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The Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir are not hidden from the world. Still, recently the Modi government went beyond the boundaries as BJP government arrested seven Kashmiri students for chanting slogans over the cricket team’s humiliating loss to Australia in the World Cup final.
According to experts, it is a common occurrence for native Kashmiris, who have endured decades of Indian oppression, to support the opposing side when India plays. This reaction is not surprising given the harsh tactics employed by Indian security forces in the disputed territory. To prevent such incidents, New Delhi should focus on winning the hearts and minds of disaffected people instead of resorting to tactics aimed at intimidating them into submission.
The arrests were carried out under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a widely criticized anti-terrorism law known for its broad language that makes it susceptible to abuse. Described as “draconian” by top Indian jurists, the law permits individuals to be held without bail for up to six months without substantial evidence. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, numerous regime critics, journalists, activists, and opposition leaders across the country have been arrested. The misuse of the law is evident, with only 2% of UAPA cases filed during Modi’s first term resulting in convictions. One case saw an individual spending seven years in custody under the UAPA, only to be released without charges.
In this particular incident, the individual, not from Kashmir, faced “abusive language.” In 2021, hundreds of Kashmiri students were probed under the UAPA for celebrating a Pakistani victory against the Indian team, leading to many being terminated from government positions. A police statement after the recent arrests essentially acknowledges that not aligning with a “pro-India” stance is considered an act of terrorism. India, it seems, is compelling people to demonstrate ‘patriotism’ under the threat of arrest. The world’s biggest democracy should exercise tolerance because patriotism cannot be created forcefully.