Indian students to face trial for 'cheering Pakistan's cricket win'

The three young men are among several people charged following the Indian team's loss to their arch-rivals in October

Women protest in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India, to demand the withdrawal of charges against students for allegedly celebrating the Pakistan cricket team's victory over India in the T20 World Cup. EPA

Three students from India's restive northern Kashmir region are to face trial on charges of sedition and breaking cybercrime and anti-terrorism laws, for allegedly celebrating the Pakistani cricket team's victory over India last year, their lawyer said.

Police arrested Arsheed Yusuf, Inayat Altaf Sheikh and Showkat Ahmed Ghani at their college hostel in Agra, in Uttar Pradesh state, northern India, after Pakistan defeated arch-rivals India in a Twenty20 World Cup match in October.

The engineering students, all in their early 20s, have remained in detention since then, despite repeated applications for bail.

India and Pakistan have a historic rivalry stemming partly from competing claims to Kashmir. The countries have fought several wars and numerous skirmishes – most recently in 2019 – over the Himalayan region, of which each controls part.

This rivalry often finds expression in sport – particularly cricket, a national passion in both countries.

At least a dozen people have been arrested on charges related to celebrating the Pakistan cricket team's win, but Mr Yusuf, Mr Sheikh and Mr Ghani will be the first to stand trial after a magistrate's court in Agra accepted the police charge sheet against them on Thursday.

Their lawyer, Madhuvan Dutt Chaturvedi, said he would appeal against the magistrate's decision because the charges required the approval of the state.

“It is mandatory that there should be a clear sanction from state or central government but police submitted the charge sheet without sanction of the state,” Mr Chaturvedi told The National.

Four students in northern state Uttar Pradesh, who allegedly celebrated Pakistan's win, have been charged with cyberterrorism, promoting enmity on grounds of religion and criminal intimidation.

A teacher in Rajasthan, also in northern India, was arrested on charges of “assertions prejudicial to national integration” after posting the message “we won” on WhatsApp.

In Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir region, staff and students at a medical college were charged under anti-terror laws after videos purportedly showing them celebrating Pakistan’s victory went viral.

Updated: January 29, 2022, 2:09 PM