Tensions between India and Pakistan are never far from boiling point and there has been an incident after the ICC Champions Trophy final that has proven that cricket, once again, stirs emotions like no other on the sub-continent. After the arrest of 19 men arrested in India following Pakistan’s victory last weekend Amnesty International has called for their release after they were charged with sedition following pro-Pakistan chanting. The charge could face to life imprisonment for the men.
The day after the Champions Trophy Final, which took place at The Oval, in England, 15 people were arrested in Burhanpur, with a further four arrested in Karnataka. The arrests took place following Pakistan’s historic 180-run victory over India and the men were found to have been committing sedition by shouting pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogans. The spreading of communal disharmony carries with it a punishment of life imprisonment.
Asmita Basu, the programme director for Amnesty International in India, said, “These arrests are patently absurd, and the 19 men should be released immediately, 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.”
The report by Madhya Pradesh police stated in their report that the accused chanted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and celebrated the win by bursting crackers and distributing sweets, suggesting that they were conspiring against the Indian government. The law in India states that sedition is any act or attempt to bring hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection towards the government.
Asmita Basu said: “These cases show just why the sedition law should be immediately repealed.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.”
Cricket is such a popular sport in India and Pakistan that when there is a high profile match, such as the final of a worldwide cricket event, there are bound to be tensions between the two sets of fans considering the historical and political context between the two countries.