India: Rights Activists Cry Foul over Colleague’s Arrest in Kashmir

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
2016-11-15
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161115-IN-khurram-620.jpg Rights activist Khurram Parvez is seen in an undated picture prior to his arrest in Srinagar, India.
Courtesy of Javid Ahmed

Indian activists are clamoring for the immediate release of a Kashmiri human rights worker who has been jailed for eight weeks under a law that allows the state to hold a person without trial for up to six months.

Khurram Parvez, 39, the Srinagar-based chairman of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), was arrested on Sept. 16. He was taken into custody to stop him from documenting and circulating information about rights abuses allegedly committed by security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir, according to a petitioner who has sought the quashing of the law known as the Public Safety Act (PSA).

On Tuesday, a court in Kashmir gave the Bharatiya Janata Party- (BJP)-People’s Democratic Party (PDP) coalition government in the troubled state until Nov. 21 to respond to the petition by Parvez Imroz.

“The lawyer representing the state was not carrying along necessary records, so the court granted the government time ’til Monday to explain the grounds on which it has arrested Parvez,” Imroz told BenarNews.

Police have accused Khurram Parvez of instigating Kashmiri youth against the Indian establishment during ongoing violent unrest that erupted after the killing of a separatist leader in July.

The agitation has left at least 100 people dead and more than 10,000 injured in clashes between anti-India protesters and security forces.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, has grappled with a separatist insurgency that has claimed more than 70,000 lives since the late 1980s.

“Khurram has a long history of affiliation with separatist organisations who advocate secession of Jammu and Kashmir from the union of India and in pursuit of this goal he has been found resorting to unlawful activities since long,” according to a police dossier accessed by BenarNews.

Government backs arrest

The state government stood by its decision to arrest Parvez, who is one of about 450 people taken into custody under the PSA during the four months regional unrest.

“He has been booked under the PSA only after his role in fomenting the law-and-order situation in Kashmir was ascertained, “Abdul Khan, the state’s Law and Justice minister, told BenarNews.

“We will file a detailed response in court on Monday. We are committed to restoring peace in the region and whosoever disturbs peace will be dealt with sternly,” he said.

But activists said Parvez’s arrest was just another example of efforts by India’s Hindu nationalist-led government to stifle dissent.

“By virtue of the draconian PSA, the state government is trying to silence the rights activists and others who have been demanding an end to brute use of force by authorities on unarmed Kashmiris,” Ahsan Untoo, chairman of International Forum for Justice, told BenarNews.

Israr Khan, a former senior police official in the region, said the continuation of the PSA was not helping the cause of the government, which has said it intends to win over the confidence of Kashmiri youths.

“Peace in Kashmir cannot be restored by slapping rights activists with the PSA. The government should release all political prisoners and formally invite all stakeholders, including the separatists, for a dialogue. Rampant arrests will only fuel more anger among the public,” Khan told BenarNews.

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