Indian police have detained or arrested at least a dozen Muslims for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s cricket match victory October 24 over archrival India in the T20 World Cup.
Those arrested include a Muslim teacher in the western state of Rajasthan who was fired from her job for writing “We won” on her WhatsApp status following Pakistan’s crushing victory against India last week in Dubai. Authorities at a government hospital in Indian-administered Kashmir also terminated the job contract of a Kashmiri Muslim medical technician after she allegedly celebrated the victory on social media.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, seven people, including three Kashmiri students, were arrested for celebrating Pakistan’s victory. The state’s chief minister said all would be charged with sedition, and the accused could face jail terms of up to seven years.
Former Indian Supreme Court Justice Deepak Gupta said the celebration by any Indian of Pakistan’s cricket victory is “definitely not sedition and it is ridiculous to think it is.”
India and Pakistan are cricket-frenzy nations, and the neighbors have been fierce rivals on the pitch since British India was split into two countries in 1947.
But because of the bitter political enmity between the countries, the Indian government does not allow the Indian cricket team to play Pakistan except in an official International Cricket Council-organized contest such as the ongoing T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in India and has blamed its rival for many terrorist attacks in India-administered Kashmir and other parts of the country. While Pakistan denies the accusations, almost all exchanges between the nations have come to a standstill in the recent years. The bilateral cricketing ties between the two neighbors have been frozen for more than eight years.
Pakistan’s trouncing of archrival India in the October 24 match triggered ecstatic celebrations among some Muslims in India, according to police reports. In India, where the majority is Hindu, those celebrating Pakistan’s victory are viewed as anti-nationals or enemies of India.
On October 27, police arrested Muslim teacher Nafisa Attari in Rajasthan’s Udaipur for her WhatsApp status in support of the Pakistani cricket team. The private school where she worked dismissed her immediately.
The same day, police in Uttar Pradesh announced they had arrested seven people, including three Kashmiri students from a private engineering college in Agra, for allegedly celebrating Pakistani team’s victory on WhatsApp. The Kashmiris were suspended from school.
In a tweet, Uttar Pradesh police said those arrested were “anti-national elements” who used “disrespectful words against the Indian cricket team and made anti-India comments which disrupted peace.” The Kashmiris also face charges of cyberterrorism, under India’s Information Technology Act.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath threatened that Indians found cheering Pakistani cricket team will face tough actions.
Adityanath tweeted: “Those celebrating Pakistan’s victory will face sedition charges.”
The charge of sedition, which is based on a British colonial-era law, can be used against anyone who “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law.”
Nasir Khuehami, national spokesperson of the Jammu and Kashmir Students Association, told VOA that Kashmiri Muslim students were violently assaulted in many states in India for allegedly celebrating the Pakistani cricket team’s victory.
“This is perhaps true that those Kashmiri students celebrated Pakistani team’s victory in social media. But the Kashmiri students in Agra are being hounded more because of some Hindu groups’ charge that they shouted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans. This charge is completely untrue. The college authorities and some non-Kashmiri students from the Agra engineering college confirmed it to us that no Kashmiri students shouted anti-India or pro-Pakistan slogans. But mostly because of the bogus charge, the students are being viewed as anti-nationalists,” Khuehami said.
In the presence of police, Hindu right-wing groups beat up three arrested Kashmiri students while they were being produced in the court, Khuehami said.
“Several lawyer associations in Agra have decided not to provide legal support to the three Kashmiri students. It is obvious that once the three students are booked under sedition charges, their studies will be doomed. Slapping sedition charges against the students just on the basis of their WhatsApp statuses and congratulatory messages is an arbitrary and unwarranted act.”
The parents of the three students, who are mostly poor, have urged that the Uttar Pradesh government forgive them and revoke all the charges on humanitarian grounds.
In a video interview, Gupta said celebrating the Pakistani team’s victory over India may be offensive or unwise for an Indian “but it is not a crime. It is not illegal. A thing may be good or bad, but that does not make it a crime or illegal.”