New Delhi: People’s Union for Civil Liberties, an Indian rights body, has called for the immediate release of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, who was arrested on November 22 2021, by the National Investigating Agency of India under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Indian Penal Code.
“PUCL condemns the relentless use of UAPA by the Indian Government to arrest, detain and jail human rights defenders for long periods without any trial,” the PUCL statement said.
The rights body added that the arrest of Khurram Parvez is not just an attack on him or JKCCS but an effort to “stop any voices concerning human rights violations” from Jammu and Kashmir from being allowed to be heard in the larger world.
According to the arrest memo, the sections that have been invoked against Khurram include 120B, 121 and 121A of IPC (pertaining to waging war against the Government) and sections 17, 18, 18B, 38 and 40 (pertaining to terrorist activities and being member of terrorist organization) of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) Act, 1967.
In the past few years Indian Government has repeatedly raided Khurram Parvez’s office, and home on multiple occasions and even arrested and jailed him.
In September 2016 immigration authorities had disallowed him from boarding a flight to Geneva. Khurram was then travelling to attend the thirty-third session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
He was later immediately detained and arrested in Srinagar. Four days later, the principal district and sessions judge of Srinagar set aside his order of detention and ordered his release. But as soon as he was released, he was rearrested, under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978—a law, applicable only in Jammu and Kashmir, which allows an individual to be taken into preventive custody for two years without any charges or a trial.
Seventy six days later, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court quashed his detention as “illegal.” It also noted that the district magistrate of Srinagar, had acted “arbitrarily” and the “detaining authority has abused its powers.”
“Once again in October 2020, Khurram and JKCSS were targeted and raided by NIA. Being unable to prove even before the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir their case for arrest and detention of Khurram Parvez, the Indian State has used its ultimate weapon of invoking UAPA, legislation which has very harsh bail conditions, which allows the Government to jail the arrested dissenters without trial for many years,” it said.
Khurram Parvez has been the coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD).
Parvez is a Distinguished Scholar with the Political Conflict, Gender, and People’s Rights Initiative at the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley.
JKCCS has acted as the conscience of society and published several reports on human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir over the decades. The reports range from election monitoring, the impact of violence on children, sexual violence, enforced disappearances, torture, to environmental disasters, the PUCL statement said.
Various International Human rights organizations, including United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, have expressed concern over the arrest of Parvez Khurram and have urged for his immediate release.
It added: “PUCL firmly believes that the present action is one more attempt on part of the present establishment to silence peaceful, non-violent dissenters.”