The Jammu and Kashmir police said on Tuesday that the arrest of seven university students under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act was not a case of clamping down on “dissent or freedom of expression” but a response to the students “terrorising” those with “pro-India” or “anti-Pakistan” feelings.

The statement came a day after the police filed a case against the Kashmiri students of the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology after they faced off with students from outside the Union Territory over India’s loss to Australia in the men’s Cricket World Cup final on November 19. The UAPA charges against the students have been sharply criticised, among others, by Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti.

The Kashmiri students were booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and arrested on November 20.

A copy of the first information report seen by Scroll showed that the students have been booked under Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Sections 505 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code related to public mischief and criminal intimidation.

On Tuesday, the Ganderbal Police, in a Twitter post, clarified that the first information report was filed on the basis of a complaint and the sections of the Act were invoked in accordance with the law. They said that the case did not pertain to just shouting “pro-Pakistan slogans” but needs to be seen in the full context of the incident.

“These slogans, as has usually been the case with select few bullies, were aired to intimidate those who disagreed and also to identify and vilify those who choose to keep a distance,” they alleged. “It is also about normalising an abnormal: that everyone hates India [as different from the government of the day and party in power] ‘openly’.”

The police claimed that such activities are done in support of “separatist and terrorist” networks and are not just a personal preference of a sports team.

The police also defended invoking Section 13 of the UAPA (punishment for unlawful activities), arguing that it does not pertain to planning, aiding and executing terror acts but to inciting, advocating and encouraging separatist ideology.

In the complaint, a student named seven local Kashmiri students enrolled at the university’s veterinary sciences and animal husbandry departments who allegedly abused and threatened him for supporting India. They “also threatened me to shut up otherwise I would be shooted [sic],” the complainant said.

The complaint also alleged that the accused students shouted slogans in support of Pakistan after the match “which created fear amongst the students from outside Union territory of J&K”.

Among those who questioned the arrest was former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti who said that it was “disconcerting and shocking” that cheering for a winning team has been criminalised in Kashmir.

“Normalising slapping of draconian laws like UAPA on journalists, activists and now students reveals the ruthless mindset of the establishment towards youngsters in J&K,” she posted on X. “Hearts and minds of people through [the] barrel of a gun.”

Police action on Kashmiri students

In cricket matches involving India, Kashmiris have often cheered for the competing side, often as a way of expressing their dissatisfaction with the Indian state.

This is not the first time that a cricket match has led to a confrontation between local and non-local students at an educational institute in Jammu and Kashmir.

In 2021, too, the Jammu and Kashmir Police booked under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act students and staff of medical colleges who celebrated the Pakistani cricket team’s victory over India in the T20 World Cup match.

In 2016, students at Srinagar’s National Institute of Technology clashed after India lost to the West Indies in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup. In a similar fashion, the non-local students had then accused local Kashmiri students of celebrating India’s loss, leading to violent clashes.

The clashes had spun out of control, with the police firing tear gas shells and carrying out a baton-charge on campus. The incident had also prompted non-local students to demand the shifting of the institute’s campus outside the Kashmir valley.