Amnesty slams arrests following Pakistan’s cricket win over India

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NEW YORK, June 22 (APP): A leading international human rights watchdog
body has called for the immediate release of 19 people allegedly arrested across India following Pakistan’s victory in the ICC Champions Trophy.
“These arrests are patently absurd, and the 19 men should be released
immediately,” Amnesty International’s India programme director, Asmita Basu, said in a statement. “Even if the arrested men had supported Pakistan, as the police claim, that is not a crime. Supporting a sporting team is a matter of individual choice, and arresting someone for cheering a rival team clearly violates their right to freedom of expression.”
Police in the state of Madhya Pradesh arrested 15 people in the
Burhanpur district on Monday for allegedly committing sedition by raising pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogans after the match. Karnataka police also arrested four people on Sunday for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s victory. According to media reports, all those locked up are Muslims.
Amnesty International described the arrests “as another worrying sign of
the erosion of freedom of expression in India.”
The arrests come as some Muslims in India say they feel a sense of
rising alienation, The New York Times said in a report from New Delhi. There have been episodes of violence, including by vigilante groups that have staged attacks on Muslims and low-caste Hindus suspected of slaughtering cows, which are considered sacred in Hinduism.
The First Information Report registered by the Madhya Pradesh police
states: “[The accused] chanted “Pakistan Zindabad” in support of the Pakistan cricket team, they celebrated Pakistan’s win by bursting crackers and distributing sweets. Their actions suggested that they were trying to conspire against the Indian government by supporting Pakistan in the cricket match, because of them, there is an atmosphere of unrest in the village.”
The Karnataka police, according to media reports, said the four men
arrested in the state set off fire crackers and raised slogans supporting the Pakistan cricket team.
Asmita Basu said,”These cases show just why the sedition law should
be immediately repealed. This law is excessively broad and vague and makes it easy to silence people who are legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
“Nobody should have to go to prison merely because they are accused of
causing offense. The sedition law has no place in a rights-respecting society, let alone one that has a proud tradition of pluralism and debate.”
Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code defines sedition as any act or
attempt “to bring into hatred or contempt, or excite disaffection towards the government.” The Supreme Court of India has ruled on multiple occasions that speech would amount to sedition only if it involved incitement to violence or public disorder. In a 2015 case, the Court ruled: “Mere discussion or even advocacy of a particular cause howsoever unpopular is at the heart of [the right to freedom of expression].”