SRINAGAR: Hundreds of people protested in the streets in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Friday over the expulsion of dozens of Kashmiri college students because they cheered for the Pakistani cricket team over India’s.
Police detained at least a dozen activists of pro-independence Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front, including its leader Yasin Malik, to prevent the activists from marching to the city center in Srinagar, the main city in the region.
A police statement said the protesters clashed with security forces at least at four places, but no one was reported hurt.
“Go India, go back!” read placards carried by several students who marched separately in the Kashmir university campus and the state-run medical college in Srinagar.
The 66 expelled Kashmiri students have been studying in Swami Vivekanand Subharti University in Meerut, a town in northern Uttar Pradesh state. The university acted against them earlier this week and the state police briefly threatened them with sedition charges which carry a possible life sentence.
Meerut is nearly 560 miles (900 kilometers) from their homes in Kashmir. However, the sedition investigation was dropped Thursday amid widespread outrage in Kashmir over the students’ expulsion.
The protesters on Friday demanded that other charges being considered by police against the students, including attempts to promote enmity between different groups on the basis of religion and causing damage to the university property, should also be withdrawn.
“India’s government and its civil society have not learnt any lesson for past 66 years that they cannot crush our sentiments for independence by ruining the future of Kashmiri students, humiliating, torturing and killing Kashmiris,” Malik told reporters.
The detained activists are expected to be freed by police later Friday.
Love of cricket – a legacy of Britain’s long colonial role of South Asia – is one of the few things that unite Pakistan and India, despite a long history of animosity that has fueled three wars since the subcontinent’s bloody partition in 1947.
But the fracas over Sunday’s Asia Cup match played in Bangladesh – which Pakistan won – shows how easily passions are inflamed over predominantly Muslim Kashmir. Insurgents have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan since 1989.