‘Rights Defender, Not A Terrorist’: Global Outcry Over Khurram’s Arrest
Several statements and comments by various international and national human rights bodies, and activists have rallied for the release of Kashmiri Human Rights defender Khurram Parvez.
SRINAGAR — India’s top anti-terror agency, National Investigation Agency, Monday arrested renowned Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, 42 from Kashmir’s capital city Srinagar inviting sharp reactions from global human rights bodies and activists.
Although the NIA has not issued any statement about Khurram’s arrest, his family said that the sleuths of the agency raided their residence Monday morning and conducted searches till afternoon. “Soon after, they took Khurram along and in the evening asked us to get his clothes,” Khurram’s wife Samina said. The agency also confiscated the laptop and cell phone of Khurram and that of his wife.
Samina said that they were handed over the arrest memo which mentioned various sections under which Khurram was being arrested. The charges included offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation, and offence of raising funds for a terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Besides charges under Sections 121 of the Indian Penal Code have been slapped against Khurram including waging, attempting to wage, abetting waging of war against the government, recruiting of a person for a terrorist act and criminal conspiracy.
The agency also raided the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, of which Khurram is a programme coordinator.
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Lashing out over Parvez’s arrest, Kavita Krishnan, Communist Party of India member and Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) said this (India) is a state whose national security advisor says, ‘now the onslaught will be on the Civil Society and the chief of Defence says, ‘lynching is good’. “This is not a normal government. They have no shame in committing atrocities. It is quite naked about what it is doing.”
She said the civil society and the people who have known and worked with JKCCS in the past years are going to keep pushing for Khurram’s release. “We will not be intimidated.”
Many International bodies and activists have belligerently raised concerns about Khurram’s “unlawful arrest”.
“The arrest of Kashmiri activist Khurram Parvez is yet another example of how anti-terror laws are being misused to criminalize human rights work and stifle dissent in India,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “Instead of targeting HRDs, authorities should focus on bringing accountability for human rights violations.” Amnesty International was earlier forced to halt its India operations due to “reprisals” from the state.
United Nations Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor also reacted sharply to Khurram’s arrest. “He’s not a terrorist, he’s a Human Rights Defender.”
The recipient of the 2006 Reebok Human Rights Award, Khurram Parvez is also the programme coordinator of a widely respected rights group the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), and chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD).
JKCCS has monitored violence in the region for more than three decades and has “exposed rights violtions by Indian government forces including torture, extra-judicial killings and unmarked mass graves” in numerous reports.
Last week, it criticized security forces for killing civilians during a controversial shootout with alleged rebels in Srinagar whose bodies were hurriedly buried by police in a remote graveyard without their families present.
“In the first place Kashmir is a place where atrocities are rife and more so since 2019. JKCCS is one of the most credible organizations operating out of a tiny office and mostly supported by volunteers who put their lives at risk to document human rights violations and absolutely in a bipartisan way. It is shocking if not surprising that Khurram has been arrested for his work by the NIA,” Krishnan said.
She said it is very clear what the motive of these raids on JKCCS is. “The motive is that there should be no witnesses to the war in Kashmir. And I want to be very clear that this war is on civilians and Human Rights. The state wants to be able to execute their brazen excess of power without any watch or scrutiny.”
Krishnan said that this is just the repetition of Bhima Koregaon. This will continue with more arrests and intimidations, she said. “The 1300 or so arrests in the last few months in Kashmir would have been followed and monitored by JKCCS. But with Khurram’s arrest the government has a free hand now and no scrutiny at all.”
Noted Kashmir writer and journalist Mirza Waheed said Khurram Parvez is someone who would defend the rights of even those out to persecute him. “It’s a travesty that one of Kashmir’s most recognised human rights defenders has been arrested – he should be released from detention without delay (SIC),” Waheed Tweeted.
Pervez was booked under the Public Safety Act in 2016 after protests triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen rebel commander Burhan Wani. He spent 76 days in detention.
Calling upon the immediate release of Parvez, The World Organisation Against Torture, Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT), a coalition of non-governmental organisations fighting against arbitrary detention, torture, summary and extrajudicial executions, feared Khurram has a “high risk of torture while in Custody.”
Further, in a statement, celebrated human rights group Rafto Foundation has called NIA’s arrest memo against the Khurram “implausible”.
“The allegations made in the Arrest Memo of the NIA and in articles in the press appear wholly implausible to us. We have worked closely with Khurram Parvez and JKCCS for four years, discussing all aspects of their situation. Their denouncement of political violence has been vehement and absolute, whenever the subject of other actors perpetrating such acts came up. All their work has been directed towards raising awareness about human rights violations by peaceful and democratic means.”
The foundation has also pleaded with the UN and its member states to condemn the prosecution of human rights defenders in the region.
“The Rafto Foundation appeals to the United Nations, and to all states committed to the protection of human rights, to express their unequivocal condemnation of the persecution of human rights defenders in India and warn in the clearest possible terms against pursuing prosecution of human rights defenders on national security grounds, which poses a grave threat both to rule of law and democracy in India, and to the efforts of the international community to uphold these values.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Office has also strongly condemned the arrest in a press statement today.
“Pakistan strongly condemns the arrest of human rights activist Mr Khuram Parvez. Arbitrary arrests of human rights activists on orchestrated charges by Indian forces is clear evidence of New Delhi’s trampling of fundamental human rights in the region.”
The press release also called upon the international community to hold India accountable for “continued clampdown against human rights organizations” and activists for undertaking their duty to “expose gross and systematic human rights violations” of Kashmiris.”
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Meher Qadri is a former staff writer at the Mountain Ink.