Rights

Government Ups Kashmir Ante With Arrest of Rights Activist Khurram Parvez

The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society has challenged the order for Parvez’s ten day judicial custody in a sessions court.

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Khurram Parvez. Credit: Khurram Parvez’s Facebook page

New Delhi: The manner in which Kashmir-based human rights activist Khurram Parvez was first denied permission by the authorities at Indira Gandhi International Airport to leave for Geneva to attend the UN Human Rights Council, and then later arrested in Srinagar and moved to Kupwara sub-jail, has been criticised by human rights groups in the state,

Parvez is the programme coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and is also involved in some other civil rights groups.

JKCCS has legally challenged the manner of his arrest and his subsequent transfer to Kupwara sub-jail, around 100 km from Srinagar. Elsewhere in India, civil society groups have blamed both the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Mehbooba Mufti-led government in the state for acting against the rights activist.

One of the groups – the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) – said the incident shows that the Centre “does not believe in dialogue and peaceful resolution but in undemocratically crushing Kashmiris and dealing with them through military action and harassing tactics.”

The group also criticised the state government, saying that the arrest was a “part of [the] government’s crackdown on civil society in the Valley that is critical of the Mehbooba Mufti-led government’s use of excessive force to quell the current uprising.”

JKCCS president Parvez Imroz said late on Saturday night that his organisation and some members of the state bar association have initiated legal proceedings to secure the release of the detained rights activist.

Pointing to several flaws in the manner in which his case has been dealt, Imroz said the order of his police detention for 10 days – until September 26 – that was issued by a naib-tehsildar in Srinagar was “passed in violation of the procedure and with complete disregard for Parvez’s rights”. Thus, it has been challenged before the sessions court.

Elaborating on the charge, Imroz, who is an advocate, said: “He was not allowed access to legal counsel and he was in fact not even produced before the naib-tehsildar to be able to submit a bond for his release. The sessions court heard part arguments today and the orders will be delivered on September 19.”

JKCCS has also submitted applications to the naib-tehsildar and to the deputy commissioner of Srinagar, Farooq Lone, seeking immediate release of Parvez on the grounds that his detention order was passed in violation of the legal procedure. “The security threat faced by the shifting of Parvez to Kupwara was also submitted. The tehsildar revised the detention order and Parvez is now to be produced on September 21. The deputy commissioner has forwarded the application to the senior superintendent of police [of] Srinagar for a report,” Imroz said.

Observing that “the fundamental basis of challenge of unlawful detention of Parvez remains the abuse of law to punish a human rights activist for consistent and responsible human rights work to highlight the widespread and systematic rights violations by the Indian state in Jammu and Kashmir”, he added, “this is clearly brought out by the police report that formed the basis of the detention order.”

Elaborating on the issue, he said that in the police report it has been alleged that on September 15 “Parvez stood outside a mosque near his house in Sonawar, Srinagar and incited people to pelt stones and march towards an open ground [the Tourist Reception Centre, Srinagar]. Two police personnel are said to have witnessed this. These charges, based on police testimony and not independent witnesses, are a mechanical and facile attempt to justify Parvez’s detention. They reflect a complete disregard for the law and judiciary as they presume that there will be no legal scrutiny.”

He charged that “this disregard for the rule of law” has accounted for 80-plus killings and injuries to over 11,000 plus people in the state over the last 71 days of curfew.

Meanwhile, the PIPFPD also criticised the arrest of Parvez and the Centre’s actions of preventing him from leaving for Geneva and for detaining him. “The officials at the airport informally told Parvez that they have been instructed not to allow him to leave. In fact, the immigration officer had even stamped his boarding pass, but subsequently prevented him boarding the flight.”

The Wire previously reported on how on the morning of September 14 Parvez was denied permission to leave despite possessing a valid invitation and visa. Also, as the forum pointed out, denying him the right to travel was yet another instance of the way the “Narendra Modi0led Indian government is trying to scuttle travel rights of people who are critical of the NDA government.”

“Earlier, in January 2015, Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai was stopped from flying to London. She was to make a presentation on the human rights violations in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh. Subsequently, she challenged the decision in the Delhi high court and won the case. Delhi high court criticised the government for exceeding its authority.”

For Parvez, however, the harassment did not end at the Delhi airport: it actually began there.

The following day, on September 15, he was detained by the Jammu and Kashmir police on his return to the state, hence becoming the first human rights activist to be arrested by the Mehbooba Mufti government since the current uprising that followed the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in the Kashmir Valley.

Pervez’s family later told the media that he had returned from Delhi on the morning of September 15. Later that day police officials from Kothibagh police station asked him to visit the station saying the superintendent of police wanted to speak to him. “He called the SP and told him he will come at 10 am tomorrow,’’ a relative said, adding that “late in the night, a police party came to his home, asking him to accompany them to the police station. There wasn’t any police officer in the police station at that time. They told us that he would have to stay in the police station”.

Pervez’s family members claimed they were also not given any reason for his arrest.