What Khurram Parvez's arrest signifies: New Delhi's gloves are officially off
The arrest of noted human rights defender Khurram Parvez two days ago is a clear signal that the Centre has embarked upon a no compromise hardline approach to control the ongoing upsurge in Kashmir.
Khurram was arrested on 15 September during a police night raid at his house in Srinagar's Gupkar locality. He was initially detained at Kothibagh police station in Srinagar and later moved to Kupwara sub-jail.
This happened, as per police report, a day after authorities stopped Khurram at IGI airport in Delhi and disallowed him to board a flight to Geneva, where he was scheduled to attend the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) session.
On 17 September, Khurram was remanded by an executive magistrate in Srinagar to police custody for 10 days and was ordered to be produced before a court on 26 September. He is being held under sections 107 and 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code that stand for detention for breach of peace and design to commit cognisable offence.
Isolating the humans rights defender
According to the civil liberties group Coalition of Civil Society, of which Khurram is the programme coordinator and the spokesperson, he was detained, "without formal arrest or notifications, and in violation of his rights to information, and legal counsel".
"He has not been provided with any written document, court order or the reasons for his detention," the CCS statement read, adding the unlawful detention of Khurram was a violation of internationally recognised and non-derogable civil and political rights, and India's own constitutional guarantees. "It is a clear indication of reprisal, an attempt to intimidate and restrain Khurram Parvez and his human rights work".
CCS has also slammed Khurram's transfer to Kupwara and termed it as an effort "to render him incommunicado".
"At Kupwara, around 100 kilometres from Srinagar city, Khurram Parvez will be isolated from family, the media, and most importantly his legal counsel based in Srinagar," the CCS statement says. "There exists no legal justification for this transfer".
However, sources in the police told Catch that the arrest is only "a preventive detention". They refused to give any further details.
The police, a CCS spokesman said, has charged him with inciting the people to take out a protest on Eid-ul-Fitr near the shrine of Syed Yaqub Sarfi in Srinagar.
"It is a lie. Khurram was not instigating any mob," said Zahir-u-din, a spokesperson for CCS. "On the day, he was not even at the shrine but in New Delhi".
The UNHRC meet
Incidentally, Khurram's last Facebook and Twitter post before his arrest is about the government's refusal to allow Eid prayers at the same shrine. "First time ever Eid prayers at the mosque of Syed Yaqoob Sarfi R. A, opposite to UN Military Observers Office at Sonwar & at TRC Masjid Srinagar banned (sic)", Khurram posted on 13 September.
His arrest follows his detention on 14 September at the New Delhi International Airport for two hours when he was on his way to Geneva to brief UN bodies, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and foreign governments about the human rights excesses in Kashmir, particularly the situation over the last two months.
However, CCS chairperson Pervez Imroz and member Kartik Murukutla were allowed to fly to Geneva.
The Jalil Andrabi case
Khurram's arrest is conspicuous for being the only of its nature in the past two decades. In 1995, the Army had arrested noted advocate and the human rights activist Jalil Andrabi. He then allegedly died while in police custody.
Andrabi's badly decomposed body was later recovered from river Jhelum.
Major Avtar Singh, the Army officer allegedly responsible for killing him and against whom a Srinagar court had issued several arrest warrants, later fled to Canada and then the US. In June 2012, Singh killed his family and himself at Fresno, California.
In recent years, the government has adopted a policy of selectively keeping some human rights activists away from Kashmir.
In November 2010, US academic Professor Richard Shapiro was deported from the Indira Gandhi International Airport on charges of continued "political activism in the state while on a tourist visa".
In September 2011, radio broadcaster David Barsamian was denied entry into India because of "his views on Kashmir". Barsamian was deported from New Delhi airport and sent back to the US.
That same year in May, Gautam Navlakha, convener of International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) was stopped at Srinagar airport on his arrival from New Delhi, and asked to go back.
In July 2014, the government disallowed the lecture of the author Mridu Rai at a Srinagar hotel. A threat was issued to the hotel - the venue of the lecture - if the event went ahead.
A prominent human rights defender
Khurram has been a prominent part of the Valley's human rights scene over the past 17 years. In 2004, Khurram lost his left leg when an IED exploded under his car while he was travelling with his team to North Kashmir to monitor the election. His close colleague Aasia Jeelani died on the spot.
In 2006, Khurram was conferred the Reebok Human Rights Award, a prestigious international prize that "recognises young activists who have made significant contributions to human rights causes through non-violent means".
His arrest is seen as part of the Centre's policy to use tough measures to curb the ongoing unrest after the feeble attempts at political outreach failed to bear fruit. Khurram was very active over the past two months, documenting the cases of human rights excesses for his Geneva trip.
Last year, he was instrumental in helping prepare a comprehensive 800 page human rights report titled 'Structures of Violence' which documented the extra-judicial killings of 1,080 people and enforced disappearances of 172.
The report identified 972 alleged perpetrators, which included 464 army personnel, 161 paramilitary personnel, 158 Jammu and Kashmir Police personnel and 189 government gunmen.
But so far, successive governments have stopped short of touching Khurram fearing a negative international fallout. But now the restraint seems to have melted away - an indication that the Centre is going to get more tough in dealing with the strife in Valley.
"If the centre can file an FIR against Amnesty International and not worry about its international image, Khurram's arrest shouldn't have been a problem," says Naseer Ahmad, a local columnist. "But the move is disturbing as it signals that New Delhi is no longer in mood to engage Kashmir politically".
Edited by Aleesha Matharu