Lucknow: Three Kashmiri students of Raja Balwant Singh Engineering Technical Campus, in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, were arrested on Wednesday for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s win over India in the opening T20 World Cup match on WhatsApp and “shouting pro-Pakistan slogans”.
The students—Arsheed Yousuf and Inayat Altaf Sheikh (third year) and Showkat Ahmed Ganai (fourth) were arrested after Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) leader Gaurav Rajawat lodged a complaint against them at the Jagdishpura police station for allegedly “shouting pro-Pakistan slogans and sharing posts related to it on social media” after India’s loss.
Following the arrests, Chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s office tweeted on Thursday morning: “Those celebrating Pakistan’s win will be charged with sedition.”
Rajawat alleged in the complaint that the students—who had already been suspended on Monday for “being involved in indiscipline act of posting status in favour of Pakistan”—had raised anti-national slogans like “Bharat desh ke tukde honge (India will be divided)” and praised Pakistan by raising the slogans “Pakistan Zindabad”.
Vikas Kumar, superintendent of police, Agra City, said that the police received the information that some people had “shared anti-national messages” on WhatsApp post the match. “The incident came to light when anti-national remarks were made by three students of an engineering college after the match. We received a complaint and an FIR was lodged. They were arrested after a probe,” he said.
They have been booked under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc.) and 505(1)(B) (with intent to cause or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public) Section 66F (offence of cyber terrorism) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the police said.
According to a notice issued by the dean of the hostels, Dushyant Singh, the three students were found to be involved in “indiscipline” by “posting status in favour of Pakistan” after the match on October 24. “Therefore, the hostel discipline committee has decided to suspend all three of them with immediate effect,” a statement issued by the college stated.
Ashish Shukla, chief proctor of the institute, said that the three students had apologised for their act. “We held a meeting and found the statuses of their WhatsApp objectionable. Therefore, we decided to suspend the three of them with immediate effect.”
It was also announced after the meeting that the college would remain shut until action is taken against the outsiders who forcibly entered the campus on Tuesday and demanded the arrest of the three Kashmiri students.
‘OUTSIDERS’ FORCIBLY ENTERED THE CAMPUS
A statement released by the college and seen by Newsclick read: “Some outsiders illegally entered the college and disrupted studies. They also tried to enter the hostel forcefully, which is not acceptable at any cost. Without any discussion with the director of the institute, they indulged in hooliganism, chanted slogans and blocked the roads. They continued raising slogans against Kashmiri students and the college administration in the presence of the police.”
The college management closed all its seven institutions after the incident. “Despite taking disciplinary action against the three Kashmiri students, a bunch of outsiders caused a ruckus on Bichpuri campus on Tuesday. The reputation of our college has been severely affected. Therefore, we decided to close all our campuses for now,” Shukla told Newsclick, adding that “outsiders had also protested outside the campus”.
A college employee requesting anonymity told Newsclick that several “right-wing” people outside the campus raised the slogan “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “roughed up the Kashmiri students in the presence of police”. “A group of lawyers was also accompanying the outsiders. Unfortunately, the police were a mute spectator as even the lawyers slapped the students while they were being taken into custody,” the employee alleged.
A video of the three students being manhandled by few men and lawyers raising anti-Pakistan slogans during their arrest has gone viral on social media.
An eyewitness told Newsclick that a group of BJYM members had reached the campus on Tuesday and demanded action against the Kashmiri students. Protests were held by ‘right-wing’ organisations outside the Collectorate Office and action was sought against the three students.
Following sloganeering by right-wing students and local BJP leaders on the campus, many Kashmiri students have vacated the hostel and are staying with friends in other cities. A Kashmiri student requesting anonymity told Newsclick, “We have nothing to with the events that occurred on October 24. But many of us are having sleepless nights and fear being targeted.”
Nasir Khuehami, national spokesperson, Jammu and Kashmir Students Association (JKSA), claimed to have spoken with other students and the management of the college. “They did not shout any pro-Pakistani slogans. This is not true. However, they only updated their WhatsApp statuses in favour of the Pakistan cricket team.”
The JKSA has also written a letter to Adityanath requesting him to give a chance to the students and cancel the FIR. “Lodging an FIR against the students is a very harsh punishment for the act they committed. It could have serious repercussions and serious psychosomatic consequences on the students. Slapping them with the sedition law and the FIR will put their careers at stake,” Khuehami tweeted. The JKSA has hired lawyers to defend the three arrested students, he added.
In a similar case, a man in Budaun district was arrested for sedition for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s victory. Niaz, a native of Faizganj Behta area, allegedly posted the picture of the Pakistani flag and wrote “objectionable comments” in support of Pakistan on Facebook after the match, according to a complaint filed by Punit Shakya of the Hindu Jagran Manch.
Shakya in his complaint mentioned that Niaz’s post was going viral on social media, leading to outrage among netizens.
Meanwhile, the UP Police said that seven persons have been booked in five cases in Agra, Bareilly, Badaun and Sitapur. Out of them, five have been arrested, the police said on its Twitter handle.