Indian counterterrorism agency arrests famous Kashmir activist

Indian counter-terrorism investigation agency arrested a well-known human rights activist in India-controlled Kashmir

Srinagar, India – The Indian counter-terrorism investigation agency arrested a well-known human rights activist in India-controlled Kashmir in a new crackdown on human rights organizations in the disputed area.

His wife Samina said that the National Bureau of Investigation, with the help of police and paramilitary personnel, raided the home and office of Khurram Parvez in Srinagar on Monday and searched for several hours. She said that before arresting him, they confiscated Parvez’s cell phone, laptop and some books, as well as her cell phone.

The agency did not issue a statement regarding Parvez’s arrest, but an official memo provided to his family stated that he was detained under several parts of the “Illegal Activities Prevention Act” of India’s anti-terrorism law. The law allows Indian authorities to detain people without providing any evidence of guilt and impose strict requirements on bail.

Parvez, 42 years old, is the project coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Society Coalition, a human rights organization that has written reports on violence by some of the hundreds of thousands of Indian troops in the area. The organization emphasized the broad powers granted to the Indian army, saying it has led to a culture of impunity and widespread human rights violations in the region.

Parvez is also the chairman of the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances, an international human rights organization based in the Philippines responsible for investigating enforced disappearances in Asia. He received the Reebok Human Rights Award in 2006.

Many rights groups and activists criticized Pavis’ arrest.

“He is not a terrorist, he is a human rights defender,” Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, wrote on Twitter.

Last week, Parvez’s team criticized government forces for killing three civilians when attacking insurgents in Srinagar. Their bodies were secretly buried by Indian police in a remote cemetery, without family members present.

The bodies of the two civilians were later exhumed and returned to their families under protests from their families. They said that the Indian army used their relatives as human shields and killed them in cold blood.

Last year, the National Bureau of Investigation also raided Parvez’s home and office, as well as the homes and offices of several activists and journalists, and confiscated research materials, mobile phones and computer hard drives from him.

In 2016, he was banned from traveling to Switzerland to attend meetings of the United Nations Human Rights Council and was detained under the Public Security Act. The law allowed people to be detained for up to two years without trial, but under pressure from international human rights organizations, Pavis was released 76 days later. A court in Kashmir said his arrest was illegal.

The Indian government is increasingly enforcing anti-terrorism laws against rights defenders, journalists and dissidents in Kashmir.

In August 2019, India abolished the special status of the disputed area, abolished its separate constitution, divided the area into two federal territories, and cancelled the protection of inheritance of land and work, so the repressive actions were particularly worsened.

Kashmir is partitioned by India and Pakistan, and both have sovereignty over the entire region. Most Kashmiris support the goal of rebel forces to unify the territory under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

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