MEERUT: The 67 Kashmiri students from Swami Vivekanand Subharti University in Meerut who had cheered Pakistan when that country’s cricket team beat India in the Asia Cup match last on Sunday were hit with sedition charges under sections 124A, 153 and 427 of the IPC but freed from it later as withering criticism of the police move forced the Uttar Pradesh government to intervene in the matter.

As the issue turned into a political hot-button both in New Delhi and in Srinagar, with People’s Democratic Party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed calling on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to look into it, Pakistan waded into the controversy on Thursday and said its “heart and academic institutions were open” for the students.

J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah compounded the situation further when he first tweeted his disapproval of the police action, calling the sedition charges “harsh”, and then swerved around later in the day when he said what the Kashmiri students had done at the end of the Indo-Pak match was “wrong”. He, however, also blamed the Uttar Pradesh government for allowing the case to be registered and for “harassing” the bunch of boys.

At the SVSU campus itself, there were conflicting reports and versions. University officials, who said the “entire episode has been blown out of proportion and given a political colour”, said they had filed no complaint, hinting at arbitrary police action.

“We have not filed any complaint against our students in any of the police stations,” Prof Manzoor Ahmad, vice-chancellor of the university, said. “Regarding the case, it is for the police to explain why they had to file sedition charges. We also feel that the act of the students in no way fell in the category of ‘treason against the nation’.”

Ahmad added that suspensions are a daily, routine feature in any college or university. “We had suspended them only for three days as resentment was growing in other hostels because of their behavior. And, it was for their own safety that the university had escorted them to Delhi,” he explained.

The police, though, disagreed. According to MM Baig, superintendent of police (Meerut rural), it was PK Garg, registrar of the university, who had lodged the FIR against unknown students. “The case was filed on the basis of this FIR whose number is 113 /14,” Baig said. PK Garg, on his part, promptly denied any involvement and maintained that his name was being “unnecessarily dragged” in the episode…. see more