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'UAPA Aimed to Ruin Careers': Families of Kashmiri Students Booked Over WC Brawl

7 students were booked for allegedly raising 'anti-India' slogans after India's loss in the ICC World Cup Finals.

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Nearly 10 days after seven Kashmiri students were arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for allegedly raising “anti-India” slogans, following India's defeat against Australia in the 2023 ICC World Cup finals, their families expressed concerns over the future of their children.

"He is a very noble guy. The charges against him are aimed at ruining his career. He is a focused student and does not intend to create any harm to anybody...," uncle of one of the students told The Quint on the condition of anonymity.

A written complaint against them was filed by a student after a brawl broke out at the Veterinary Sciences Faculty of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) at Shuhama, in Kashmir’s Ganderbal, on 19 November. Based on the complaint, the Jammu & Kashmir police booked the students under Section 13 (unlawful activity) of the UAPA, and Sections 505 (intent to incite a class or community to commit offence against any other class or community) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.

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What Happened On 19 November?

According to university authorities The Quint spoke to, the incident, which took place on 19 November, came to light after a non-local student Sachin Bains filed a written complaint with the police regarding the “pro-Pakistan sloganeering” and a “threat to his life” inside his hostel.

In his complaint accessed by The Quint, Bains named seven students and claimed that post the match, the students “started abusing me and targeting me for being a supporter of our country”.

He also claimed that they threatened to shoot him. The students also allegedly raised pro-Pakistan slogans, “which created fear amongst the students from outside the UT of J&K…,” the complaint said.

Based on the complaint, an FIR was filed at the Ganderbal police station. A day later, on 20 November, the seven students, who reside in different parts of Kashmir, were summoned through the warden of the hostel and booked.

“The police called the warden to inform the students whose name was mentioned in the FIR to report at the police station in connection with a case registered against them,” a university official, who did not wish to be named, told The Quint.

“The unfortunate thing is that the complainant has not informed the university administration before filing a complaint with the police,” the official said, adding that if Bains had reported the issue to the admin, the situation would have been "sorted within the campus”.

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'Will Fight To Get Our Children Free': Kin of Booked Students

“My son has been in custody for a week, and I have not met him yet," Syed Mohammad Qasim Bukhari, father of Khalid, one of the seven students, told The Quint.

“Khalid is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary sciences and is about to finish his degree after completing the internships.”
Syed Mohammad Qasim Bukhari to The Quint

Remaining hopeful for the release of his son, Qasim added, “The case is in its primary stage – and we won’t let authorities ruin the career of our son. We will fight legally till he is not freed from all charges."

Meanwhile, the arrested students have been sent to police remand till 30 November, The Quint has learnt.

Advocate Shafeeq Bhat, who is representing one of the arrested students, said that the families were taking legal recourse to proceed with the case.

“We have met the Vice Chancellor and filed a representation but have not received any response yet," he told The Quint. “The case is under investigation. We believe in the justice system. Whatever will be done will be done fairly.”

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'Such Acts Are Backed By Separatists': Police

Several politicians, including former Jammu & Kashmir chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, condemned the action by the police, alleging that it will disaffect the youths with such an extreme punishment.

In a tweet on X (formerly Twitter), Mufti termed the arrest of the students “shocking.” She said UAPA is used to book terrorists, but the government was using it to arrest the youths, journalists, and students.

She further wrote, “Disconcerting & shocking that cheering for a winning team has been criminalised in Kashmir. Normalising slapping of draconian laws like UAPA on journalists, activists & now students reveals the ruthless mindset of the establishment towards youngsters in J&K. Hearts & minds of people through the barrel of a gun."

Mufti also called for J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to look into the matter.

After it faced flak from a section of politicians, the Jammu & Kashmir police defended booking the seven students under UAPA, saying it had invoked a “softer provision” of the anti-terror law.

Issuing a detailed statement on 28 November, the Ganderbal police claimed that the acts of sloganeering and "threatening" were allegedly backed by “separatists”.

“A number of opinions and comments have been made on the legal cognisance 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 the World Cup cricket match," the statement read.

The police said that the slogans were aired "to intimidate those who disagreed and also to identify and vilify those who choose to keep a distance."

"... It is also about normalising 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 terrorising others who may be nourishing pro-India feelings or anti-Pakistan feelings or disagreeing. There were written complaints to evidence this,” it said.

Defending the UAPA, the statement noted, “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 an act”.

Earlier in 2021, the Jammu & Kashmir police had booked students and staff members of a medical college under UAPA for allegedly celebrating the victory of Pakistan against India in the T20 World Cup match.

In 2022, the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar asked its students not to watch the India-Pakistan Asia Cup cricket match in groups or post anything related to it on social media platforms.

Post the same match, a WhatsApp status regarding Pakistan’s victory landed three Kashmiri students in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra jailed for sedition who were then suspended by the college authorities.

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Topics:  Students   Kashmiri   UAPA 

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