KSCAN Statement on the Arrest of Khurram Parvez, November 24, 2021

Read full statement here.


Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network
PUBLIC STATEMENT ON THE ARREST OF KHURRAM PARVEZ


November 24, 2021


As Kashmir scholars and experts, we are deeply concerned by the Government of India’s recent
arrest of Khurram Parvez, a leading global human rights defender and Program Coordinator of
the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. As the charges against him constitute
reprisals for his important work monitoring human rights abuses, we call on all states
committed to the protection of human rights and democracy, and the United Nations, to urge
Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Parvez.
On November 22, 2021, Mr. Parvez was arrested at his residence in Srinagar, Kashmir
following a raid at his residence by the National Investigative Agency (NIA), India’s central
counter-terrorist task force. NIA agents conducted a four-hour raid at the home of Mr. Parvez,
then took him away for what they claimed would be routine questioning. His family was later
informed that he had been detained. The NIA simultaneous carried out a 14-hour raid at the
office of the office of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society
After his arrest, Mr. Parvez was held overnight in custody in Srinagar city before being flown to
Delhi on November 23, where he has since been held in NIA custody. Unwarranted detention in
facilities outside Kashmir is a common action utilized by Government of India agencies in such
situations as it makes the detained individual inaccessible to their families and support
networks in Kashmir.


Khurram Parvez and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) are internationally
recognized as model defenders of human rights. As a champion for civil liberties in Kashmir, Mr.
Parvez works directly with individuals, families and communities to document the impact of
state torture, extrajudicial killings, and other widespread abuses. He has worked closely on
regional and international campaigns on landmine removal as well as involuntary and enforced
disappearances in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Pakistan, and India. He monitors and seeks
accountabilty for state-sanctioned torture and extrajudicial killings. He trains student interns
and researchers, he supports scholarly discussion and exchange inside and outside of Kashmir,
and he acts as a critical link between local, regional, and global human rights communities. The
arrest of Mr. Parvez as well as the raids of offices and homes of human rights defenders and
other forms of harassment, intimidation, and threats targeting those who express dissent
towards the Government of India’s actions in Kashmir constitute state reprisals aimed at
silencing human rights work in Kashmir. The valued engagements of these individuals and
organizations include critical work with the United Nations human rights monitoring
mechanisms.


Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Mr. Parvez
received the 2006 Reebok Human Rights Award. Mr. Parvez is also a Distinguished Scholar (nonresident) at the Political Conflict, Gender and People’s Rights Initiative at the Center for Race
and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley. Furthermore, his colleague and JKCCS
Founder Parvez Imroz is a highly respected international human rights lawyer who has, over
the course of his career, filed thousands of habeas corpus actions on behalf of families whose
relatives have vanished while in the custody of the Indian security forces. In 2008, he and his
team first discovered more than 7000 unmarked mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir. Parvez
Imroz and Parveena Ahanger, Founder and Chairperson of the Association of the Parents of
Disappeared Persons, were 2017 laureates of the Norway-based Rafto Human Rights Prize.
In spite of, or perhaps because of the international impact and recognition of his work, Khurram
Parvez has been repeatedly harassed by the Government of India. In 2016, Mr. Parvez was
detained while boarding a plane in Delhi to travel to Geneva to participate in the UN Human
Rights Council Session (see UN special experts letter here) and was subsequently held for 76
days under India’s Public Safety Act (PSA) preventive detention legislation. Furthermore, Mr.
Parvez, age 44, has partial disability, having lost his leg in a landmine blast that hit his car while
he was on his way to monitor parliamentary elections in 2004.


