Top Kashmiri human rights activist arrested in Srinagar by Indian govt

UN special rapporteur says Khurram Parvez is not a terrorist, he's a human rights defender

By: News Desk      Published: 07:52 AM, 23 Nov, 2021
Top Kashmiri human rights activist arrested in Srinagar by Indian govt
File photo of Khurram Parvez.

India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested prominent Occupied Kashmir’s human rights activist Khurram Parvez after raiding his residence and office in Srinagar.

Khurram Parvez, who was arrested on Monday evening, has been booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and other multiple charges.

Khurram Parvez, 42, is the program coordinator for a widely respected rights group in the disputed territory, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), and chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD).

Personnel from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Khurram Parvez in the main city of Srinagar, his wife Samina told AFP. They also confiscated Parvez's mobile phone, laptop and some books, along with her cell phone. "They said it's a case of 'terror funding'," she said.

According to the arrest memo, a copy of which is in the possession of The Kashmir Walla, the sections that have been invoked against Khurram include 120B, 121 and 121A of IPC and sections 17, 18, 18B, 38 and 40 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) Act, 1967.

As per the arrest memo, the arrest of Khurram has been made under the supervision of G Siva Vikram Superintendent of Police (SP) NIA. The witnesses during the arrest include Suhail Ahmad Mir, Patwari Assistant Commissioner Nazool and Patwari Deputy Commissioner Nazool office.

According to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 120B is a punishment for criminal conspiracy.  121 is a waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India (GoI), while 121A conspiracy to commit offences punishable by section 121.

Similarly, section 17 of UAPA is a punishment for raising funds for terrorist act. Section 18 is a punishment for conspiracy, while 18B is punishment for recruiting any person or persons for terrorist act.

Section 38 of UAPA is an offence relating to membership of a terrorist organization, while section 40 is an offence of raising funds for a terrorist organization.

Family sources told The Kashmir Walla that the NIA officials carried out searches at the residence of Parvez at Sonwar area and office at Amira Kadal before taking him along for questioning to the NIA office at Church Lane in Dalgate.

The probing agency was assisted by the local police and paramilitary personnel.

“At around 12 pm, the NIA team visited the house and office and confiscated Khurram’s phone, laptop and other material,” the family said.

Sources said after completing the search operation, Parvez was called for questioning at the NIA office in the afternoon. “At around 6 pm, the family received the call to bring his [Khurram’s] clothes. So, his wife along with her son visited the place and handed over the clothes to the officials there,” they said.

The family has been handed over the arrest memo under the case number 30/2021 of Parvez and is likely to be flown to New Delhi on Tuesday (today).

In October 2020, NIA conducted raids at several locations in the valley including Parvez’s residence and office.

In 2016, Parvez was slapped with the Public Safety Act (PSA). His arrest had come a day after he was barred from travelling to Switzerland to participate in a session of the UN Human Rights Council. He was released after 76 days of prison.

Parvez had lost his leg in a landmine explosion while monitoring the 2004 parliamentary elections.

The Indian intelligence agency has not, however, issued any official statement on his arrest.

"I'm hearing disturbing reports that Khurram Parvez was arrested today in Kashmir & is at risk of being charged by authorities in #India with terrorism-related crimes," tweeted Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders. "He's not a terrorist, he's a Human Rights Defender."  

NIA officers searched the JKCCS offices for more than 14 hours. The NIA also raided Parvez's home and office in October last year, seizing research materials, phones and computer hard drives.

The rights group has monitored violence in the region for more than three decades and has exposed rights violations by Indian government forces including torture, extra-judicial killings and unmarked mass graves in numerous reports.

Last week, it criticised Indian security forces for killing civilians during a controversial shootout with alleged rebels in Srinagar whose bodies were hurriedly buried by Indian police in a remote graveyard without their families present.

Following an outcry and protests by families of three of the victims, authorities exhumed two of the bodies and returned them to their families.

At least 2,300 people have been arrested under the UAPA -- a vaguely worded law which effectively allows people to be held without trial indefinitely -- in the Indian-occupied territory since 2019, when New Delhi cancelled the region's partial autonomy and brought it under direct rule.

Almost half of them are still in prison, and convictions under the law are very rare.

With inputs from AFP.