At least 67 students from the state of Jammu and Kashmir in northern India were charged with sedition, and later freed, for cheering Pakistan's victory over India in a cricket game last week, news reports said.
The students who were enrolled at a university in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, or UP, were expelled and charged with sedition under the Indian Penal Code because they cheered in support of Pakistan, which controls parts of Kashmir. A local party leader called on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to investigate the incident while a local court ordered a judicial probe into the conduct of students at the university.
"Sedition charge against Kashmiri students is an unacceptably harsh punishment that will ruin their futures & will further alienate them," Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, posted on the social networking site Twitter, criticizing the university's decision to expel the students, and appealed to UP's Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to drop charges.
Abdullah also added 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."
The university also reportedly put together an internal committee to help cancel the students' suspensions, according to Manzoor Ahmad, the vice chancellor of Swami Vivekananda Subharti University, where the incident took place, Firstpost, a local news website, reported.
"Regarding the case, it is for the police to explain why they had to file sedition charges. We also feel that the act of the students in no way fell in the category of 'treason against the nation'," Ahmad said, according to Times of India, or TOI, a local newspaper. The minimum punishment for sedition is three years in prison while the maximum sentence involves life in prison.
The students had celebrated Pakistan's victory over India last Sunday at the Asia Cup match held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A clash reportedly broke out at the hostel between the students from Kashmir and some local students, causing college authorities to intervene and expel the Kashmiri students from the hostel and the university.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir, since the latter nation was forged in a bloody partition of the subcontinent following the end of British rule.
Gulzar Ahmad, one of the expelled students, reportedly said that they were not disrespecting the Indian side but merely cheering the talented Pakistani team.
"I will go back to the university if I am given a safety assurance by the authorities," Ahmad said, according to TOI.