Police have launched an investigation after several hundred students in Indian-administered Kashmir celebrated India’s recent defeat to Pakistan in the cricket World Cup, officials said Wednesday.
Anti-India sentiment is widespread and deep in the Muslim-majority territory where an armed rebellion has raged for decades by Kashmiris wanting independence or to be part of Pakistan.
Around 300 students in two top Srinagar medical colleges gathered in two hostels watching the match on Sunday and burst into celebrations when Pakistan crushed India in the high-octane contest in Dubai.
Videos of the students shouting “Long live Pakistan” went viral. Footage also showed thousands of people in the city and several other towns cheering on the streets and setting off firecrackers in support of Pakistan, which like India also claims divided Kashmir in full.
On Tuesday, police opened two investigations under the Unlawful Prevention Activities Act (UAPA) and raided one of the hostels, but no one was detained, a police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The videos are being closely scrutinised to identify cheerleaders who raised pro-Pakistan and anti-Indian slogans at the end of the match and indulged in anti-national activities,” the officer said.
India has used the vaguely-worded UAPA legislation against thousands of Kashmiri residents, journalists and dissidents, according to activists.
It allows people to be held for six months — often rolled over — without being charged and bail is virtually impossible.
In a separate similar incident, police detained six residents in the Jammu region of the territory for questioning after a video showing them supporting Pakistan’s cricket team emerged on social media.
“Why is loyalty to the Indian cricket team being demanded from us? Is it a crime to cheer the victory of your favourite side? Many of us are petrified for being charged under terrorism laws or even being arrested or dismissed from college,” a medical student told AFP, while declining to be named.
Kashmir’s former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti took to Twitter criticising the police action, saying “Instead of trying to ascertain why educated youth choose to identify with Pakistan, GOI (Government of India) resorted to vindictive actions.”
On Monday, a group of Kashmiri students in the northern state of Punjab reported being attacked after they celebrated Pakistan’s victory, and an Indian schoolteacher in Rajasthan was dismissed after she posted celebratory messages on social media.
Anger against New Delhi has simmered since August 2019 when Hindu nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi’s government cancelled the disputed region’s semi-autonomy and brought it under direct rule.
Since then, over 2,000 people have been arrested under the UAPA, with almost half of them still in jail, according to officials and rights activists.
On Wednesday, Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan’s national security advisor, criticised the police action in a series of tweets marking the day when the Indian military took control of Kashmir in 1947.
“This is a country where Kashmiri youth have been attacked, beaten up and booked just this week only because they supported Pakistan in a cricket match against India and celebrated our victory,” Yusuf said.
Since their independence, the rivals have fought two wars over Kashmir.