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Is it seditious to be unpatriotic?
Okay, the news is a bit old but for the sake of completeness I am writing it. 67 Kashmiri students studying in a college at UP were suspended and the state police pressed charges of sedition, promoting enmity between the two communities and of doing mischief on them.

They were accused of publicly cheering up for Pakistani team in a cricket match which India lost, while they were in the college. Hours later, the charges of sedition were dropped and later their suspension too. The news was so catchy that it captured headlines even in the New York Times.

I tell you the charges of sedition were absurd. But then all need to be sensitive about others' feelings and this applies both to Kashmiri students and as well as to local students in UP. If for some Valley people Kashmir is a disputed territory then for a vast majority of this nation, Kashmir is an integral part of India and latter’s mentality is mostly not responsible for any suffering of the former.

In this dangerously evolving identity-driven conflicting world understanding others’ points of view and having clarification about self are very important things. Or else, the stability will always be affected wherever there are identity-divides and such places globally are rules rather than exceptions. In India, obviously, they are norms.

In this context on 7 March, 2014, the Times of India, Lucknow edition, raised certain questions. I would like to answer them one by one.

Had the rival team been of any country other than Pakistan, would the UP government have still slapped a sedition case against Kashmiri students for cheering the other side in the cricket match?

In order to understand as to why the UP police put charges of sedition on Kashmir students, one needs to understand the current hot political situation in UP. UP is home to 80 Parliamentary seats and therefore, it matters a lot for all the parties wishing to form government in New Delhi after the upcoming Lok Sabha elections due this summer.

Both Hindus and Muslims matter but the Muslims of UP as a group would never go crazy about Pakistan so explicitly. The fact is that it was deplorable act by Kashmiri students though not that much punishable. Now it is indeed true that Pakistan matters more than any other country regarding conflicts over Cricket matches in India.

The answer to the first question put by the Times of India is itself a question: Would Kashmiri students have supported any team other than that of Pakistan so overtly? The answer to both questions is no: neither the state authorities would have put charges of sedition on Kashmiri students so easily if the other team was not that of Pakistan nor the Kashmiri students would have supported any team other than that of Pakistan so enthusiastically and so passionately.

And for the latter possibility there is a very pertinent practical reason: Kashmiri students would not have got that much support and sympathy that they are getting from their brothers and sisters in Kashmir, mostly in Valley, and to some extent from few right-wingers among Muslims of the nation, implicitly if not explicitly, if they had supported a non-Pakistani, non-Indian team.

Would police have invoked this draconian provision had the students cheering Pakistan not been Kashmiri Muslims?

The fact is that there is a huge difference between Pakistani team and other teams. Some Indians many times show support for other teams and even that is unpatriotic but then there are no moral guardian controlling individual’s behavior. The same must be true about Kashmiri Muslim students as well.

But then India has ongoing disputes with Pakistan over Kashmir and over its involvement in terrorist acts on Indian soil. These are not simple issues. Sure, there has to be humanistic angle as well and also, even in dreams India can never imagine to copy Pakistan.

Now there are many aspects of Kashmir dispute and even India may be at some fault. Okay, at least its stand has been inconsistent historically but then Indian stakes in Kashmir do stabilise Kashmir and the whole region and this can never be forgotten. Therefore, Kashmiri Muslim students do represent that society which is in direct conflict with proper Indian state and thus normal Indian sensitivity also matters. This becomes a rather emotive and sensitive issue if such incidents take place in UP; heart of Hindi heartland.

One cannot expect people studying in ordinary UP colleges to be like Aristotle or Adam Smith. Neither even the residents of the most posh localities in New Delhi and Mumbai can ever imagine to behave like those of the down-town Manhattan. It is too much to expect from Indians and if I know one result for sure then I know that Indians as a group can never become Westerners. So, ordinary among Indians will react more ordinarily than what their equivalents in the US would do.

But sure, as mentioned above there was a regional angle; Kashmir and there was a religious angle: Muslim, when the charges of sedition were put on Kashmiri students.

Do Indians have a legal obligation to support India in every match?

Before that one thing needs to be clarified that the very same Kashmir students would dispute their identity as being Indians. But they are not foreigners either. So, their status is disputed as per their own laws. Anyway, whether one is Indian, foreigner or person from disputed land and if he and she are residing in India, they are not bound to support Indian team in any match. But then others too were watching. While Kashmiri students could have genuine grievances with India as per their views, students of UP and those from other parts of India do not have any. While one is free to take any view that he and she may like but in public and social places one has to be mindful and respectful of others’ opinions as well.

Mind you, the previously accused Kashmiri students did not cheer up for Pakistani team in Kashmir but rather in UP which is fully proper Indian land. Sure, one can mock at me saying who is Indian team in Valley? But here comes the prompt reply what is Pakistani team for a vast majority of Indians except for some unsatisfied Muslims of India? Therefore, the aim of those students was not only to cheer up for Pakistani team for the sake of game but rather to challenge the might of India in one of its more mainstream places and they were expecting some support from local Muslims too. Thus, except for the charges of sedition other charges are true. So may be their suspension, though as was expected it has been revoked.

Is it seditious to be unpatriotic?

The answer is definite no. Unpatriotic behavior does not imply state putting charges of sedition on such individuals. India is a free democratic country from Asian standards and the state can never be accepted to become moral guardian of its people by its very own elites. So far so good! But then behavior in public and social spaces also matter. The fact is that while those students might have expressed their frustration and disapproval of Indian administration in Kashmir but there is little to change in Kashmir in any time soon.

This read is not to challenge anyone neither it is any expression of sadistic pleasure over the state of Kashmiri people but instead a rational explanation of whatever happened. To be reasonable not all 67 were cheering up for Pakistan and therefore, one has to be judicious and accountable. Let me warns liberals in India who are very much influenced by their counterparts in the West, particularly by the Americans, that India cannot take an overdose of liberalism or else it would cease to exist. Those who sa,y they do not care, they should just look at the map of Asia. Right from West Asia to far east, only Israel, India, Singapore, the South Korea and Japan offer hope for democracy and capitalism simultaneously and India is the biggest state among them.

That should continue but without persecuting or suppressing any identity. I hope that one day Kashmir dispute would be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties and thereafter there will be no dispute like this.


Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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