‘Cheering for any team is not illegal’: Justice Deepak Gupta. But Sedition cases booked against three students in UP simply for hailing the winning team

Kohli

Virat Kohli and Mohammed Rizwan, Captains of Indian and Pakistan cricket teams  share a hug at the end of the T20 World Cup game in Dubai on October 24, 2021, while Babar Azam exults at Pakistan’s momentous victory. Photograph: Francois Nel/Getty Images.

The first Test match of the 1998-99 series between India and Pakistan drew to a close with a dramatic ending as the latter won it by a measly margin of 12 runs. However, even then, the crowd gave a standing ovation for the triumphant visitors who, in turn, returned the favor by conducting a victory lap. But days have changed: Jingoism and Chauvinism dominate. 

Sedition cases were booked against three students in UP simply for hailing the winning team which is not illegal.

But not just in UP and not by BJP only.

In Chikkaballapur, Karnataka, the NSUI, the students’ wing of the Congress, filed a complaint against Kashmiri students. As of now, there has been no FIR.

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‘Cheering for any team is not illegal’: Justice Deepak Gupta

Now three Kashmiri students of UP are in jail, though retired Supreme Court Justice Deepak Gupta has said cheering for or celebrating any team is not illegal in any way.

J&K Students Association JKSA National Spokesman Nasir Khuehami in an interview,  by Jyoti Punwani of  Rediffnews,  November 10, 2021, described the overall experience of Kashmiri students across India. Since October 24, when India lost to Pakistan in the World Cup T20 cricket match, the J&K Students Association has been pursuing authorities wherever Kashmiri students have been attacked or punished for cheering for Pakistan.

The Agra issue wasn’t such a big one. I spoke to the chief proctor of their college and he told me the students had posted congratulatory messages on their social media pages but had not raised any slogans. The college had suspended them for that action, and the students were planning to leave for Kashmir.

Then the VHP and other such groups barged into the campus and created a ruckus. They filed a police complaint. The next day, Yogi Adityanath announced that they will be charged with sedition.

Nasir said:

‘Those who support the attacks should realise that beating Kashmiri students can’t help anyone change the result of the game.’

The most serious situation is in UP, where three students have been charged with sedition, he said, and added:

The Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) has helped us hire a lawyer for them, after local lawyers decided not to defend them. Advocate Madhuvan Dutt Chaturvedi from Mathura will defend them.

The families of two students have reached Agra and met the three. They have been kept in a separate barrack for their own security.

These families are from marginalised backgrounds, so we helped one of them to travel to Agra. And they won’t have to pay any legal fees. APCR and others will bear the costs.

The families will meet the college authorities and request that their children’s suspension is revoked.

Not just in UP…

There were three attacks on Kashmiri students in Punjab, two of them on campus and one outside campus. Students from outside Punjab — from UP, Bihar, Haryana — were involved, while Punjabi students rescued the Kashmiris.

In the Baba Farid college, Bathinda, the attack took place not after the match but after the Pakistan-Afghanistan match on October 29. After an inquiry, the college ordered four students identified as assailants to vacate their hostel rooms, but they revoked the order within a day.

There was a lot of pressure on them from all sides: from government, social media… This is also admission time and they get lots of students from Bihar.

In Chikkaballapur, Karnataka, the NSUI, the students’ wing of the Congress, filed a complaint against Kashmiri students. As of now, there has been no FIR.

So not just the right wing, but also centrist parties such as the Congress, share the same attitude. However, I must point out that in Punjab, a delegation of the Youth Congress met the injured Kashmiri students and offered help.

JKSA spoke of 20 colleges where Kashmiri students are harassed.

But Nasir said: I can’t share their names before submitting them to the J&K government. We want to build up pressure on the government to blacklist them.

Kashmiri students go there to study, but whenever any event takes place, be it a sports event or any political development, they are unnecessarily harassed by vested interests who give these incidents a religious colour.

But those who support the attacks should realise that beating Kashmiri students can’t help anyone change the result of the game.

