Earlier in the day, the Meerut police said they had filed a case against all the students.
“FIR has been registered against all the students, but no one in particular has been named in it. They have been booked under section 124 (a), 153 (a), and 427 of the IPC,” office of Meerut’s Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) said on Thursday when contacted by Kashmir Reader over phone.
Section 124 (a) is for sedition, while 153 (a), and 427 are for causing disharmony between groups and for mischief, respectively.
The students—most of them have been provided admission in technical courses under the much-hyped Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS)—were temporarily expelled from the hostels of SVSU on Monday after they were alleged to have cheered for Pakistan in the cricket match played a day before.
The expulsion order was issued following protests from local students who accused their Kashmiri colleagues of raising pro-Pakistan slogans after the match. All Kashmiri boys staying in two hostels of the varsity were packed off in two buses amidst heavy presence of police. Many of them managed to reach home on Wednesday.
The university has, however, extended the students’ term of suspension till further orders, which are to be issued after completion of the ongoing enquiry.
“Initially, we suspended the students for three days. But now they shall remain suspended till further orders. We will wait for report to be submitted by the enquiry committee set up by the university,” the varsity’s Registrar P K Garg told Kashmir Reader.
“The students’ fate depends upon the enquiry report,” Garg said, when asked if the students could lose admissions. He did not give any time period for completion of the enquiry. “I really cannot comment on that,” he said.
Meanwhile, a magisterial probe has been reportedly ordered in the case.
“A magisterial probe is said to have has been ordered into the events leading to the suspension of 67 Kashmiri students at SVSU here after they reportedly cheered for Pakistan during the India-Pak match in the Asia Cup. Officials said the additional city magistrate (Sadar) would conduct the inquiry,” a Times of India report from Meerut said.
In the Valley, meanwhile, the slapping of sedition charges against the students has invoked anger. Many people ridiculed the Meerut police’s act of charging students with sedition.
“You mean now cricket patriotism is officially stamped,” read the Facebook post of Anuradha Bhasin, editor of prominent daily Kashmir Times.
“I just downloaded Coke Studio Pakistan (Season 6). It’s amazing. By the way, will India book me under sedition?” one Gowhar Bhat said in his Facebook post.
“Expulsion of Kashmiri students from a university and charges of sedition for supporting Pakistan in cricket explains how ‘democratic’ India is,” commented another netizen on the Facebook.