New Delhi: The arrest of Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez in a terror funding probe has drawn sharp reactions from the human rights community, including global organisations which said he is not a terrorist and called for his immediate release.
Parvez, coordinator of the J&K Coalition of Civil Society, was detained and later arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act by the National Investigation Agency during a raid at his residence and office in Srinagar on Monday, officials said.
Amnesty International, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, the World Organisation Again Torture (OMCT), the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights as well as rights activists in India criticised the move to arrest the 42-year-old who they said was a “human rights defender”.
"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. He's not a terrorist, he's a Human Rights Defender…,” Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, said in a tweet.
The OMCT, a Geneva-based non-profit which works with groups across the world to fight for human rights, said it was "deeply concerned" about Khurram's "high risk of torture" in custody.
"#India: Rights defender @KhurramParvez detained for questioning after his house & office were raided by National Investigation Agency officials.We are deeply concerned about the high risk of torture while in custody. We call for his immediate release," it said on Twitter.
Parvez is being questioned in Srinagar and is likely to be taken to Delhi, officials said.
In October last year, the NIA conducted raids at several locations in Kashmir Valley, including Parvez's residence and office, in a case related to certain so-called NGOs and trusts raising funds in India and abroad in the name of charitable activities and then using those funds for carrying out secessionist and separatist activities in Jammu and Kashmir, they said.
According to Amnesty International, "The arrest of Kashmiri activist Khurram Parvez is yet another example of how anti-terror laws are being misused to criminalize human rights work & stifle dissent in India.”
“Instead of targeting HRDs, authorities should focus on bringing accountability for human rights violations," it added in its tweet.
Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, in a statement demanded his immediate release. “Instead of attempting to silence and punish human rights defenders, Indian authorities should work to end impunity for perpetrators of human rights abuses.”
The human rights body also praised Khurram for bravely documenting "human rights abuses" and providing "much-needed assistance to victims of these abuses to encourage India to abide by its international human rights law obligations".
Back home, noted social activists Yogendra Yadav and Kavita Srivastava wondered if working for human rights is a "crime" and termed Khurram’s arrest a "matter of shame".
"Why the arrest of Khurram Pervez. Is doing HR work a crime? Is it wrong to defend & advocate the cause of those violated by the action of security forces in J&K. Is questioning policies of the State & Union Govt, including repealing of Art. 370 a crime. Release @KhurramParvez NOW," tweeted Srivastava
"Arrest of Khurram Parvez should be a matter of shame. A life long human rights defender is now being accused of terrorism and will be in jail without trial. In 2016, after being jailed for more than 2 months, the court called his detention ‘illegal’. Should the State never learn?," said social activist Yogendra Yadav.
In 2016, Parvez was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and released after 76 days of prison.
Janhastakshep, a people's intervention group, also unequivocally condemned the arrest of the noted civil rights activist. The UAPA, it alleged, has become a "favourite tool of the ruling classes to silence any opposition to their anti-people rule".
"Janhastakshep appeals to and hopes that all democratic sections of the society shall speak up against the arbitrary arrest of Khurram Parvez in order to protect those fighting against the ruling fascist dispensation," it said in a statement.
Several Kashmiri origin people, including author Mirza Waheed, also took to Twitter to raise their voice against the arrest of the activist.
"Khurram Parvez is someone who'd defend the rights of even those out to persecute him. It’s a travesty that one of Kashmir’s most recognised human rights defenders has been arrested - he should be released from detention without delay," the British Kashmiri author of "Tell Her Everything" said.
Gowhar Geelani, the author “Kashmir: Rage and Reason”, recalled that Parvez had lost a leg in an unfortunate incident in the early 2000 and said his body of work on the situation of human rights in J&K is unparalleled.
“Well-known for for his humility, integrity and professionalism, Parvez is a figure of int’ repute,'' the author-journalist tweeted.
"Khurram Parvez's arrest by National Investigating Agency (NIA) of India will only invite India global criticism and news headlines for its handling of human rights and silencing the activists in Kashmir. Once again," added Rouf Kashmir, a resident of Kashmir.