To those who say their scholarships should be withdrawn, I would like to say: They got the scholarships on their own merit. No one did them a favour by giving it to them.

For interview in full, visit:

https://www.rediff.com/news/interview/cheering-for-any-team-is-not-illegal/20211110.htm?print=true

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Pak win: Agra lawyers refuse legal help to Kashmiri students charged with sedition

PTI reported, October 30, 2021  :

Several lawyers’ associations of Agra have decided to deny legal help to the three Kashmiri students of an engineering college here, who were charged with sedition.

The students were booked under the Act that dates back to the British era allegedly for posting a WhatsApp status praising Pakistan players after the team’s victory against India in a T20 cricket match on October 24.

“We will not provide any legal help to those who are involved in anti national activity or anti social activity,” Nitin Verma, President of the Young Lawyers’ Association, Agra, told PTI.

“It will send a message to the country that the lawyers of Agra have decided not to provide legal help to anyone who is involved in anti national activity,” he said.

Verma argued that freedom of speech doesn’t allow engaging in “anti-national” activities and that he condemns the students’ praising of the Pakistan cricket team.

“We will also oppose any lawyer who agrees to provide legal help to these students whenever he comes to Agra,” he added.

Sunil Sharma, President of the Agra Advocates’ Association, echoed the same sentiment.

“No organisation has the right to involve in anti-India activity. The decision of lawyers’ to not provide legal help would send the message to every one in the country that no one should help those involved in anti-national activity,” Sharma said.

Besides these two, Janpad Bar Association, Adhivakta Sehyog Samiti, and other similar bodies, too have issued similar dicta against the three Kashmiri students.

Nasir Khuehami, national spokesperson of the Jammu and Kashmir Students’ Association, said the body will extend legal help to the students.

“This is true that lawyers associations in Agra have refused to provide help to Kashmiri students and have said they won’t plead the case.

“But the J&K Students Association has decided to support and extend them a helping hand as far as legal support is concerned,” he said.

“We have got a lawyer now through our Delhi team and friends there. Advocate Madhuvan Dutt Chaturvedi will defend the students on behalf of the Association,” he added.

Khuehami also expressed worry that sedition will ruin careers of these students.

On Oct 30 Thursday, when the students were exiting the court, few right wing activists raised slogans against Pakistan in the court’s premises and chased the students.

The Agra police escorted the students back into the police van.

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Letter to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh by J and K Students’ Association

kashmiri students

        The three Kashmiri students of Agra college who are accused of posting social media stories in favor of Pakistan after India’s defeat in the T20 World Cup match. Photograph: ANI Photo

The action against students simply because they cheered the winning team is arbitrary and unwarranted, JKSA said in a letter to the CM, dated Oct 27,2021.

‘Cheering for any team is not illegal.’ Even terrorists, alleged or real, are entitled to defence in courts as per law and the Constitution. But lawyers against these precepts:

“The Association for the Protection of Civil Rights has helped us hire a lawyer for them, after local lawyers decided not to defend them. Advocate Madhuvan Dutt Chaturvedi from Mathura will defend them, .” said JKSA. 

“ But I don’t expect a reply. Ahead of assembly elections, the UP government will use the students as scapegoats…”

‘Those who support the attacks should realise that beating Kashmiri students can’t help anyone change the result of the game.’

“We had requested the UP CM on humanitarian grounds to drop the FIR against the students and revoke their suspension. We wrote that while there was nothing wrong in cheering for any team, if the students had written anything provocative on social media which had hurt the sentiments of people, that was wrong.”

But an FIR was a very harsh punishment that would ruin their future. The government should give a chance to them so that their faith in the Indian Constitution is restored and they can resume their studies.

“But I don’t expect a reply. Ahead of assembly elections, the UP government will use the students as scapegoats, ” said the  JKSA leader.

We have also sent a message to Amit Khare, advisor to the PM, to give us some time.

