Sport

Indian police arrest seven for ‘celebrating’ Pakistan cricket win

Indian police have arrested seven Muslim youths for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s victory over India in a cricket match on Sunday.

Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, a senior Bharatiya Janata party figure, said in a tweet that the three may be charged with sedition, on top of the charges of cyberterrorism and “promoting enmity among groups” that police accused them of after the arrests on Wednesday.

Another leading BJP politician, federal cabinet minister Sidharth Nath Singh, told NDTV news channel that Uttar Pradesh police would take the strictest possible action against anyone for exulting in India’s defeat in Sunday’s T20 World Cup cricket game in Dubai.

Three of the youths, Arsheed Yousuf, Inayat Altaf Sheikh and Showkat Ahmed Ganai, are engineering students at Raja Balwant Singh College in Agra and are from Kashmir. They are also accused of posting messages on social media supporting Pakistan. The college has suspended them.

The other three youths were arrested in Bareilly and one in Lucknow.

Jammu and Kashmir police also booked some students at two medical colleges in Srinagar for celebrating Pakistan’s win. Mohammad Shami, India’s only Muslim cricketer in the T20 team, was subjected to a vicious barrage of online abuse after India’s defeat.

The issue of some Indian Muslims cheering and clapping whenever Pakistan defeats India in a cricket match has been a bone of contention for decades.

BJP supporters and Hindu nationalists attack such behaviour as disloyalty or treason.

Liberals reject this, saying Indians should be free to support whoever they wish in cricket or any other sphere of life, and accuse Hindu extremists of exaggerating accusations in an attempt to smear Muslims.

Adityanath has been pursuing a vigorously anti-Muslim campaign involving arbitrary arrests and intimidation since he came to power in the state in 2017. He has removed the Muslim names of several towns and railway stations and replaced them with Hindu names.

During the protests against the controversial Indian citizenship law in 2019, when Muslims came out on to the streets to vent their opposition, many Muslim men had their property confiscated after being given huge fines for allegedly vandalising public property that were impossible for them to pay.

Adityanath said at the time that the fines and confiscation were revenge against those who had indulged in violence in the demonstrations.

Last month, he banned the sale of meat in Mathura, a town that Hindus consider to be holy because it is the birthplace of Lord Krishna. The meat trade is a traditional Muslim occupation.

Mathura was simply the latest on an ever-growing list of towns in the state where the sale of meat is banned to “protect” Hindu sentiments.