International Human Rights Day: Khurram Parvez’s arrest casts shadow over human rights work in Kashmir

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The arrest of prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez under UAPA has brought to halt the human rights work in Kashmir.

Auqib Javeed |

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SRINAGAR – The arrest of prominent Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in late November under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), has cast a shadow over human rights advocacy in the region.

The office of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) in Srinagar’s city centre Lal Chowk, where Parvez worked over two decades as its Program Coordinator, remains shut.

Researchers and activists who previously worked with JKCCS told that there is “a sense of fear and concern” following Khurram’s arrest.

“No one can be seen at the office now following the raids and the arrest of Khurram,” a researcher at JKCCS said, on condition of anonymity.

On November 22, the National Investigative Agency (NIA) arrested Khurram Parvez from his residence in Sonwar area of Srinagar city.

Known for his human rights work in the region, Parvez is also the Chairperson of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). He has won several international awards including 2006 Reebok Human Rights Award.

The NIA first raided JKCCS and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) on October 28, 2020 along with 10 other NGOS, trusts, foundations and journalists after an alleged “terror funding” case was registered.

A year later, the federal agency raided JKCCS and Parvez’s residence at Sonwar, Srinagar and formally arrested him under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.

The arrest memo says he was arrested in the case, FIR RC-30/2021/NIA/DLI filed on November 6, under IPC 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); 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.

Parvez is currently on judicial remand in New Delhi’s infamous Tihar Jail.

The activist’s detention has caused a global outrage with the United Nations (UN) and global rights bodies calling for his immediate release.

“He’s not a terrorist,” Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, calling Khurram’s arrest “disturbing,” tweeted. “He’s a human rights defender.”

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone document that proclaims rights that everyone is entitled to, as a human being, regardless of their race, colour, religion, sex, language, political, national, origin and birth.

The theme of Human Rights Day 2021 is Reducing inequalities and advancing human rights. This year’s theme relates to ‘Equality’ and Article 1 of UDHR which says ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’ The principles of equality and non-discrimination are at the heart of human rights.

However, the NIA raids on the human rights groups in Kashmir are being interpreted as a death knell for human rights work in Kashmir.

“It has affected our work. We haven’t been able research and document human rights violations in the region,” another researcher said.

The researcher that work became tough right after the abrogation of Article 370 August 2019. “We were able to bring out only a few reports and from last one year we couldn’t do anything and I don’t see any relief for us anytime soon,” the researcher said.