When the state-power begins to fear the pen, tongue and lips, it resorts to undemocratic suppression of dissent
National Investigation Agency (NIA) is again in the news for its actions! Like earlier times, this time also their targets have been individuals and organisations that are well-known as defenders of human rights. In the last few days, the NIA has carried out raids in the houses of rights activists, journalists and civil society groups in Jammu and Kashmir. They have carried out at least nine raids in Srinagar, Delhi and Bangalore in the name of tracing the funds received by different non-governmental organisations in India and abroad for charitable work and then allegedly transferred for carrying out secessionist and separatist activities.
Before we analyse who these individuals are and their activities, let us look back into the situation in the Kashmir valley. Since 5th August 2019, the people in the valley have experienced removal of statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, opening up of jobs for and land-owning by people from outside Kashmir thanks to the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A by the BJP-led central government. Until recent times, almost all known faces in Jammu & Kashmir politics were house interned, the entire valley witnessed an unprecedented removal of services of mobile phones and internet for an extended period. The newspaper houses working from the region could not bring out their regular publications, and even distinguished journalists like Anuradha Bhasin was not allowed to carry out her professional responsibilities freely.
Keeping this background of Kashmir in last one year in mind, let us look into the people whose houses were raided, and offices searched. According to the NIA, the premises searched include the residence and office of Khurram Parvez (coordinator of J&K Coalition of Civil Society, JKCCS), his associates Parvez Ahmad Bukhari, a journalist of AFP, Parvez Ahmad Matta and Bengaluru-based associate Swati Sheshadri. Parveena Ahanger, Chairperson of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDPK), and offices of NGO Athrout and the Greater Kashmir Trust were also searched, the NIA had mentioned. The house of former chairman of Minority Commission, Dr. Jafarul Islam Khan, was also raided. Who are these people?
The works of Parveena Ahanger and her organisation APDPK, comprising of Kashmiri parents whose children have “disappeared” had begun in 1994 with the demand of government response for enforced disappearance of Kashmiri youth. They support the families of victims of abuses and their work had gained international recognition and not only APDPK receives UN financial support but Ms. Parveena Ahanger was also once nominated for Noble Prize. She lamented at the humiliation at the hands of the NIA and security forces and had said “… I have worked with pellet, torture and rape victims. These are important issues. Wherever there are abuses, I work with the survivors. I try to share their grief. If it is a crime, I am guilty as charged.” (https://www.thequint.com/news/india/nia-raids-in-srinagar-parveena-ahanger-interview). Another person whose premises were raided is Khurram Parvez of J&K Coalition of Civil Society. It may be noted that like Ms. Ahanger, Mr. Parvez and his organisation have also been in the forefront in opposing the Rights violations in Kashmir and jointly worked to expose the violation of rights in Kashmir carried out by the Army through exposure of Disappeared persons in Kashmir. Several international rights bodies have condemned these raids, and like CDRO these organisations also feel that these raids are aimed at silencing the critics of the government. It is worthwhile to note what Rafto Foundation director Jostein Hole Kobbeltvedt has to say. “The allegations made in the NIA statement appear wholly implausible to us. We have worked closely with APDP and JKCCS for almost three 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 our work has been directed towards raising awareness about human rights violations by the democratic means of public discussion.” (https://thewire.in/rights/nia-raids-jammu-kashmir-human-rights-groups).
Timing of these raids is also not beyond suspicion. Only a few days back, major parliamentarian parties opposed to the opening of the valley for corporate loot had come together and hence these raids smack of greater political ambition by the ruling party in power. CDRO finds these raids by the NIA as a continuation of its prior desperate attempts to falsely implicate distinguished democratic rights activists in the Bhima-Koregaon case. NIA has proved to be a new tool at the hand of the central government in stopping any genuine pro-people democratic activity which has the support of the people.
Therefore, CDRO condemns these recent raids and demands that
- the government must disband the undemocratic institutions like NIA and its brazenly biased investigations
- the witch-hunting of the opposition, in the name of security of the country, must be stopped
- the draconian laws like the UAPA, which are the Colonial-era legacy, must be repealed
- the Public Safety Act and Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, AFPSA should be discontinued henceforth.
CO-ORDINATION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS ORGANISATION(CDRO)
K.Kranthi Chaitanya, Prit Pal Singh, Tapas Chakraborty and V. Raghunath
(Coordinators of CDRO)
Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West Bengal; Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (Andhra Pradesh);Civil Liberties Committee (Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR TamilNadu); Coordination for Human Rights (Manipur); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights ; Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (Hariyana), Campaign for Peace &amp; Democracy in Manipur, Delhi; Janhastakshep (Delhi)