“Kashmiri students charged with sedition” says the headline. These students studying in Meerut, apparently celebrated the win of Pakistan over India in the Asia cup 3-4 days back. Some of them broke a few window panes and caused some other damage in the college. But charging them with sedition? Because you support the Pakistani cricket team while you are an Indian citizen?
The Kashmiri student’s behaviour is not new. Way back in the 1970’s my dad used to travel there to approve or supervise projects funded by the Central Government in the area of water supply and sanitation. In Srinagar, he would be introduced as Mr. Parthasarathy from India. Or at best Indian Govt. At a personal level, he would be treated very well, and Kashmiri hospitality was always excellent.
What I struggled to understand then – and this was way before the militancy set in there – were the reasons behind this hostility towards India. There was not yet a pro-Pakistan sentiment expressed. Not openly at least. Later I read about the historical blunders made and how our botched-up political establishment managed to alienate our fellow citizens over time. Of course, it is not all one sided, but I am no longer surprised how the common man has let down again and again over the last 66 years, while those “connected” get away with murder.
Let us get back to cricket, and Kashmir. One of the incidents worth recounting took place before the Indo-Pak cricket matches became a craze in the mid 80’s. This was in a one-day India-WI match that was played in Srinagar. This was a “revenge” series in 83/84 for the WI, who we had beaten in the World Cup final earlier in the year. This was probably the last ever series in which more number of tests were played – 6 – than the ODI’s – 5. While they thrashed India in India 5-0 in the ODI’s, the support that the WI team got in Srinagar – the first ODI – had them puzzled and smiling. It was a low scoring match, that was won in bad light. Lloyd thanked the crowd for making them feel at home. Seditious behaviour, right?
If you said “right!”, then you may want to think again. When India plays abroad, and we see all those fans supporting India, do we expect them to be charged with sedition too if they are citizens of those countries? We seem to gladly accept the support. Of course a few of them must be folks who are there on an Indian passport, whose support is most welcome.
Pakistan is not really a friend of India. They have shown it time and again. They have a lot to do before we can trust them again as a nation. However, by no stretch of imagination, can supporting the Pakistan cricket team be construed as sedition. It is sad that most, if not all, of these students were on a PM scholarship program, and some of them, still harbour anti-India sentiments.
My point is that charging these youngsters with sedition will not help change that. I hope better sense prevails.