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Kashmiri political leaders flay police for booking students under UAPA; BJP supports police action

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Srinagar: Several political leaders including two former chief ministers Tuesday flayed police for arresting SKUAST students under UAPA for allegedly raising objectionable slogans and celebrating the Indian cricket team’s loss in the recent world cup final.

Former chief minister and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah said the move goes against the assurance given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had announced in 2021 that it was time to end ‘Dilli ki duri’ as well as ‘Dil ki duri’ with Jammu and Kashmir.

“I don’t agree with what these students did. But having said that I also do not agree with the way police have handled this case. This will not decrease ‘dil ki duri’ as envisaged by the Prime Minister,” Omar Abdullah said, adding, police must remember their “softer version” would destroy the careers of the students.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti condemned the police action, terming the youths’ arrest “shocking.”

The former chief minister also requested the union territory’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to look into the issue.

“Disconcerting & shocking that cheering for a winning team too has been criminalised in Kashmir. Normalising slapping of draconian laws like UAPA on journalists, activists & now students reveals the ruthless mindset of the establishment towards youngsters in J&K. Hearts & minds of people through the barrel of a gun (sic),” she said in a post on X.

The arrested youths are studying at the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) Kashmir.

The students were arrested after police launched an investigation into a complaint by a non-local student who alleged his college mates had harassed him and raised objectionable slogans after India lost the final match and the cup to Australia.

Later, talking to reporters at the party office, Mufti said, “Sports is sports. Our PM, and many before him, have gone to watch matches and cheer for the team which plays well, they cheer for the opposition team also. In J&K they claim things are fine here then why so much fear and paranoia over some students celebrating Australia’s win?”

The former chief minister said UAPA is used to book terrorists, but the government has arrested youth, journalists, and students under the stringent law.

“You have to win the hearts and minds of the people of J&K. How many will you put in jail? I have said this before as well that there is an ideology and you cannot cage an ideology. Youth, journalists, are being booked under UAPA, which is for terrorists. Now, they are using this for students and ruining their career,” she said.

BJP leader Tarun Chugh condemned Mufti’s remarks saying she has brought nothing but misery to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The PDP chief has always brought misery and hardships to people of J&K, and pushed J&K into crisis situations from where the Prime Minister has salvaged the situation to a great extent,” he said.

Chugh in a statement lauded the police action against the students saying “the forces that try to invoke anti-India sentiment by shouting pro-Pakistan slogans needed to be curbed decisively.”

The national general secretary of BJP said, “due action must be taken against the forces that try to incite pro-Pakistan sentiments and cause a divide in the society.

“At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been undertaking numerous development and progressive steps for the prosperity of J&K, such nefarious elements which play a disruptive role, must be checked.”

Senior CPI (M) leader M Y Tarigami also questioned the arrest of students under UAPA.

“It (the students’ arrest) is wrong. They should not have slapped the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the first place as we are a democratic country… Sports should not be politicised,” Tarigami said

He said just like Indian sportspersons are popular outside the country, cricketers from other parts of the globe are popular in India. “It is not a good thing to link politics and sports,” Tarigami added.

“Are they terrorists? … If the government has an objection, there are other laws. But why slap UAPA (on students)?” the CPI (M) leader asked.

He also pointed to the arrest of NewsClick editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and its HR head Amit Chakravarty under the law.

Tarigami said the central government was involved “in the politics of polarisation” rather than bringing people closer to each other.

JK Students Association has urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to drop UAPA charges slapped against the students, seeking mercy on humanitarian grounds.

“This punishment could ruin their futures. The UAPA charges will have serious consequences on the academic and future career of the students and should be withdrawn,” the JKSA said.

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