Feature: 90 days in jail, for cheering cricket

Bhat Yasir

After the Indian cricket team lost in the T20 World Cup match to Pakistan last October,  three Kashmiri students in Agra Showket, Arsheed Yusuf, and Iniyat Altaf were accused of celebrating the win of the Pakistan cricket team, following with the three were suspended by college authorities.

After the Indian cricket team lost in the T20 World Cup match to Pakistan last October,  three Kashmiri students in Agra were accused of celebrating the win of the Pakistan cricket team, following with the three were suspended by college authorities.

Coming from economically backward families, the trio were studying under PM’s scholarship scheme (PMSSS) at Raja Balwant Singh Engineering College in Agra.

However, three days later, Showket, Arsheed Yusuf, and Iniyat Altaf were booked under sedition by the Uttar Pradesh Police and were arrested following a right-wing activist’s complaint.

The trio were booked by Uttar Pradesh Police booked under IPC sections of 121 (A) (sedition) 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 505 (1)(B) (with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public), and 66-F (cyber terrorism, an offence that could lead to a life sentence) of the Information Technology Act.

Aftermath the arrest

In order to meet their jailed son, Showket’s family had to sell their cow, the family’s sole income source.

“We have nothing, I was spending everything on the child’s education,” Showket’s mother Hafeeza told Maktoob.

Arsheed’s family too is struggling. Being a widow for about 20 years, Haneefa Bano’s sole hope was Arsheed. Now, she is left alone with two daughters younger to jailed Arsheed.

A relative of Arsheed, Bilal Ahmad said that only people in blood relation are allowed to meet them in the jail.

Bailing out Inayat is also a struggle for his carpenter father. One of his relatives said that they had met Inayat a few times in Agra jail, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, they couldn’t meet him for the past few days.

He also said that, when they call they’re only allowed to talk in Urdu, “they are not allowed to talk in Kashmiri on call.”

The tale of selling and struggling

Showket’s father had to visit Agra thrice to meet their son. In order to meet the expenses, they had to sell their cow for Rs 60,000.

The legal procedures have taken a mental and financial toll on the family. “We used to sell milk of the cow. And it was a great help to run the family, and now with the cow gone it has become harder than ever before,” Shaban said.

On 29 October, last year, the family of Showket Ahmad had staged a protest at Press Enclave Srinagar and demanded the release of their jailed son.

Madhuvn Chaturvedi, the lawyer through APCR, who is fighting the case, said that the bail application of the trio was listed on 23 December, on article no. 72, but the cases couldn’t be heard till the number and the hearing got Passover.

Chaturvedi said that the virtual hearing of Passover cases of 22 December is going on and there are chances that the Passover cases may be listed on Monday.

He said that the application has also been filed in Allahabad High Court about the transfer of the case from Agra, which is listed on 29 January.

He said that there was no lawyer ready to assist them. “There couldn’t be a peaceful hearing because of the local councilors,” he added.

“The Bail application is expected to be decided in the upcoming week,” Chaturvedi said on 21 January.

Letters to PM

Jammu Kashmir Students Association (JKSA) has written to Prime Minister Modi to drop cases of sedition and FIR against three Kashmiri students.

JKSA also arranged a lawyer for them through the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) when no lawyer in Agra was ready to take up their case.

The Association’s Spokesperson Nasir Khuehami told that “there is great pressure on Police by UP govt, Yogi has a tough stance on what they call the objectional content.”

He also said that “the trio are booked under sedition and it’s obvious that you can’t expect their release in a few days or weeks.”

Nasir said that elections are going on and the government will use them as scapegoats for their political mileage. “I met four MP’s in Delhi to raise their issue with Home Minister Amit Shah,” he said.

Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti in a letter to Prime Minister Modi wrote: “A friendly cricket match between India and Pakistan that was solely a source of entertainment for people here bruised by incessant lockdowns, internet gag and restriction on the movement led to booking youngsters under draconian UAPA for simply choosing to cheer the winning side.”

“Despite the college’s own admission that they didn’t engage in any activity that might be construed as anti-national,” the letter pointed out.

It further reads, “Our brightest young people pursuing professional courses like MBBS were targeted and slapped with anti-terror laws.”

“I’ve written to the Prime Minister about the recent arrest of Kashmiri students in Agra on charges of sedition. Hope he intervenes so that they are released soon,” Mehbooba Mufti said in a tweet in October last year.

About Mehbooba’s letter to PM, Bilal Ahmad, kin of jailed student expressed disappointment over lack of progress on it.

“It’s been three months, why aren’t they released,” Bilal shared his disappointment. — Courtesy Maktoob Media

Bhat Yasir is a Kashmir-based Journalist, studying Mass Communication and Journalism. He can be reached on Twitter at BhatYasir