Khurram Parvez is a Kashmiri human rights activist and the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), an international rights organisation that looks into the forced disappearances in Kashmir and elsewhere in Asia, and the Program Coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). He is the recipient of the 2006 Reebok Human Rights Award.
Life and Activism
In 2016, Indian authorities stopped Khurram at the Delhi airport when he was on his way to Geneva to brief the 33rd Human Rights Council on the atrocities committed by the Indian state forces in Jammu and Kashmir. In September of that same year, he was arrested by Indian authorities from his home. A day after the court ordered his release, he was rearrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA). He was finally released after 76 days of incarceration after an order from the Jammu and Kashmir High court.
Global rights groups have accused the Indian forces of large-scale human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir, including killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests, and the suppression of media and other fundamental rights. For the last two decades, Khurram Parvez had been highlighting such abuses by the Indian forces and seeking accountability from the government. He has long been a vocal critic of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government. His Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a group based in Kashmir, has published several scathing reports on human rights violations and excesses committed by security forces in the Valley.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested him after raids at his home and office in Indian-administered Kashmir. The arrest has caused global outrage amid calls for his release. Activists and others on social media have called the arrest an attempt to “silence and punish human rights defenders”. Investigators from the NIA searched his home and the office of JKCCS in Srinagar, Kashmir’s main city. He was initially taken for questioning and was arrested later in the evening. The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, said she was disturbed to hear about his arrest. “He is not a terrorist, he is a human rights defender,” she wrote on Twitter.
The arrest came at a time when tensions were boiling over in the Kashmir valley after the death of two civilians. Police said the men were allegedly killed in crossfire when security forces attacked suspected militants in Srinagar. But families of the civilians denied the police version of events, saying they were deliberately killed by Indian troops while being used as human shields. The deaths sparked days of protests in the region, which has seen an insurgency against Indian rule since 1989.
Circumstances of Arrest
On 23 November 2021, Parvez was arrested by the National Investigation Agency, having been accused of “terror-funding” and “conspiracy”. His home and office were raided.
Charges & Allegations
The police have charged him under various sections of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, including “criminal conspiracy,” “attempt to wage war against the government” and “raising funds for terrorist acts and a terrorist organisation”.
Khurram made it to the Time’s list of 100 most influential people in 2022. The US-based magazine called him a ‘modern-day David‘ who ‘had to be silenced’. “He had to be silenced, for he was a voice that resounded around the globe for his fierce fight against human rights violations and injustices in the Kashmir region,” Time magazine said. “The attacks against him speak volumes of the truth he represents at a time when the world’s largest democracy is being called out for its persecution of the more than 200 million Indian Muslims,” said the citation, written by leading Indian journalist Rana Ayyub. “Khurram Parvez is the story and the storyteller of the insurgency and the betrayal of the people of Kashmir.”, it added.