Court grants bail to 7 Kashmir varsity students, UAPA charges dropped
Srinagar, December 2, 2023: As per media reports, the seven students of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) have been granted bail, who were arrested on November 20 after a student complained he was allegedly threatened and pro-Pakistan slogans were raised following Australia’s victory against India in the cricket World Cup final.
According to the news published in The Indian Express, the Jammu and Kashmir Police have dropped charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against seven students.
The police decision to invoke UAPA had come under criticism from former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, prompting the J&K Police to say that they had invoked a “softer provision” of the anti-terror law.
The police had also said it was not “merely about raising pro-Pakistan slogans” but about the “full context”, including “intimidating” and “terrorising” those who disagreed, and “normalising an abnormal”. “This abnormal and false thing is practiced mostly on the back of separatist and terrorist networks,” the state police had said.
Section 13 of the UAPA, which the students were charged under, deals with inciting or advising any unlawful activity and is punishable with seven years’ jail.
A senior police officer said that as the bail petition came up for hearing on Saturday at the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Ganderbal, the police informed the court that charges under UAPA against the seven have been dropped.
Advocate Shafiq Bhat, who represented the seven students, confirmed this to The Indian Express, and said they have been granted bail.
Mufti posted on social media in the evening, “Glad to know that UAPA charges against SKUAST students have been dropped. Finally good sense has prevailed and their future saved from jeopardy.”
The complaint against the seven had been filed by a student after a face-off between several students at the hostel. In his complaint, the student named the seven students and claimed that after the match, they “started abusing me and targeting me for being a supporter of our country”. The students also raised pro-Pakistan slogans, “which created fear amongst the students from outside the UT of J&K…,” the complaint claimed.
Charges under IPC sections 505 (intent to incite a class or community to commit offence against any other class or community) and 506 (criminal intimidation) have also been invoked against the seven.
Karan Thapar writes | If they weren’t Kashmiri Muslims, would the students have been charged with UAPA?
Criticising the police action, Mufti had sought Lt Governor Manoj Sinha’s intervention: “When they claim that the situation here is normal, why so much fear and paranoia (just because) some students have celebrated the victory of Australia… You can’t control the hearts and minds of people through guns.”