Kashmiri students cheering Pak team acquires political colours

Celebrating the victory of the Pakistan cricket team over India in the recently concluded Asia Cup tournament in Bangladesh by the Kashmiri students at a private university in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut town that led to their suspension and invocation of sedition charges and its subsequent withdrawal has triggered a controversy and acquired political colours.

After the initial haste in slapping the sedition charges, the administration now seems to have adopted a go slow attitude in view of the approaching elections and opposition by the BJP.

While the district administration justified withdrawal of sedition charges saying that there was no concrete evidence against the students to substantiate the allegations, the saffron parties accused the state government of indulging in ‘appeasement politics’ to gain ‘advantage’ in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. As many as 66 Kashmiri students, who were expelled from Swami Vivekananda Subharti University had allegedly burst crackers and distributed sweets after Pak victory, much to the anger of the fellow students. The students from Kashmir allegedly danced in the hostel rooms and chanted pro-Pakistan slogans. There was a scuffle among the students after some objected to the celebrations.

Later, a group of students took out a procession within the varsity campus demanding action against the Kashmiri students. The Kashmiri students had also allegedly damaged furniture and demolished a badminton pole in the varsity playground. The varsity administration later suspended the 66 Kashmiri students. They were asked to immediately vacate the hostel. The police had said that all the expelled students had been sent to Ghaziabad and Delhi for their onward journey home.

There were around 250 Kashmiri students at the private varsity -- that had come into being in 2008 -- who were enrolled in engineering, law and other courses. According to the varsity vice chancellor Prof Manzoor Ahmed, a majority of the students had taken admission under a special scheme. The prime minister’s office reimburses their tuition fees.

Conflicting claims were being made in connection with the incidents. The Kashmiri students alleged that they had been heckled and roughed up by a group of students from the hostel for cheering when Pakistan batsman Shahid Afridi hit sixes in the last over. Many others, however, said that they indeed burst crackers and celebrated the Pak victory. The varsity administration moved quickly as the matter threatened to disturb peace within the campus and lodged a complaint with the police. A committee had also been formed by the varsity to probe into the matter.

Case of sedition

Meerut police chief Omkar Singh had then said that a case of sedition under section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) along with cases under other sections have been registered against unidentified Kashmiri students in connection with the incident. Registration of the sedition case triggered an outrage in Jammu and Kashmir and the chief minister Omar Abdullah spoke to his UP counterpart urging the latter to withdraw the sedition charges.

Varsity administration said that the suspended students were now ready to tender unconditional apology in an apparent bid to continue their studies and also escape their possible trial by the court. The parents of the students had been making calls to them seeking their forgiveness and assuring them that their wards would not repeat such things in the future.

The varsity authorities however, made it clear that any decision to revoke the suspension of the Kashmiri students could only be taken after the probe against them was complete. The probe was handed over to the UP anti-terrorist squad (ATS) a few days back. The incident has also acquired political colours with the BJP leaders condemning the withdrawal of sedition charges and threatening to take the matter to the election commission.

“It is nothing but appeasement of Muslims… The Samajwadi Party fears that it may lose Muslim votes if strong action is taken against the erring students… It is a very serious matter… We will not allow it to be buried under the carpet,” said Uttar Pradhesh BJP chief Luxmi Kant Bajpai.

He wondered how could the police reach the conclusion within 24-hours that the sedition charges were not warranted. “Te police should have probed the matter before taking such a decision,” he added. BJP leaders and workers also staged demonstrations in Meerut town  in protest against withdrawal of sedition charges and demanded that the charge be slapped again.

Even before the dust could settle on the Meerut controversy, a similar incident took place at another private university in Noida. Six students, four of them from Kashmir, had been expelled from one of the hostels of Noida based Sharda University after a stand off between two groups of students following Pak victory over India. There also the Kashmiri students had cheered for Pakistan and celebrated its victory. Though the matter had subsided then but tension flared up a few days later. In a bid to avoid a confrontation and maintain peace within the campus, the varsity administration expelled six students.

The varsity authorities had also formed a committee to probe the incident.They said that the expulsion could be revoked after the probe and tendering of apology by the students. With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the issue is likely to remain dormant as the government would not like to take any chance given the sensitivity of the region.

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