Calls Grow for Release of Kashmiri Human Rights Defender Khurram Parvez

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Prominent Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez.

Parvez was arrested by NIA in Srinagar on Monday after raids were conducted at his residence and office

Muhammad Raafi | Clarion India

SRINAGAR — Calls are growing for the release of prominent Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez after he was arrested by the National Investigation Agency on Monday during raids at his office and home in Srinagar.

Global rights groups and activists have condemned the action of India’s premier anti-terror investigation agency urging the Indian government to end the detention of Parvez without any delay.

On Monday morning, the sleuths of NIA raided the house of Khurram at Gupkar and conducted searches till 1:30 PM. The NIA sleuths, accompanied by local police and CRPF, took Khurram along with them. “Late in the evening we were told to get clothes for Khurram,” his wife Samina told Clarion India. The family was also handed over the arrest memo. They also confiscated Parvez’s mobile phone, laptop and some books, along with Samina’s phone.

The NIA also conducted a simultaneous raid at the office of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a prominent civil society group, that continued till late evening hours.

Parvez who is coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) is highly revered in civil society circles within the region and abroad. JKCCS is known for meticulously recording and highlighting human rights abuses committed by both state and non-state actors in Kashmir in the past 30 years of turmoil.

“I’m hearing disturbing reports that Khurram Parvez was arrested today in Kashmir and is at risk of being charged by authorities in India with terrorism-related crimes,” Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, said.  “He’s not a terrorist, he’s a Human Rights Defender.”

The arrest memo seen by Clarion India noted that a case has been filed under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), including terror funding. The FIR 30/2021 filed on November 6 in New Delhi IPC invokes sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging, attempting to wage, abetting waging of war against the government), and 121A (conspiracy to commit offences punishable by Section 121); of the IPC  and Sections 17 (raising funds for terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy), 18B (recruiting of any person or persons for terrorist act) and 40 (raising funds for a terrorist organisation) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Agency sleuths first detained Parvez for questioning in the morning while conducting raids at his office and home  in Srinagar before he was arrested in the evening. His family was informed about the arrest, reports said. The raid lasted for 14 hours.

Shortly after the word about Parvez’s arrest went out, local and global rights groups issued statements condemning the arrest and demanding his release.

Norway based Rafto Foundation issued a statement terming the allegation against Parvez by NIA as “wholly implausible”. As the foundation acknowledged JKCCS collaboration with them, its Exec Director Jostein Hole Kobbeltvedt said: “All their work has been directed towards raising awareness about human rights violations by peaceful & democratic means.”

Former United Nations Special Rapporteur David Kaye said that Khurram’s arrest is “yet another extraordinary abuse in Kashmir”. “I imagine that condemning the arrest of human rights defenders is on the to-do list of the upcoming summit for democracy,” he tweeted.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch, asked authorities to end “repressive policies” in Kashmir and hold those accountable responsible for human rights violations instead of targeting defenders.

Reacting to report of Khurram’s arrest, Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture called for his immediate release saying it was “deeply concerned about the high risk of torture while in custody”.

“Year after year, Khurram Parvez has bravely documented human rights abuses and provided much-needed assistance to victims of these abuses to encourage India to abide by its international human rights law obligations,” Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, said in a statement by the group.  “Instead of attempting to silence and punish human rights defenders, Indian authorities should work to end impunity for perpetrators of human rights abuses. He should be released immediately.”

CPI-ML leader Kavita Krishanan termed the raids and arrest of Parvez “an attempt by the Modi regime to gag those witnessing & documenting the unrelenting rights violations in J&K”.

Janhastakshep, a people’s intervention group, condemned the arrest. “In arbitrarily arresting Khurram Parvez the government seeks to smart out of the setback it received from the adverse publicity and widespread condemnation of the encounter in Hyderpora where innocent civilians were killed by the security forces. Mr Parvez was actively involved with Kashmir Coalition of Civil Rights which has brought out some remarkable reports on civil rights and liberties abuses in the Kashmir valley,” Janhastakshep said in a statement.

Parvez was also detained in 2016 during the public agitation following the killing of popular militant leader Burhan Wani. He was jailed for 76 days under the controversial Public Safety Act. The high court had quashed his detention orders as “illegal”.

The latest arrest comes days after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval claimed the civil society could be “manipulated” as “the next frontier of war” against the nation. “The onslaught has been extended to civil society and human rights groups as part of New Delhi’s aggression to silence every form of resistance to its rule,” noted a Human Rights activist.

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Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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