Khurram Parvez1 1

Khurram Parvez, a leading human rights defender and President of the Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), was arrested yesterday, on the 22nd of November 2021. The arrest was carried out by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) after the day-long raid carried out at the JKCCS office in Amira Kadal and Parvez’s house in Sonwar, Srinagar Kashmir. Parvez has been booked under Sections 17 (raising funds for the terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy), 18B (recruiting of any person or persons for the terrorist act), 38 (offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation), and 40 (raising funds for a terrorist organisation) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The activist has also been booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging, attempting to wage, abetting the waging of war against the government), and 121A (conspiracy to commit offences punishable by Section 121).

What is Parvez’s offence? Parvez, one of the most resounding voices of the Valley, has been a vocal critic of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the prevailing regime in the Union territory in the past few decades. But this is not the only occasion when the Union government had arrested Pervez. In 2016 he was arrested and prevented from attending and presenting his views in the UN Human Rights Council.

Parvez had been one of the founding members of JKCCS, which is an amalgam body of various non-funded, non-profit, campaign, research and advocacy organisations based in Srinagar. Launched in 2000, JKCCS has been documenting socio-political issues and human rights interests in J&K for the past two decades. As per the organisation’s website, “JKCCS through its constituents seeks to speak truth to power whether through reports, programmes, systematic documentation, litigation or other engagements in Jammu and Kashmir and outside”. Parvez also serves as the chairperson of the Philippines-based Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). This international human rights organisation focuses on the issue of forced disappearance in Asia. It may be pointed out that Pervez had been actively working on the forced disappearance since 1996 when he was a student. On the 20th of April 2004, while monitoring elections in north Kashmir’s Lolab, a car carrying Parvez and his associates was targeted using a high-intensity improvised explosive device (IED). While his colleague and fellow rights defender Aasiya Jeelani succumbed to the injuries of the blast, Parvez survived with an amputated leg. Soon after he was maimed in the accident, Parvez became actively engaged with the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

At an individual level, the activist-scholar is a recipient of the prestigious Chevening Fellowship at the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom. He was the recipient of the prestigious 2006 Reebok International Human Rights Award, which recognises activists under the age of thirty who fight for human rights through non-violent means. Thus, it comes to no one’s surprise when United Nations Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor tweeted shortly after Pervez’s recent arrest that “He’s not a terrorist, he’s a Human Rights Defender”.

CDRO firmly believes that his arrest is a striking reminder of the continuous attempts to silence dissenting voices in the Valley, a process significantly accelerated since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in 2019. In the two years between August 2019 and July 2021, 2364 persons in J&K have been arrested under the UAPA and 954 under the Public Safety Act (PSA), many of whom continue to be in custody.

Together with recent raids in the houses of activists and intellectuals in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, this arrest is a part of the attempt by the ruling dispensation to wage an internal war against its citizens. It may be noted that such a policy decision was recently articulated by Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor. He has urged the graduating police officers to view civil society as the potential enemy with whom a “new frontiers of war” must be opened and a “fourth-generation warfare” must be fought.  Thus, the clear intent of the present government is to short-circuit the democratic safeguards in the constitution. Such an undemocratic gesture is not restricted to Doval only. General Rawat has declared in a TV program that “J&K locals are saying they will lynch the terrorists, which is a very positive sign…”. Thus, the government is openly encouraging extra-judicial mob lynching!!! Also, we should not forget that the annual debate competition organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the 9th of November for the central paramilitary forces was on the topic: “Are human rights a stumbling block in fighting evils like terrorism and Naxalism?” Isn’t it ironic that the statutory conscience-keeper frames a debate, asking whether “human rights” — the legal mandate and reason for the existence of the NHRC — is a “stumbling block”?

CDRO urges all citizens to protest against the arrest of Khurram Parvez as well as multi-directional attempts made by the present government in curbing democratic rights. CDRO demands the immediate and unconditional release of Parvez and the repeal of UAPA and PSA.

K. KRANTHI CHAITANYA

PRITPAL SINGH

TAPAS CHAKRABORTY                            

 V. RAGHUNATH

(Convenors,  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 & Democracy in Manipur, Delhi; Janhastakshep (Delhi)


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