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Mainstream, VOL LII No 12, March 15, 2014

This is Not Just about Cheering for the ‘Wrong’ Cricket Team

Saturday 15 March 2014

The following is a press release issued an March 12, 2014 on behalf of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy by PIPFPD, India

by Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal and Asha Hans, co-chairpersons, PIPFPD India Chapter.

The recent case of charges of sedition, spreading enmity and mischief imposed on some students from Kashmir at the Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh and their expulsion from this University after they cheered for Pakistan post-a cricket match between India and Pakistan on March 2, 2014 has evoked a lot of responses, anger from some, judgements on what the students should have or should not have done, and a lot of debate. The students were booked under section 124 A (sedition), 153 A (promoting enmity bet-ween different groups) and 427 (mischief) of the IPC after a complaint by University Chancellor. After severe opposition, the UP Government dropped the charges of sedition against the students on March 8, 2014 but the other charges remain and the order by the University administration to expel these students still stands.

However, the one thing it all boils down to is the fact that a bunch of Kashmiri students were not only expelled, attacked and thrown out of their hostel rooms for cheering for Pakistan’s cricket team, but this incident is a reflection of a sense of jingoistic nationalism that is being promoted since years and in this case, students are being made subjects. There is no law that says that it is necessary for one to cheer the official sports team of the ‘motherland’ and hence it is important to understand that this is not just about bad sportspersons spirit. Many of the matches between India and Pakistan where India wins, have been times when massive rallies with anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim slogans have taken place from University areas and in fact, from almost every second locality in various parts of the country, which all go unnoticed. But, is this allowed to go unnoticed because it feeds into the kind of nationalism that this country endorses?

The Indian Constitution needs to be followed by the Indian Government. The students cheered for a cricket team. There is no evidence that shows that they engaged in vandalism, hooliganism, held arms, were a threat, disrupted government functioning. Thus, the case does not stand and instead of going to the root of the problem, looking at the intolerance of the fellow-students, the unacceptable action taken by the University authorities and the UP Police; different political parties and politicians are trying to score points over one another. Demands for dropping sedition charges came mainly from Mr Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, and the Peoples’ Democratic Party but Mr Abdullah on the other hand has said that they should not have cheered for Pakistan, they were ‘misguided’. However, the fact of the matter is that the students have been harassed, attacked, have had to hear taunts in the past, one Kashmiri student was also stabbed earlier and this is the light in which the incident on March 2 took place.

The PIPFPD condemns the action taken by fellow-students, the University administration and the Meerut Police.

We demand

1. All cases be immediately withdrawn against the students from Kashmir.

2. The University withdraws the expulsion order and ensures the safety of all students.

3. The University takes action on students who have beaten them up and ransacked their rooms.

4. We appeal that the seriousness of what has happened; this hooliganism by Right-wing groups is not covered under the storm of political opportunism and is not made into an issue that political parties can piggy-back on.