The World Cup 2023 final match (November 19) between the Indian and Australian teams was a joyous occasion for thousands of people watching it in a stadium in Ahmedabad, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself being among the spectators. Crores of cricket lovers watched it all over the globe and cheered the players who were there on the field. But far away in Ganderbal (Kashmir), it was an occasion for some local students to threaten others who were cheering for the Indian players.
Things turned ugly when some Kashmiri students raised slogans of “Jeeve, Jeeve Pakistan’’ long after Babar Azam and Co had been sent home packing after a dismal performance. These slogans were raised mainly to taunt dozens of students watching the match and cheering Rohit Sharma’s team, which had a 10/10 record until then. Taunts later turned into violent threats, telling students from other states outside Jammu & Kashmir to stop cheering for the Indian team.
It was clearly an act aimed at fueling separatism, secessionism, and criminal intimidation of the students labelled “outsiders’’. It was not the first time that such a thing happened at an educational institution in Kahsmir. In the past too, on many occasions when the Indian team lost to a rival, a section of Kashmiri students cheered. Only this time, an “outsider’’ student named Sachin Bains from Punjab went to the police and lodged a complaint against those who had threatened him, and that led to an FIR being filed against seven Kashmiri students.
Under FIR No. 317/2023 at Ganderbal Police Station, Section 13 UAPA has been invoked against the trouble-mongers who have been arrested “for inciting and abetting the unlawful activities’’. Inspector General of Police (IGP) of Kashmir V K Birdi said that the case has been registered and investigations were underway.
Incidentally, this section of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is a provision that carries a maximum imprisonment of seven years. Charges under Section 505 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) have also been slapped against the Kashmiri students who would have been veterinarians after completing their course. On Tuesday (November 28), the Jammu & Kashmir Police issued a statement explaining why the FIR had been registered. This was apparently done in response to what was being written on various social media platforms and in some local media outlets.
“Two relevant aspects are brought to public knowledge. First, it is not merely about raising pro-Pakistan slogans. It is about the full context in which the sloganeering took place. These slogans, as has usually been the case with a select few bullies, were aired to intimidate those who disagreed and also to identify and vilify those who chose to keep a distance. It is also about normalising an abnormal: that everyone hates India (as different from the government of the day and party in power) ‘openly’. This abnormal and false thing is practised mostly on the back of separatist and terrorist networks. In other words, the aim is not to air the personal preferences of a particular sporting team,’’ the police said.
“It is not about dissent or freedom of expression. It is about terrorising others who may be nourishing pro-India feelings or anti-Pakistan feelings or disagreeing. There were written complaints to evidence this,’’ the statement said.
“The second aspect is the application of the right law. Section 13 of UAPA is about inciting, advocating and encouraging separatist ideology. It is not about planning, aiding and executing actual terror acts. It classifies such actions as unlawful. In contrast to other provisions of the act, it is a softer provision of an act,” the statement added.
In October 2021, the UAPA was invoked by the police to arrest some staff members of two medical colleges in Srinagar and some students. They were booked under the UAPA as they had celebrated Pakistan’s triumph over India in the T20 World Cup on October 24 in Dubai. Before that, in a similar incident in 2016, there were ugly scenes and “outsider’’ students were intimidated in the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar after India’s T20 World Cup semi-final loss to West Indies.
After the incidents in the past, many Kashmiri politicians have urged the authorities for taking a lenient view of these happenings. This time too, it was not much different but as in the past, Mehbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was the most vocal in defending the booked students. Skirting the issue of intimidation, pro-Pakistan slogans and threats given to “outsiders’’, she condemned the police for booking the students under UAPA.
Terming the police action as “disconcerting and shocking’’, Ms Mufti said “cheering for a winning team too has been criminalised in Kashmir’’. She said this showed the “ruthless mindset of the establishment towards youngsters in Jammu & Kashmir’’.