The arrest of Khurram Parvez is being widely reported in international media (CNN; New York
Times; Al Jazeera; Washington Post; BBC) and strongly condemned by the international human
rights community. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Mary Lawlor tweeted
her concern about this development on November 22, stating “He’s not a terrorist, he’s a
Human Rights Defender.” Also on November 22, Rafto Human Rights and Robert F. Kennedy
Human Rights issued statements demanding his immediate release. The Observatory for the
Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH & OMCT) issued a statement “strongly
condemn[ing] the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Khurram Parvez” and
“express[ing] its utmost concern over the high risk of torture and ill-treatment he faces while in
custody.” Amnesty International, the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), the Indian
American Muslim Council, and the All India Lawyers Association For Justice have also issued
statements on social media. The Indian human rights organization People’s Union for Civil
Liberties (PUCL) has called for his immediate release, stating “In this context [of Kashmir], it is
very crucial that alternate narratives of ground level reality be brought before the world. This is
precisely what JKCCSS and Khurram were doing,” while the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar
Association issued a statement condemning his arrest, stating that “he is implicated in false and
frivolous allegations to prevent him from pursuing the cause of justice and reporting human
rights violations from Kashmir.” The Manila-based Asian Federation against Enforced
Disappearances (AFAD) has called on the Government of India to “immediately and
unconditionally release” Mr. Parvez and also to ensure his “safety from torture or any cruel,
inhuman, and degrading treatment while in detention.”


Despite his established reputation across international human rights networks, including the
UN, of credible, thoughtful, and engaged human rights documentation and advocacy, Khurram
Parvez is being charged under Sections 120B, 121, and 121A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC),
which relate to criminal conspiracy and waging war against the Government of India, as well
as Sections 17, 18, 18B, 38 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which
relate to raising funds for terror acts; conspiracy; organizing terror camps; membership in a
terrorist organization; and raising funds for a terrorist organization. As The New York Times
reported on November 23, “Khurram Parvez’s detention has deepened concerns that the Modi
administration is abusing the law to squelch dissent.” Effectively, any work in Kashmir that
documents and illuminates human rights violations by the government is framed as terrorism
(Scroll India).


Changing Context of Crackdown in Kashmir
It is important to contextualize the arrest of Mr. Parvez within India’s recent crackdown
targeting activists, journalists, and even political leaders seen as critical of Indian Prime Minister
Narendra Modi’s government. Government of India has recently been explicitly redefining who
it considers “the enemy within.” Kashmir is the testing ground for this new policy strategy. On
November 12, 2021, just two weeks ago, India’s national security advisor Ajit Doval said in a
public speech at the National Police Academy that “the new frontiers of war, what you call the
fourth generation warfare, is the civil society.” He elaborated further:
Wars have ceased to become an effective instrument for achieving political or
military objectives. They are too expensive or unaffordable and, at the same
time, there is uncertainty about their outcome. But it is the civil society that can
be subverted, suborned, divided, manipulated to hurt the interests of a nation.
You are there to see they stand fully protected.
According to this logic, the military and police are classifying new expansive categories of
civilians — including professionals, businessmen, charity workers, journalists, and civil society
members — as “Over Ground Workers” (OGWs), which they define as “anyone who supports
the insurgents.” The J&K police department’s Crime Gazette (2019) states that OGWs “act as
eyes and ears of the underground militants,” arrange hideouts, transport weapons from safe
havens to places where militants plan to carry out strikes, keep an eye on movements of
security forces, distribute separatist literature and engage in hate campaigns against the
security forces (Outlook India).


The arrest of Mr. Parvez followed a tense week in Kashmir. The region witnessed furious
demonstrations after the deaths of four civilians, including a dentist and a shopkeeper, who
were killed in a violent encounter with government forces in the Hyderpora area of Srinagar city
on November 15 (Guardian). The J&K police initially described the encounter as a counterinsurgency operation with a “terror module” in which two militants and an OGW had been
killed in the crossfire. The dead bodies of the victims were not returned to the family members
— a new policy of the Indian government to deny funerary rights to the families, citing law and
order considerations (New York Times; see also Scroll India for similar cases earlier in 2021).
Victims’ family members challenged the government’s allegations that the victims were
militants and claimed that these civilians had been used as human shields and then “killed in
cold blood” (Kashmir Observer). In her press statement, the emotionally distraught young
daughter of one of the civilians killed by the security forces claimed that when she asked the
police officers what they had done to her father, they laughed at her (The Quint). This video
statement circulated widely on social media. Following widespread public outrage, the bodies
of two civilians were exhumed on Thursday (Washington Post), and the J&K Lieutenant General
has ordered a magisterial probe into this issue.


