The arrest of seven students of an agricultural university for allegedly raising anti-India slogans has snowballed into a political controversy as Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti charged the Union Territory administration with adopting oppressive means to deal with youth.
Seven students of the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) Kashmir, were arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for allegedly raising pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogans and celebrating the Indian cricket team's loss in the World Cup final.
Reports said that the students were arrested a week after the cricket World Cup final after police launched an investigation into a complaint by a student who alleged his collegemates had harassed him and raised objectionable slogans after India lost the final match and the cup to Australia.
The students have been booked under various sections of the UAPA and the Indian Penal Code.
The seven students have been booked under Section 13 of the UAPA and Sections 505 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code at the Ganderbal police station.
Reports said that a student who is pursuing a BVSc course in the same university complained that after the cricket World Cup final, these seven students allegedly raised pro-Pakistan slogans that created fear among other students.
According to the complaint after the match, the accused started abusing him and threatened to kill him for supporting the Indian team.
Mehbooba terms action against students regrettable
Reacting to the action of the police, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said that the detention of seven students under UAPA at SKAUST Kashmir for cheering Australia against India in the World Cup final match is extremely regrettable.
"You can put people in jails but you can cage their ideology", she said.
"Disconcerting and shocking that cheering for a winning team too has been criminalized in Kashmir", Mehbooba said, adding, "Normalising slapping of draconian laws like UAPA on journalists, activists and now students reveals the ruthless mindset of the establishment towards youngsters in J&K"
Mehbooba Mufti requested Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to look into the matter.
J&K Students Association urges HM, LG to drop cases against students
J&K Students Association urged Home Minister Amit Shah and Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to drop UAPA charges on students Kashmiri students, seeking mercy on humanitarian grounds.
National Convenor of Association Nasir Khuehami said that seven Kashmiri students have been arrested after celebrating India's World Cup loss and booked under UAPA.
He urged Home Minister Amit Shah and Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor to drop UAPA charges on the students, as it is an unacceptably harsh punishment that could ruin their futures.
J&K politicians should refrain from politicizing the issue of the 7 Kashmiri students booked under UAPA & shouldn't attempt to settle scores. These students are neither activists nor pursue any agenda or advocate a particular ideology. @ANI @PTI_News @smitaprakash— J&K Students Association (@JKSTUDENTSASSO) November 28, 2023
"The UAPA charges will have serious consequences on the academic and future career of the students and should be immediately withdrawn. It may have serious repercussions both in the long term and short term", he added.
National spokesperson of the Association Aadil Bhat said that it has been reported that these students abused and threatened other students supporting India, warning them to be silent or face shooting.
"We condemn this act and behavior in the harshest of words. There is no place for such behavior in a civilized society. The issue should be resolved amicably, rather than taking it to Court and Police station. We are not justifying their act, but such harsh charges will result in their career assassination", he added.
J&K Students Association Pleads for Mercy, Urges HM and J&K LG to Drop UAPA Charges on 7 Kashmiri Students@AmitShah @AmitShahOffice @manojsinha_ @HMOIndia @ANI @PTI_News @OmarAbdullah @MehboobaMufti @IndianExpress @sardesairajdeep @AHindinews @TimesNow @GreaterKashmir pic.twitter.com/a9MGQsyjoh— J&K Students Association (@JKSTUDENTSASSO) November 28, 2023
Pro-Pakistan slogans were raised to terrorize pro-India students: Police
Amid the politicization of the case, Ganderbal Police issued a statement to clarify the position on registering cases against students under UPPA.
"A number of opinions and comments have been made on the legal cognizance taken of the happenings surrounding anti-India sloganeering and intimidation of others who did not agree with them in a university after the conclusion of World Cup cricket match".
The Police said 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 choose to keep a distance. It is also about normalizing 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 practiced mostly on the back of separatist and terrorist networks. In other words, the aim is not to air the personal preference of a particular sporting team. It is not about dissent or freedom of expression. It is about terrorizing others who may be nourishing pro-India feelings or anti-Pakistan feelings or disagreeing. There were written complaints to evidence this."
The second aspect, it said, is: "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 act."
"Hence as per the content of the complaints, FIR No. 317/2023 stands registered and section 13 UAPA invoked for inciting and abetting the unlawful activities. Section 505 and 506 IPC too have been invoked for 'public mischief' and 'criminal intimidation' respectively."
"It is pertinent to mention that, the FIR is lodged on the basis of written complaints received and relevant sections are invoked as per the contents of the complaint", the police further stated.