Kashmir: NIA Arrests Human Rights Activist on "Terror Funding" Charges
By: Laura Nayere
India’s top anti-terrorism investigation agency arrested prominent Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez on Monday evening under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) following a day-long raid at his office and residence in Srinagar.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) did not issue a statement about Parvez’s arrest. However, an official memo provided to his family (unearthed by Maktoob Media) said he was detained under several sections of the Indian Penal Code along with the UAPA.
“They confiscated his phone, laptop, my phone and some books from the library. Our two children are in trauma. We were all asleep when the raid started,” Parvez’s wife Sameena Mir told Al Jazeera.
Parvez, 42, is the programme coordinator at the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), which he founded with another activist Parvez Imroz in 2000. The JKCCS has published reports documenting violence and the widespread rights abuses in Kashmir, particularly those involving security forces. He is also the chairman of the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), a Philippines based international rights group that examines forced disappearances in Asia.
The arrest has caused global outrage as calls for Parvez’s release ring all over social media. Prominent activist groups such as the Jammu-Kashmir Coalition and Norway’s Rafto Foundation have called the arrest an attempt to "silence and punish human rights defenders".
The United Nations has also criticised Parvez's arrest, with Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, calling it "disturbing”. Lawlor wrote on Twitter, “He’s not a terrorist, he is a human rights defender.”
The World Organization against Torture has also called for Parvez's "immediate release", telling DW that they were "deeply concerned about the high risk of torture while in custody."
In 2016, Indian authorities had arrested Parvez a day after he was barred from travelling to Switzerland to attend the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). He was charged under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows detention without charge for up to two years. However, he was released after 76 days in prison after increased pressure from international rights groups.
Last week, the JKCCS criticised security forces for killing civilians during a controversial shootout with alleged rebels in Srinagar. Their bodies were hurriedly buried by the J&K police in a remote graveyard in the absence of their families.
The Indian government has increasingly wielded the anti-terror law against rights activists, journalists and dissidents in Kashmir. The crackdown worsened particularly after August 2019, when India scrapped the disputed region’s special status, annulled its separate constitution, split the region into two federal territories and removed inherited protections on land and jobs.
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