THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 24 NOVEMBER, 2021
Kashmiri human rights activist, Khurram Parvez, was arrested on Monday, November 22 by the National Investigation Agency, citing various provisions under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code.
The People’s Union of Civil Liberties, India, on November 23, called for the immediate release of Parvez, calling this arrest “one more attempt on the part of the present establishment to silence peaceful, non-violent dissenters.”
Parvez has been charged with criminal conspiracy (Section 120B), attempt to wage war against the government (Section 121), as well as for raising funds for terrorist acts and a terrorist organisation (Section 18B, 30, 40), among others. The conditions for bail under the UAPA are very difficult to meet.
The public statement released by the PUCL reads - “In the context of what has happened in recent times, concerning cases of Bhima Koregaon, Delhi riots, Tripura violence, farmers protests, the tool kit case, Siddiqui Kappan case, and various others across the country, Khurram’s arrest is one more instance of a brutalizing state machinery being used against human rights defenders.”
The PUCL believes that Parvez’s arrest is not an isolated case, but part of the establishment’s consistent effort to quash dissenting voices.
Parvez is not only a human rights defender, but also a vocal critic of the ruling government in India. He has held the position of Coordinator for the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, Chairperson in at Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (an international human rights organisation that works on the issue of forced disappearances in Asia). He is also a scholar with the Political Conflicts, Rights, Gender and People’s Rights Initiative at the Centre for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley.
According to the statement, the JKCCS has published several reports regarding human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir over the years - “the reports range from election monitoring, impact of violence on children, sexual violence, enforeced disappearances, torture, to environmental disasters.”
Parvez has been faced with action from the Indian government over the past few years multiple times. In 2016, Indian immigration authorities forbade him from boarding a flight to attend a United Nations Human Rights Council session. Soon after, he was arrested in Srinagar. On his release four days later he was immediately rearrested, citing the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act - a legislation that allows detention without charge for up to two years. His home was raided once before in October of 2020 as well.
This time he was arrested following lengthy raids at his house and the JKCCS offices.
“PUCL believes that the arrest of Khurram Parvez is not just an attack on him or JKCCS, but to stop any voices concerning human rights violations from Jammu and Kashmir being allowed to be heard in the larger world,” reads the statement. Also stating that the Supreme Court’s failure to hear challenges to the abrogation of Article 370 is another reason the governing bodies are encouraged to take such action against human rights champions.
Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, David Kaye, former UN Special Rapporteur on Promotion and Protection of Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Amnesty International have also spoken out against the arrest on their social media.Lawlor in a tweet said that she was hearing "disturbing reports" of his arrest and stated categorically "he's not a terrorist, he is a human rights defender."
“We observe with regret that the Indian government intimidates citizens working to secure the values and norms enshrined both in the Constitution of India and in international treaties ratified by the government itself. We appeal to Indian authorities to respect Mr. Parvez’s habeas corpus rights and release him from detention without delay,” Jostein Hole Kobbeltvedt, Director of the Rafto Foundation, said in a statement.
The Rafto statement further added, “The allegations made in the arrest memo of the NIA appear wholly implausible to us. We have worked closely with 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.”
The World Organization Against Torture, based in Geneva, also issued a statement saying, “We are deeply concerned about the high risk of torture while in custody. We call for his immediate release."