Text of the letter is given below:

 JKSNA

The J&K Students Association’s letter to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Nasir Khuehami

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In anticipation of trouble, the JKSA on October 23, 2021 cautioned students to exercise restraint. They wrote an article, for kashmirobserver.net, October 23, 2021, given below:

India vs Pak: Dear Kashmiri Students, Hold Back Your Emotions

By Nasir Khuehami and Younus Rashid

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THAT rare occasion is inching closer; cricket teams of India and Pakistan face each other in the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 on October 24. Emotions on both sides are running high as people across South Asia eagerly wait for the biggest sports event in the region. But cricket is not just a game in this part of the world, it carries emotions, especially for people living in arch rival countries India and Pakistan. So, whenever India and Pakistan come face-to-face on a cricket field, politics follows, or in some special cases precedes the events itself.

The same is happening right now as the big event nears. Calls for cancellation of the match are already growing. This is done in retaliation of recent spate of killings in Kashmir. However, there are still some sane voices who say sports should not be mixed with politics and the proposed match should go ahead. Showing support for a particular sportsman or a team shouldn’t be seen as an act of fandom at all.

Ideally, your support for a particular team should not be tagged to your politics or ideology. Let sports remain what it is meant to be: a universal joining force for people of diverse cultures, communities, languages, religions, regions etc. But, unfortunately a few anti-social elements are hellbent to communalise this sporting event.

Cricket after all is a gentleman’s game. Besides, India and Pakistan haven’t held any bilateral series since 2012-13 and whenever they get to play against each other, it automatically becomes a big deal for fans. No doubt it is hard to detach nationalistic sentiments attached to cricket, particularly in India and Pakistan. But no harm in trying either. Unfortunately, it is the political relationship between India and Pakistan that defines everything else including cricket. Things got worse since right wing sentiment rule the roost. They have bonded together politics and sports in such a manner that separating them now is a daunting task for anyone. In this charged up atmosphere around cricket, one often place becomes its natural victim: Kashmir.

The sentiments of the people of Kashmir particularly of young seem to often ravaged in this sphere. So, the current high volt tension is a litmus test for Kashmiris, especially the youngsters who get hounded for liking a particular sports player or a team!

Where the problem starts for Kashmiri Students

There is a long list of incidents where Kashmiri students were being beaten, harassed or booked whenever there was a Ind Vs Pak clash. It is insane to beat students just because they cheered for a particular country or a team. Their support for a team should not be seen as their endorsement for a political ideology. We should respect each other’s likes and dislikes and allow everybody the chance to entertain and enjoy the way they want.

My request to Kashmiris students would be to not let your emotions overwhelm you for a cricket match. Think about your family and career. Be mature and respect everyone. You matter, your career matters. Take a cup of tea and enjoy the game in silence. You have to realise that the upcoming match is taking place in the backdrop of a highly charged up and politicized environment created by politicians and sections of the media. India is witnessing growing intolerance and hate against Muslims and Kashmiris. Stay lowkey.

Past in the Post-Ind Vs Pak Matches

On 5th March 2016, Around 67 Kashmiri students were expelled from Swami Vivekanand Subharti University in Meerut Uttar Pradesh after they cheered for Pakistan during a cricket match.

The local students and other Hindu friends shouted slogans and thrashed them for cheering the Pakistani team. They went on rampage, vandalised the rooms of students, damaged the hall, broke laptops, abused and beat up a few others, hurled fits of abuse. The police later booked Kashmiri students under sedition.

After sending students back home, there was an angry reaction in the valley. It triggered protest and demonstration. On 27th August 2014, 12 students of a private engineering college in Punjab were injured after being beaten by non-Kashmiri students over cheering for Pakistan in a cricket match, later the college was closed for 3 weeks.

Similarly, on 2nd April, Kashmiri students were thrashed by their friends inside university premises after India lost to West Indies in a T20 cricket match. They were later arrested and booked under FIR by Police. After series of attacks on Kashmiri students in mainland India, Varasity Officials and other Indian parliamentarians categorically told that if they wish to cheer and yell for Pakistan they should go, study and complete their degrees in Pakistan.

