Exclusive: Khurram Parvez on a Generation Against the Wall in J&K
Out of jail after 76 days, Kashmiri activist Khurram Parvez talks to The Quint about the ongoing unrest in Kashmir.
(This story was first published on 13 December 2016, after Khurram Parvez was released following 76 days of imprisonment. It is being republished from The Quint's archives in the backdrop of Parvez's arrest by the National Investigation Agency on 22 November 2021.)
Prominent Kashmiri human rights defendant Khurram Parvez was released after the High Court quashed the Public Safety Act slapped by the administration more than two months ago. In an interview with The Quint, Parvez, who was lodged in Kot Bhalwal Jail for 76 days, speaks about his time in jail, the Hurriyat Conference, and the ongoing civil unrest in Kashmir.
Taking the anger on Kashmiri streets in perspective, Parvez said, “Anger against the Indian state is so deep that if there is a cricket match between India and Israel, people of Kashmir will support the Israeli team despite knowing Israel’s role in Palestine.”
People do not come out on the streets to protest because the Hurriyat is asking them to. They come out on their own. It is the generation that felt subjugated and is being pushed to the wall, even dejected by the successive regimes. I don’t think Hurriyat leadership has any choice other than supporting the people’s struggle.Khurram Parvez
On 15 September, Parvez was not allowed to board a flight to Geneva for a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. He was scheduled to attend the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police arrested him the next day from his Srinagar home and took him to North Kashmir’s Kupawara sub-jail. On 21 September, he was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and sent to Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu. Parvez said that he was not given any reason for his arrest – neither in Kupwara Jail nor in Kot Bhalwal Jail – where he had spent more than two months.
I still don’t know the exact reason behind my arrest, but I can tell that the behaviour of Jammu and Kashmir Police with me was better than the way they behave with others in Kupwara Police Station or in Kot Bhalwal Jail.
Police had informed him that they needed to speak to him. While reading out the judgement of his release, the High Court said that the detaining authority – the District Magistrate of Srinagar – “has not been sure whether the activities of the detenu were prejudicial to the security of the state or maintenance of public order.”
The order added the detention suffers from lack of application of mind on the part of the detaining authority.
‘Stone-Pelting Happens Because Peaceful Protests Are Denied’
In his opinion, Parvez said that the government was not able to handle the aftermath properly since Burhan Wani was killed, and by responding with bullets, pellets, and tear gas shells on peaceful protestors, there was a sudden escalation in the situation. Parvez, who works as the Program Coordinator of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), said:
If they would have allowed the people for the funeral procession, the situation would have not been so problematic. Things would have calmed down within two-three days.
Claiming that the reason behind stone-pelting or violent protests is lack of space for peaceful protests, Parvez said the government of Jammu and Kashmir has failed to engage the youth in a dialogue at the grass-roots level. “If they could have done that, the situation this time would have been different.”
Parvez, who is also the chairperson of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), had lost one leg in 2004, after his vehicle ran over a landmine. He was travelling towards North Kashmir’s Kupwara district – close to the Line of Control (LoC) – for some official work along with a female colleague, Asiya Jeelani. While Parvez survived with serious injuries, Jeelani died on the spot.
Terming his jail time ‘difficult’ and also a ‘good experience’, Parvez said, he got a chance to meet with stone-pelters and political activists across the state. “Looking back at it, I think all bad experiences are also good experiences, because one learns from it.”
In jail, I was worried about the grim situation of the Jammu and Kashmir state, where people were getting killed everyday. As a human rights activist, I wanted to remain present in Kashmir during the turmoil, as I could have acted as the bridge between the people facing atrocities and the authorities. In jail, I was missing my family the most – my wife, parents, and obviously my son.Parvez
Most interestingly, there were three boys in Kotbalwal Jail who had lost their eye in 2009, 2010 protests; it was very painful to hear those young ones and their stories.
‘Draconian Laws Like PSA Suppress Freedom of Expression’
In the last 17 years of my activism, I was never arrested. I have never had a case against me, and there was not a single FIR registered against me. This was for the first time. I expect to get booked again because of the work that I do and the people that I criticise for violating human rights, like it has happened to me this time.
He said that there are some draconian laws in Kashmir like PSA and AFSPA, which restrict you from expressing your own opinion. These laws should be abrogated or revoked, he says.
In a conflict zone like Kashmir, Parvez pointed out, it is very difficult to criticise those who are violating the human rights laws, whether it is the army, police, or militants.
In his message, the human rights activist said:
We must not forget those who are languishing in jails across the state, and we should remember them as we remember those who have achieved martyrdom for the right to self-determination.
Video Editor: Ashutosh Bharadwaj
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