India may charge students with sedition for backing Pakistan's cricket team

LUCKNOW, India (AFP) - Some 60 students from Indian-administered Kashmir may face sedition charges for cheering Pakistan's victory over India in a recent 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 Vivekananda Subharti University (SVSU), have been suspended and were escorted from campus following the match due to concerns about violence with other Indian students, university sources said.

"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," Mr Singh explained.

"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 "unacceptably harsh."

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

Pakistan's foreign office spokesman said sedition charges against the students would be "very unfortunate."

"If the Kashmiri students want to come and pursue their education in Pakistan, our hearts and academic institutions are open to them," Ms Tasnim Aslam told reporters in Islamabad.

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