Meerut: A university in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, will revoke its suspension of 67 Kashmiri students for cheering for the Pakistani cricket team in a match against India.
The UP government has also assured Jammu and Kashmir that the boys, in their early 20s, who had returned home, will "not be hounded" once back at college. As a reciprocal gesture of goodwill, the vice chancellor of Meerut University has been invited to visit Jammu and Kashmir.
The students were suspended from the Swami Vivekanand Subharti University and escorted from the campus over what the vice chancellor called "unacceptable" behaviour after they celebrated Pakistan beating India in a tense Asia Cup contest on February 23, a Sunday.
They were accused by the police of disturbing communal harmony and were also briefly threatened with sedition charges, which carry a possible life sentence, but those were dropped. Meerut police chief Omkar Singh later said, "In absence of any evidence to support the charges of sedition... we shall not probe the complaint in this light."
More than 900 kilometres away, in Kashmir, hundreds of people protested against the Meerut university's action. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah called the threat of sedition charges "unacceptably harsh."
Cricket matches between India and Pakistan tend to be high-voltage events, played out in a charged atmosphere with millions of people watching on television. On that Sunday, tensions rose as students gathered in the hostel of the Meerut private university.
While one set of students was supporting the Indian team, the group of Kashmiri students rooted for the Pakistani team.
A Kashmiri student, Ghulzar Ahmad, said as soon as the match finished, the others chased them. "We hid in our rooms. They abused us and threw stones at our rooms and broke our laptops," he alleged. The next day dozens of Kashmiri students tried to protest on the campus of the university, but the authorities suspended them and told them to go home.
Pakistan had offered a place in its local universities for the suspended students.