‘Fear and paranoia’: Indian cops arrest students for celebrating Australia’s CWC win, citing anti-terrorism laws

Indian police in Kashmir have arrested seven university students under tough anti-terrorism laws for alleged intimidation after they celebrated Australia’s victory over India in the Cricket World Cup final.

Police said Tuesday that the students were arrested following “anti-India sloganeering and intimidation of others who did not agree with them” after the match.

Hosts India were favourites to capture the one-day cricket crown in the November 19 final but they lost to Australia in a six-wicket defeat.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947, with both claiming the high-altitude territory in full, but administering separate portions of it.

Rebel groups have waged an insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989, demanding independence or a merger with Pakistan. The conflict has left tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and militants dead.

Police said the Kashmiri students at an agriculture university were arrested last week after a complaint filed by another student, who came from outside the territory.

“They started abusing me and targeting me for being supporter of my country and also threatened me to shut up otherwise I would be shooted (sic),” the police case file seen by AFP notes, quoting the complainant.

Police charged the seven students under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a stringent anti-terrorism law, as well as other sections of the penal code.

Many people in Indian-controlled Kashmir support any cricket team playing against India — including arch-rival Pakistan — and fireworks were set off in the main city Srinagar to celebrate Australia’s victory.

The arrests were criticised by Mehbooba Mufti, Kashmir’s former chief minister. “Why is there so much fear, restlessness and paranoia only because some students celebrated Australia’s victory?” Mufti told reporters on Tuesday.

“You… want to destroy their lives for cheering the team of their choice and for expressing happiness when that team plays well. I condemn it,” she said.

It allows people to be held for six months — often rolled over — without being charged, and bail is virtually impossible.

In 2021, police detained six residents and opened an investigation under UAPA against several hundred students in the territory 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 “airing personal preference of a particular sporting team”.

Instead, it was “about terrorising others who may be nourishing pro-India feelings or anti-Pakistan feelings or disagreeing”, it said.

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