‘Our unity not made of bamboo reeds’: Judge gives bail to 3 Kashmiri students

PRAYAGRAJ: Three Kashmiri students arrested five months ago in Uttar Pradesh on charges of celebrating the Pakistan cricket team’s win against India in a World T-20 cricket match were granted bail by the Allahabad high court on Wednesday.

“The unity of India is not made of bamboo reeds which will bend to the passing winds of empty slogans. The foundations of our nation are more enduring. Eternal ideals bind the indestructible unity of India. Constitutional values create an indissoluble union of India,” justice Ajay Bhanot observed in his ruling. The order was made public on Thursday.

“Every citizen of the country is the custodian, and the State is the sentinel of the unity of India and the constitutional values of the nation,” justice Bhanot said.

“Students travelling freely to different parts of the country in the quest for knowledge is the true celebration of India’s diversity and a vivid manifestation of India’s unity. It is the duty of the people of the hosting state to create enabling conditions for visiting scholars to learn and to live the constitutional values of our nation. It is also the obligation of the young scholars to imbibe and adhere to such values.”, the bench observed, but stressed that it wasn’t making any observations on the merits of the case.

The three students, Inayat Altaf Sheikh, Shokat Ahmad Gani and Arsheed Yusuf, were arrested on October 27, 2021, and have remained in custody since then. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had also spoken after the issue came up, declaring that sedition charges will be slapped on those celebrating the country’s defeat on the cricket pitch.

A first information report (FIR) registered against them by a local BJP youth leader in Agra accused them of offences under sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 505 (1) (B) (making a statement with intent to cause fear or alarm to the public) and 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code. Local Agra lawyers had refused to appear for the three students.

The prosecution told the high court that the three students raised pro-Pakistan slogans after Pakistan’s 10-wicket victory over India. It also alleged that they also uploaded posts on social media and instigated civil disorder in the country.

The students have denied allegations that they raised anti-India or pro-Pakistan slogans, insisting that the rival group of students framed them to settle scores. “The applicants are young students with a bright future. The trial is moving at a snail’s pace and is not likely to conclude any time soon. The inordinate delay in the trial will lead to indefinite detention of the applicants,” their lawyer told the court.

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