Impunity in Kashmir

Editorial Board
Thursday, Nov 25, 2021

Yet again in Indian-occupied Kashmir, we see further violations of the fundamental rights of people living there. Kashmiri activist Khurram Parvez, who ran the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Activist Foundation from Srinagar, and has also been a part of other human rights groups, was picked up by the counterterrorism National Investigation Agency on the dubious grounds of funding terrorism and being involved in conspiracy. The UN Special Rapporteur has said that Parvez was no terrorist but a human rights activist working for the welfare of people and to protect their rights. Parvez had been arrested previously, in 2015, just before he travelled to Switzerland to attend a conference on human rights there. It is clear he has since, or even before that date, been on the watch of Indian agencies and security personnel.

Khurram Parvez is known for speaking out against the BJP government openly and demanding that the rights of the Kashmiri people be upheld. In a country that calls itself a democracy, this is apparently seen as a crime. His family is not currently aware of his whereabouts and after his arrest from Srinagar it is not clear why he was taken or where he is being held. It should be clear to everyone that speaking up about political opinions is not a crime and certainly not one that should be punished by arresting the person concerned. Khurram Parvez is a brave young man, like so many of the people of Kashmiri. He has been determined to fight for the rights of Kashmir and against the draconian measures put in place there. For this, he has been punished. Human rights activists around the world have taken up the cause and we hope that this will exert enough pressure on the Indian government to act. But it is difficult to determine how a government which is clearly a fascist force will react and what it may do next.

There are many others like Khurram Parvez who have been punished for attempting to defend Kashmiris and demand that the limited autonomy that had been available to them till 2019 be handed back. This is not likely to happen at any immediate time. But Parvez’s arrest adds another layer of fear to Kashmiris and delivers obvious warning that anyone attempting to defend rights or speaking out against the actions of the BJP government will not be spared. Others before Parvez have been killed for similar actions, often in the extrajudicial encounters that have become frequent in the occupied territory of Kashmir. Hundreds of activists are already under arrest as are political leaders, who are unable to speak out for the people. This situation is an unacceptable one and while the UN action in calling for the release of Khurram Parvez is appreciated, more will have to be done to defend the Kashmiris against India, which seems to refuse to give up its violent ways.