The government has no clue about the reason for protests on streets: Khurram Parvez

After his release, Khurram Parvez talks to about his arrest, days in jail, and overall state of Human rights in Kashmir valley.

The government has no clue about the reason for protests on streets: Khurram Parvez

Khurram Parvez, a well know figure for Human Rights activism in the Jammu and Kashmir valley, was released on November 30 from his detention under Public Safety Act (PSA). He is the Chairperson of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and Programme coordinator of J-K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

He was picked up by police on the night of September 15 from his Srinagar residence and put under “preventive detention” because police “apprehended he may cause a breach of peace”. While a Jammu and Kashmir court set aside the orders of the preventive detention and ordered his release, the court instead booked him under PSA that allows the government to detain him, without a trial, for a period up to six months.

After his release, Khurram Parvez talked to about his arrest, days in jail, and overall state of Human rights in Kashmir valley.

Q. What were the reasons behind your arrest?

On the day I was arrested, I was told by the concerned SP that I was being taken to Kothi Bagh police station for the night. Later, I was taken to Kupwara jail for five days. And when the district court decided in favour of my release, I was booked under the PSA and shifted to Jammu. So, I’m not exactly sure what the motivation behind my arrest could have been.

To me, I think the government wanted to pressurize my organization and me to stop doing the work we are doing. During last four months of this uprising we have been very vocal in raising our voice against the killings of peaceful protestors and indiscriminate use of pellet guns. We have been taking these cases to the UN. We have been documenting human rights violations that occur in Kashmir and we have been campaigning in the courts.

We are the organization that has a political opinion, which doesn’t de-contextualize the human rights abuses. In past my other colleagues were attacked, like Parvez Imroz [chairman of the JKCCS] was attacked several times and this time the feedback came in the form of arrest under PSA.

Q. In the PSA dossier prepared against you it was stated that you enjoy a ‘prominent position among the separatists’. What do you have to say about it?

In the PSA dossier, I had been named as someone who holds sway in Hurriyat. On one hand, the government has been saying Hurriyat is irrelevant; this is a leaderless movement, so how does it matter then? The truth is the government has no clue why there are so many people out on the streets protesting.

As a Kashmiri civil society activist, me and my organisation have been trying to help change the situation. None of us wants this conflict to continue like it has been going on. People are being killed and maimed. We have been trying to meet people from across the board – NC, PDP and Hurriyat. And for this honest effort, we have gained respect from everyone. The government has used that respect to indict us in false cases.

There have been instances where people in Hurriyat have issued statements against us. So, when government says in the PSA dossier that I enjoy a prominent position in Hurriyat, how do they explain those public statements that have been issued against us? How do they explain other accusations that were made against us?

We have been accused of trying to build the credibility of Indian judicial system here by going to the courts.

Q. Do you feel the government itself is undermining the judicial process in Jammu and Kashmir?

The government has undermined the judicial process. And we are trying to tell the government, and we hope they understand, that they should not undermine the judicial processes, which would lead to the release of people held under PSA.

What I have seen in my case is that the judicial process was not actually allowed to function properly. The government did not send their objection to the court till the fourth hearing. Similarly, it’s doing the same in other cases, this has to stop.

Q. You are a known face in Kashmir and across the world and yet the government managed to keep you in detention for 76 days. Do you think it’s even harder for others slapped with PSA to get out?

It’s really bad. Normally, a Habeas Corpus petition that should not take more than a week, takes months. There is a systematic and institutional way in which the government is obstructing the delivery of justice. The government actually doesn’t support the judicial processes here. They frustrate you in the courts.  If they believe in their own system, then the government has to allow this process to take place.

Q. What is the sense you got from other detainees logged in jails under PSA, especially the youth? What are they thinking?

The young people were very clearly disgusted with the situation. These are not even the habitual stone pelters. They don’t even like getting involved in stone pelting. But they feel that this is the only way they can provoke the government to change its attitude because government has choked all the space for political dissent.

I had a lot of time to speak to these youth and I did have disagreements with them. I was trying to give them my opinion that I feel maybe this might not help. They told me, you are not involved in stone pelting and you have been opposing stone pelting, and yet you are also in jail despite using all peaceful means, so what is the difference?

Government doesn’t discriminate between a person who is wielding a gun in his hand or a person who has stone in his hand or a person who is a human rights activist or a person who is asking for peaceful means of protest.

I did tell the jail authorities that if they continue to abuse these children who are being detained under the PSA in jail on the allegations of stone pelting. If they are not treated well, the government is pushing them towards militancy. It appears that the government is not conscious of what they are doing to these boys.

 Q. Has your detention changed you in anyway?

No, I’m not bitter about it. But having spent time in a jail and having witnessed how these prisoners are treated, I think I’ll focus now little bit more on the rights of the prisoners and on the jail situation. The rest will remain the same. We’ll keep working and documenting reports of human rights violations in the valley.