Over 60000 students from Jammu and Kashmir are presently pursuing their Professional and non-Professional courses in different universities and colleges in Indian states. Many parents in Kashmir would be worried. Some have recalled their children for some days to avoid any unpleasant incident, ahead of a clash between two arch-rivals. They know political connotations and feelings attached to this match and game are very serious. They have fear of assault, torture, sedition, even arrests. There is a sense of anxiety among them that a silly game can put their lives in danger.

Series of family requests ahead of the match

Ahead of this high voltage game, between the two countries who always remain in news nationally and internationally, parents are making frantic calls to their children advising them to remain away from cricket watching venues or any crowds spaces and not to write provocative things on Social Media that adds fuel to the fire. There is anxiety and unease among parents for just a cricket match. They are calling their wards to make sure that they are safe.

All Kashmiri students pursuing studies outside in Indian states should please be patient and keep calm and control emotions during the match.  Students should enjoy the game with the true sprit of a sportsman.

The larger message of sportsmanship

Games and sports are not just means of amusement but they teach us brotherhood and peace. These events must promote brotherhood and harmony, not violence.

Games become bridges for nations, be it Cricket or Football. Hatred, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and prejudices are unethical to the spirit of sportsmanship. We should see sports as sports, and shouldn’t link it with nationalism or politics. Even opponents commend the good performers of the opposite team on the field. Even cricketers don’t have any rivalry within the field or outside. They capture pictures, share compositive culture, care about each other and their families.

There are so many examples of such nature when a Centurian, a hard hitter is cheered by the fellow team after he is bowled out and returns to the pavilion. People love Kohli across the border for his cricket or those who love Babar Azam on this side aren’t necessarily anti-nationals. Cricket has been unnecessarily politicized. The majority of the people in India have absolutely no idea who their football stars are when the game is far more popular than cricket.

Kashmiris studying in India shouldn’t give the system and apparatus a chance to scapegoat them as criminals.

Courtesy: kashmirobserver.net, October 23, 2021

https://kashmirobserver.net/2021/10/23/ind-v-pak-dear-kashmiri-students-hold-back-your-emotions/

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An earlier report, October 29, 2021, is given below:

Kashmiris who cheered for Pak team charged with sedition, sent to jail

Three Kashmiri students arrested in Agra for allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans were on Oct 28 Thursday booked for sedition, Uttar Pradesh Police officials said.

The three students, two of them aged 20 and one 21, were also remanded in 14-day judicial custody by an Agra court, the officials said.

While coming out of the court, they were allegedly heckled and chased by some people.

Adityanath earlier in the day had said the sedition law will be invoked against those celebrating Pakistan’s victory against India in the recent T20 World Cup match.

“The three students were arrested on Wednesday after an FIR was lodged against them at the Jagdishpura police station.

“They were accused of raising pro-Pakistan slogans in the wake of an India-Pakistan T20 cricket match and posting celebratory messages on social media after Pakistan’s victory,” a police official told PTI.

On Oct 28 Thursday, they were produced in a magistrate’s court in Agra, which remanded them in 14-day judicial custody, the official said.

“The FIR was initially registered under IPC Sections 153A (promoting enmity between groups) and 505 (creating or publishing content to promote enmity). Section 124A (sedition) of the IPC was included on Friday in the case,” the police official said.

The trio studies in a private college affiliated to Agra University.

When the students were coming out of the court, some right wing activists raised slogans against Pakistan and chased them.

Some lawyers also heckled the students while they were being taken from the court to a police vehicle, according to purported videos that emerged on social media.

However, the Agra police said they escorted the students to safety.

“The students were taken to the court in a discreet manner and were similarly taken out from there considering the sensitivity of the matter.

“However, some people heckled the trio on the court premises but none was hurt. They were all safe,” the police official told PTI.

Mansoor Wani, a research fellow at Agra University and mentor of the accused students, said they were young and needed counselling instead of such heckling.

“We apologise on their behalf if they were involved in such an unfortunate incident. But these are young men from financially weak backgrounds. They need guidance. We will counsel them. They should not be booked under such harsh laws. It will ruin their careers,” Wani added.


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