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India Drops Sedition Charges Against Pakistan Cricket Fans

Pakistan players celebrate during the award ceremony for the ICC Champions Trophy at The Oval in London, Sunday, June 18, 2017. Pakistan won the final by crushing India for 180 runs.

India has dropped sedition charges against 15 Muslims who were arrested for celebrating Pakistan's recent victory over India in cricket.

Police in the state of Madhya Pradesh told reporters Thursday that sedition, which can carry a life sentence in India, was "hard to prove" in this case as there was no proof that the men necessarily chanted anti-India slogans in their celebration of Pakistan's win.

"Moreover, none of them has a criminal background," senior police officer RR Parihar told reporters.

The men may still face other charges including disrupting communal harmony and criminal conspiracy for their rowdy celebration.

The 15 villagers in the Burhanpur district set off fireworks and cheered for Pakistan on Sunday when it defeated India in the Championship Trophy by 180 runs. They were detained for sedition after a neighbor complained to police.

International rights groups including Amnesty International denounced the charges, calling them "patently absurd".

Passion between the two countries' cricket fans runs high, particularly during this year's Championship Trophy, which was the first time India and Pakistan played each other in a major final since 2007.

In 2014, over 60 Indian students were arrested for sedition after being accused of cheering for Pakistan.

Last year, a Pakistani man was arrested for waving an Indian flag after his personal idol, Virat Kohli — India's cricket team captain, scored 100 runs to win a match.