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June 23, 2017

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Indian Kashmiris probed for sedition for backing Pakistan team

LUCKNOW, India--Some 60 students from Indian-administered Kashmir may face sedition charges for cheering Pakistan's victory over arch-rivals India in a cricket match, police said Thursday.

Police were investigating the students following a complaint from university officials in the northern city of Meerut over celebrations following Pakistan's win on Sunday in an Asia Cup clash.

The students, all enrolled at the Swami Vivekanand Subharti University (SVSU), have been suspended and were escorted from campus over what the vice chancellor called "unacceptable" behavior after the match.

"The SVSU administration on Wednesday submitted a written complaint against unknown persons for indulging in anti-national activities and creating a ruckus on the university campus," Meerut police chief Omkar Singh told AFP.

"We have registered a case and the probe is on," Singh said.

"If evidence is established against the accused, there is a set legal procedure to be followed in such cases. The law will take its own course," he said, adding that any charges would be ones of sedition.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but each claims it in full. They have fought two wars since 1947 over the northern Himalayan territory.

Since 1989 Indian forces have been fighting militant groups seeking independence or the merger of the territory with Pakistan, with repressive policing and human rights abuses feeding into local anti-India resentment.

Many Kashmiris associate more with Pakistan, a Muslim-majority Islamic republic, than with Hindu-majority India which is officially secular.

Indian Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said any sedition charges would be too harsh.

"Sedition charge against Kashmiri students is an unacceptably harsh punishment that will ruin their futures & will further alienate them," Abdullah said on Twitter.

"I believe what the students did was wrong & misguided but they certainly didn't deserve to have charges of sedition slapped against them."

Students Chant 'hail Pakistan'

The trouble began when the students were watching the game on TV in the university's community hall. Pakistan sealed victory by one wicket when Shahid Afridi smashed two consecutive sixes.

Some of the students were accused of chanting "Pakistan zindabad (hail Pakistan)" and damaging university property during the resulting celebrations, a university official said on condition of anonymity.

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