India’s anti-terrorism outfit, National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested a prominent human rights activist Khurram Parvez under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). This draconian law allows the agency to prevent the suspect from getting bail. NIA accused Khurram of “conspiracy and terror-funding” and raided his home and office in India-occupied Kashmir (IOK).
According to the reports, there are 7 charges against him starting with Section 120B (party to a criminal controversy) and Section 121 (waging war against the state) of the Indian Penal Code. Additional charges are under Section 17 (funding an act of terror), Section 18 (conspiracy), Section 18B (recruitment for the commission of terror act), Section 30 (membership of a terror organization), and Section 40 (offenses for raising funds for a terrorist organization) of the UAPA.
There is no response from Khurram yet but his arrest caused global outrage and calls for his immediate release.
Khurram Parvez Documents Indian Atrocities in Kashmir
Khurram has been a vocal critic of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) for a long period. His Kashmir-based human rights group, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), has published numerous reports on how Indian forces have committed human rights violations in the region. He is also the chairperson of the Philippines-based Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). It investigates and records forced disappearances in entire Asia.
Indian forces arrested him in 2016 as well under another controversial law, Public Service Act (PSA). Before the arrest, they barred him from attending the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Switzerland. The law allowed India to keep him in detention without any charge for up to 2 years but he got out in 76 days after international pressure from rights groups.
He also received the Reebok Human Rights Award, which recognizes activists under 30 years of age who non-violently fought for human rights. Activists and supporters have been voicing concerns on social media that his arrest was a classic Indian government’s method of silencing and punishing human rights defenders.
Global Support for Endangered Activists and Journalists
There have been blunt responses by the special mandate holders of the United Nations. Some of them termed the arrest as yet another abuse by Indian forces in Kashmir. It is mainly because this arrest justifies what critics have stressed about the belligerent state. The persistent crackdown on journalists, activists, and other dissidents has visibly increased since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
Special Rapporteur of UN Human Rights Defenders said that the arrest of Khurram Parvez by Indian authorities was disturbing. She added that Khurram was a defender of human rights and not a terrorist.
Recent Unrest in the Valley
The arrest comes amid the rising tensions in Kashmir over the murder of two civilians. According to reports, the police said that they were killed in cross-fire when Indian forces attacked suspected militants. However, the families of the deceased claimed that the police were lying and Indian soldiers killed those 2 men in cold blood while using them as human shields.
The deaths sparked huge protests in the war-torn land. Khurram Parvez and his JKCCS have played a key role in documenting murders, arrests, tortures, forced disappearances, and the destruction of homes by Indian forces during gunfights.
JKCCS publishes yearly and twice-yearly reports on the aforementioned human rights violations that have happened in Kashmir for over 30 years of conflict.