Faced with outrage in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere, the Uttar Pradesh government on Thursday dropped within hours the sedition charge slapped against a group of Kashmiri students suspended for cheering Pakistan’s win against India in a cricket match.
The UP government informed the Union home ministry, which had sought a report, in the evening that after a review of the charges, it had decided to drop Section 124 A (sedition). The minimum punishment for a sedition offence is three years and the maximum life sentence.
Read: 67 Kashmiri students sent to their homes for celebrating Pak win
Charges of promoting enmity between different groups and creating mischief, however, stay.
Sedition charge against the students of the Swami Vivekananda Subharti University, Meerut, had evoked sharp reactions in J&K, with chief minister Omar Abdullah going public with his displeasure. “Sedition charge against the Kashmiri students is an unacceptably harsh punishment that will ruin their future and further alienate them,” he tweeted.
What the students did was “wrong and misguided” but they didn’t deserve to be slapped with sedition charge, the CM said. He also spoke to his UP counterpart Akhilesh Yadav who assured that he would look onto the matter personally, Abdullah later tweeted.
Read: Kashmiri students face sedition case, Omar complains to Akhilesh
The sedition charge was dropped after a preliminary inquiry by the district administration, UP principal secretary (home) Anil Kumar Gupta said. He, however, refused comment on Abdullah’s talk with Yadav.
The authorities had suspended for three days all the 67 Kashmiri students after a group of them cheered Pakistan’s victory over India while watching an Asia Cup match in the university’s community hall on March 2. Some allegedly also shouted “Pakistan Zindabad” while going back to their rooms, triggering tension on the campus.
The university authorities conducted a preliminary inquiry and when some refused to identify those involved in slogan-shouting and celebrations, it suspended all Kashmiri students, asking them to vacate the hostel.
The university said suspension was a “precautionary measure” as there was a lot of resentment against the students for raising pro-Pakistan slogans.
Abdullah, too, had said the university did what it had to control the situation, but insisted the UP government’s move was uncalled for and should be reversed.
The opposition People’s Democratic Party had also demanded that the charge be dropped, saying it exposed the discriminatory attitude against Kashmiri students.
The Aam Aadmi Party, which is set for its poll debut in the border state during the Lok Sabha elections, said it would write to Yadav to ensure that the students were not harassed.
(With inputs from Umesh Raghuvanshi and Rajesh Ahuja)