Three Kashmiri students who were booked for celebrating Pakistan’s victory against India in a cricket match last year have been granted bail by a state high court after it emerged that they were falsely implicated.
The students — Arsheed Yusuf, Inayat Altaf Shaikh, and Showkat Ahmed Ganai — were arrested in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh three days after the T20 World Cup match on 24 October based on a complaint filed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) youth wing. Pakistan won the T20 fixture by 10 wickets.
According to the complaint, the three students were accused of shouting slogans such as “Pakistan Zindabad [Long live Pakistan]”, and for sharing what the authorities have described as “anti-India” messages on WhatsApp after the match.
The students have been charged with sedition, a colonial era law that critics say is being increasingly used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government to quell protests and crackdown on dissent. Their bail hearing was postponed several times before it was held on Wednesday.
The three are also facing charges of “promoting enmity”, attempt to cause harm as well as cyber terrorism.
The Allahabad High Court on Thursday noted that there is no evidence to show what words were used against India. The students were wrongly implicated due to “rivalries over trivial issues”, the court said.
“The decisive for establishing the offense of sedition U/s 124-A IPC is the doing of certain acts which would bring the government established by law in India into hatred or contempt etc,” the court said in its order, according to Indian legal news portal Live Law.
The court added: “In this case, there is not even a suggestion that the applicants did anything as against the government of India or any other government of the state and the allegations contained against the applicant in the FIR, there is no averment that the applicants did any act against the government.”
“The applicants are responsible Indian citizens who hail from the State of Jammu and Kashmir which is the very embodiment of Indian values,” the order added.
The students, who are pursuing civil engineering at an institution in Agra, were suspended by college authorities a day after the match for sharing “objectionable content” on WhatsApp statuses.
Declaring the slogans null and void, the court said that the “unity of India is not made of bamboo reeds which will bend to the passing winds of empty slogans”, reported Indian newspaper Hindustan Times.
“The foundations of our nation are more enduring. Eternal ideals bind the indestructible unity of India. Constitutional values create an indissoluble union of India. Every citizen of the country is the custodian, and the state is the sentinel of the unity of India and the constitutional values of the nation,” the court said.
It added that students pursuing education and knowledge in different parts of the country is what marks the “true celebration of India’s diversity and a vivid manifestation of India’s unity.”
Noting that the trial against the three students was moving slowly and could put the students in peril with a likely indefinite detention, the court granted the students bail and added that they do not have any criminal history apart from this case.