Khurram Parvez (44) is a Kashmir-based human rights defender. He is the program coordinator and one of the founders of the Jammu Kashmir Civil Society Coalition (JKCCS), an amalgamation of non-funded and non-profit campaign, research and advocacy organizations in Kashmir. He is the chairman of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (FASHION).
The crucial human rights work that Khurram has accomplished over the decades has made him one of the world’s foremost human rights defenders. He has traveled extensively to understand and work on enforced disappearances in Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Philippines – testament to his significant interventions through regional and international campaigns aimed at holding states to account and not just restricting his work at his place of origin.
Under his able leadership, AFAD received the most prestigious award for human rights in Asia in 2016. The Award for Democracy and Human Rights in Asia recognized AFAD’s “indelible contributions” in urging states to defend the rights of the families of the missing and to demand justice.
JKCCS and Khurram have engaged in unprecedented work in Kashmir to thoroughly document human rights violations, including mass and anonymous graves, enforced disappearances, torture, killings, sexual violence and communication cuts. Some of the crucial work of JKCCS includes Buried evidence, alleged perpetrators, structures of violence, torture, Internet headquarters in Kashmir. Khurram is widely revered for his ability to organize academic discussions and provide critical information on various aspects of human rights, training student interns and producing timely reports on specific issues as well as annual and semi-annual reviews. human rights in the region.
Khurram’s work spans more than two decades, starting with his university studies in the late 1990s in Kashmir, when he started a hotline for students affected by armed conflict in the region. He took a keen interest in the work of the Association of Relatives of Missing Persons (APDP) and subsequently played a pivotal role in the formation of JKCCS in 2000. The organization has produced incisive reports that map the state of human rights in Kashmir and confront the state for its poor record and lack of accountability.
During an election observation exercise with his colleagues in North Kashmir in 2004, he lost a leg after the vehicle they were traveling in was hit by a mine explosion. The incident only reinforced Khurram’s determination to continue his work and he showed a keen interest in advocating for landmine elimination regionally and globally. He received the Reebok Human Rights Prize in 2006.
In retaliation for the work Khurram and JKCCS were doing in 2016 after a long period of killing civilians, he was prevented from traveling to Geneva to attend a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. He was arrested at his home the next day and jailed under the Public Security Act, a draconian preventive detention law that allows detention without trial for two years. He was released after 76 days.
Khurram’s residence and office were raided in October 2020 by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) when the organization, along with others, was accused of raising funds to carry out secessionist activities in Kashmir. . The current set of actions must be viewed on a continuum as part of the state’s policy to reduce dissent, enforce censorship, and prevent documentation of human rights violations in the region, as well as to specifically target Khurram for his crucial work.
About the arrest
At approximately 7.45 a.m. on November 22, NIA personnel raided Khurram’s residence in Sonwar, Srinagar. The raid lasted six hours, after which the NIA took Khurram to his camp in Church Lane, Srinagar, for routine questioning. The agency also seized his electronic devices, his wife’s phone and a few books from his office.
While the family had been assured that he would be allowed to return home later, his brother received a call at 5:55 p.m. advising him to bring Khurram’s clothes to the NIA office. There, they received his arrest note and informed that he would be flown to New Delhi. He was then presented to a Delhi court and remanded in custody until November 29. His children, aged three and 11, his wife and mother were able to meet him before he was taken to Delhi.
While Khurram’s residence was searched, a 14-hour raid was carried out on his JKCCS office in Amira Kadal, Srinagar. Members of the Central Reserve Police and Jammu Kashmir Police accompanying NIA detectives were seen blocking the road to the office. News reports claimed that all files had been searched “thoroughly”.
The absurd and fabricated charges under which Khurram was accounted for include Articles 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (war against the state) and 121A (criminal conspiracy to commit offenses punishable under Article 121) of the Indian Penal Code, 186; and Articles 17 (raising funds for a terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy), 18B (recruiting any person or persons for a terrorist act), 38 (offense relating to membership of a terrorist organization) and 40 (collecting funds for a terrorist organization) of the Illegal Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.
The UAPA is a strict law that has long been decried by activists because its very nomenclature allows it to be misused by the state to curb dissent and any questions of accountability. Invoking an anti-terrorism law against a staunch human rights defender deserves condemnation and demands an urgent response from states, organizations and individuals committed to democratic standards and freedom of expression. DM / HVS
The author’s name is retained for their protection.
This account of Khurram Parvez’s arrest and the work that the Indian government seems to want to silence have been made public by the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). Since it was written, Parvez has been transferred to a prison in New Delhi. Parvez’s arrest was condemned by the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights. It is the latest in a series of arrests and prolonged imprisonments of human rights activists by the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Some of these activists died in custody, including priest Stan Swamy, 84, in July 2021.