Saturday, June 24, 2017

Sedition charges for supporting Pakistan in a match

It's a tricky situation, and the local police departments know how to handle it well. A cricket match between India and Pakistan, and you have people cheering Pakistan while living in India. There is some outrage among the other people there, and the media and social media hype up the outrage to a drastic degree. The police then take the expected action, charging the people with sedition. What happens to the case much later is not known, although I really have not read anybody being prosecuted seriously or sentenced for such a matter.
It satisfies the craving in people for some sort of punishment for those who support Pakistan while being based in India, and who 'obviously' are not patriotic. Pakistan is responsible for a wide variety of problems in India. Because of its active and prolific support to the terrorist cause in Jammu and Kashmir and the attack by these terrorists in other parts of India, the vast majority of Indians have an abhorrence of Pakistan and its policies. However India has diplomatic relations with Pakistan, and we even have sporting and cultural relationships with the country (there are innumerable Pakistani artists who work in Bollywood in different manners). Pakistani diplomats are still invited for parties by the high and mighty.
However, while I am not a lawyer, it would seem weird to apply sedition charges for supporting Pakistan in a cricket match. Sedition is typically defined as working against the Government and is typically meant for those who indulge in espionage or try to work up people against the Government (and not even for cases where they have a grievance against the Government). Applying sedition charges for rooting against your country in a cricket match is a bit too match. And it seems like this has sunk into the police force as well, given that the recent charges on sedition were withdrawn.
And it seems very much like older situation. There was the position in England in the 1960's when a rabble rousing politician tried to use this as a litmus test - if an immigrant from South Asia continued to root for his Asian team rather than for England, it showed a lack of patriotism. That was widely condemned, and Indians would have also condemned it, but a lot of us are perfectly fine to use it as a test here in India. This is rank hyporocisy.
It is something common now - there are a huge number of Indian immigrants in Australia, New Zealand, the USA or the UK. If they were asked to choose their host countries rather than India while rooting for a team during a match, or even more, if they were charged with treason by the police for such an action, there will be an outrage. We would also be outraged, but are not outraged when police arrest people here in India for the same purpose.  

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 1:35 AM