In the past weeks, journalists have been increasingly concerned about harassment and threats
of arrest in the context of a longer gradual process of dismantling freedom of the press. Articles
critical of the national government are being erased from the websites of local news outlets.
The day following Mr. Parvez’s arrest, the J&K Estates Department sealed off another
prominent English language newspaper, Greater Kashmir, and then evacuated and sealed off
the entire block of media offices known as “Press Enclave” in Srinagar city (Outlook India). The
block of offices is not accessible at this time. This follows a similar action that occurred in
October 2020, when the J&K Estates Department sealed the Srinagar office of the Kashmir
Times, one of the oldest English dailies in the state, purportedly because the newspaper’s wellknown editor Anuradha Bhasin had filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the
communication blockade that was imposed in Kashmir on August 5, 2019 (Outlook India).


NIA Targeting of Human Rights Defenders in Kashmir
The raids and subsequent arrest follow a series of NIA raids in October 2020 on the houses and
offices of several human rights defenders, non-governmental organizations, a journalist, and a
newspaper office in Kashmir Valley. The October 28, 2020 NIA actions in Kashmir were covered
by international media (Washington Post, AP News), Indian media (India Today, Times of India),
and Kashmiri media (Kashmir Watch, Kashmir Observer). The Observatory for the Protection of
Human Rights Defenders (FIDH & OMCT) issued a statement requesting urgent intervention.
At that time, the NIA issued a statement alleging that JKCCS and other NGOs and trusts are
“raising funds in India and abroad in the name of charitable activities” for “carrying out
secessionist and separatist activities in J&K.” The NIA criminalizes freedom of speech and
expression by identifying local, national and international intellectual space against the Indian
government as part of terror activity. NIA sources have stated that the “individuals in question
are sophisticated and used ‘pen’ instead of weapon.”
Since 2017, the NIA has been conducting raids in Jammu & Kashmir under the direct command
of Narendra Modi’s central government focusing on allegations of “terror funding.” Constituted
in 2008, the NIA is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of offences allegedly
affecting the national security, sovereignty, and integrity of the nation. The NIA is known for
investigating cases under the stringent anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Through a 2019 amendment, the UAPA authorizes police to conduct warrantless searches and
arrest individuals for up to six months, designating them as terrorists, without a trial or bail.
The previous versions of the Bill allowed for only groups to be designated as terrorists.
In recent years, the harsh and expansive UAPA has been used in Jammu & Kashmir to
intimidate, charge, and arrest pro-freedom leaders, newspaper editors, journalists, funeral
mourners, social media users, internet VPN users, and others. In 2019, 255 cases were
registered under the UAPA in Jammu & Kashmir.

In its 2019 Annual Human Rights Report, JKCCS
reports that at least 40 people were arrested under UAPA in the town of Handwara alone
following the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5. In September 2020, the J&K Police charged
ten Kashmiri boys under UAPA for allegedly taking part in a cricket tournament held “in the
memory” of a slain militant. In October 2021, J&K police filed criminal cases under UAPA
against the students of two medical colleges for celebrating Pakistan’s cricket victory against
India in the T20 World Cup (Al Jazeera; Outlook India).
The UAPA criminalizes dissent through intimidation, harassment, and deprivation of liberty,
using overly-broad categories of “sedition,” “separatism,” and “secession.” In April 2020,
Amnesty International called on the Government of India to immediately cease the intimidation
of journalists through UAPA in Jammu & Kashmir (see also statements by Reporters Without
Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists). The UAPA is an abuse of power, a threat to
civil liberties, and, in the context of Kashmir, an instrument of state occupation and terror
through counter-insurgency governance in a context of illegal occupation and international
dispute.


On September 25, 2020, Khurram Parvez commented on the UAPA that “The act terrorizes
the society… It’s used to create an atmosphere of fear, an atmosphere of subjugation. Even if
the person booked under UAPA is not arrested, the fears loom over the head.”


