Police in India’s illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) arrested seven students under tough anti-terror laws for alleged intimidation after they celebrated Australia’s victory over India in the Cricket World Cup final.
Police said on Tuesday that the students were arrested after they “raised anti-India slogans and intimidated others who did not agree with them” after the match.
Hosts India were favorites to win the one-day cricket crown in the final on November 19 but lost to Australia in a six-wicket defeat.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947, with both claiming the high-altitude region in full but administering separate parts of it.
Freedom fighters have been agitating in IIOJK since 1989, demanding independence or merger with Pakistan. The conflict has left tens of thousands dead.
Police said the Kashmiri students at an agricultural college were arrested last week following a complaint lodged by another student, who came from outside the region.
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“They started abusing me and targeting me for being a supporter of my country and also threatened me to keep my mouth shut or I will be shot (sic),” the police file seen by AFP notes, citing the complainant.
Police charged the seven students under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a tough anti-terrorism law, as well as other sections of the penal code.
Many people at IIOJK support any cricket team playing against India – including arch-rivals Pakistan – and fireworks were set off in the main city of Srinagar to celebrate Australia’s win.
The arrests were criticized by Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of Kashmir.
“Why is there so much fear, anxiety and paranoia just because some students celebrated Australia’s victory?” Mufti told reporters on Tuesday.
“You want to destroy their lives because they cheer for their team of choice and because they express happiness when that team plays well. I condemn it,” he said.
India has used the vaguely worded UAPA legislation against thousands of Kashmiris, journalists and dissidents, activists say.
It allows people to be held for six months – often transferred – without charge and bail is virtually impossible.
In 2021, police arrested six residents and opened a UAPA investigation against several hundred students in the area who celebrated when Pakistan defeated India in a high-octane T20 World Cup cricket match in Dubai.
Police in Kashmir’s Ganderbal district on Tuesday issued a statement on X, formerly Twitter, to explain the context of the recent arrests, which they claimed were not about “showing personal preference for a particular sports team.”
Instead, it was to “terrify others who may harbor pro-India or anti-Pakistan sentiments or disagree,” it said.
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