Conclusion
The Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Advocacy Network calls on all states committed to the
protection of human rights and democracy, and the United Nations, to urge Indian authorities:

  • to immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against Khurram
    Parvez;
  • to end harassment, intimidation, and persecution of Kashmiri human rights defenders
    as well as journalists, civil society members, scholars, artists, professionals, and others
    exercising freedom of speech and expression;
  • to cease the use of repressive laws to criminalize dissent in Kashmir;
  • and to repeal the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
    These actions constitute critical initial steps towards the goal of resolving the Kashmir dispute
    through a people’s referendum on the region’s political future, in accordance with UN security
    council resolutions.
    Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network (KSCAN)
    Dean Accardi, Assistant Professor of History, Connecticut College, USA
    Ruhail Andrabi, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California – San Diego
    Raja Qaiser Ahmad, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan
    Binish Ahmed, Ph.D. Candidate, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
    Nosheen Ali, New York University
    Omer Aijazi, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Victoria, Canada
    Dibyesh Anand, Professor of International Relations, University of Westminster, UK
    Mirza Saaib Beg, Lawyer, London, UK
    Mona Bhan, Associate Professor of Anthropology and the Ford Maxwell Professor of South
    Asian Studies,
    Syracuse University, USA
    Emma Brännlund, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, University of the West
    of
    England (UWE Bristol), UK
    Farhan Mujahid Chak, Associate Professor, Qatar University, Qatar
    Angana Chatterji, Center for Race and Gender, University of California, Berkeley, USA
    Huma Dar, Adjunct Professor, California College of the Arts, USA
    Haley Duschinski, Associate Professor, Ohio University, USA
    Iffat Fatima, Filmmaker, India
    Javaid Hayat Khan, Ph. D. Independent Researcher and Analyst, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    Serena Hussain, Associate Professor, Coventry University, UK
    Khushdeep Kaur, Ph.D. Candidate, Temple University, USA
    Mohamad Junaid, Assistant Professor, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, USA
    Hafsa Kanjwal, Assistant Professor of History, Lafayette College, USA
    Ain Ul Khair, Ph.D. Student., Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International
    Relations, Budapest, Hungary.
    Nitasha Kaul, Associate Professor, University of Westminster, UK
    Suvir Kaul, A.M. Rosenthal Professor, Department of English, University of Pennsylvania, USA
    Zunaira Komal, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Davis, USA
    Fozia Nazir Lone, Associate Professor of International Law, City University of Hong Kong, Hong
    Kong
    Laura Lucia Notaro, Educator, Milan, Italy
    Inshah Malik, Assistant Professor, Kardan University, Kabul, Afghanistan
    Deepti Misri, Associate Professor, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
    Immad Nazir, Research Scholar, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany
    Goldie Osuri, Professor, University of Warwick, UK
    Niharika Pandit, Ph.D. Researcher, London School of Economics, UK
    Samina Raja, PhD, Independent Scholar, USA
    Iffat Rashid, Ph.D. candidate, University of Oxford, UK
    Torrun Arnsten Sajjad, Department of Community Medicine and Global Health, University of
    Oslo, Norway
    Mehroosh Tak, Lecturer, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK
    Nishita Trisal, Academy Scholar, Harvard University, USA
    Vincent Wong, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, Canada
    Waseem Yaqoob, Lecturer, School of History, Queen Mary, University of London, UK
    Anam Zakaria, Author and Oral historian, University of Toronto, Canada
    Haris Zargar, Ph.D. Candidate, International Institute of Social Sciences, The Hague, Netherlands
    Ather Zia, Associate Professor, University of Northern Colorado, USA
    The Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Advocacy Network is an interdisciplinary group of
    scholars of various nationalities engaged in research on the region of Kashmir. Our research on
    the Kashmir conflict addresses its history, its consequences for the region and beyond, and its
    possible resolution. It examines the implications for an internationally mediated political
    solution, and is of relevance to policy makers.
    Email: kashmirscholarsnetwork@protonmail.com
    Website: http://www.kashmirscholarsnetwork.org

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