Arresting voices

Arresting of human rights activist Khurram Parvez reflects the brute face of government policies in Kashmir,The central government with an obediently abiding state government has followed a highly oppressive and aggressive policy, that is ineffective, morally reprehensible, inherently dangerous and ultimately counter productive, against the population of Kashmir.

This policy obliterates the distinction between militants and violent protestors, between stone pelters and peacefully agitating people and virtually allows the huge military and official apparatus to treat everybody as a suspect and an enemy. That peaceful campaigners of human rights, who are actually whistle blowers, should also become targets of this repressive policy is shocking, shameful and a matter of grave concern, revealing the dangerous extent to which the government can go in crushing the people of Kashmir without allowing anyone to speak for the choked voices. The ongoing phase of unprecedented terror and intimidation methods used to subjugate the people saw a new high last week with the unjustified arrest of prominent Kashmiri human rights defender, Khurram Parvez. He was earlier prevented from traveling to Geneva to attend the UN Human Rights Council, where he was scheduled to speak about human rights abuse in Kashmir. Khurram Parvez has been remanded to preventive custody in a sub-jail in the highly militarised Kupwara district of Kashmir.

In clear violation of laws, he has not been produced before the magistrate as yet. Needless to point out that since July 9, 85 persons have been killed by bullets and pellets, over 15,000 are injured, 200 people including children have been partially or fully blinded and over 1,000 persons have been arrested. Kashmir has been virtually under curfew since then and communication systems have been repeatedly shutdown and even newspapers have been shutdown for a couple of days. There is a clear design to clamp down on freedom of speech and to arrest independent voices in clear violation of international standards and India’s own constitutional provisions, revealing that the government has much to hide. This arrest is part of the pattern to gag voices and keep them out of circulation.

The timing of Khurram’s arrest clearly proves that New Delhi wants to suppress every voice of dissent which could raise questions against the government’s policies on international platform. Khurram Parvez had been diligently documenting cases of human rights abuse and campaigning for justice against atrocities for years. The manner in which this shoddy drama of arrest was played out is in complete violation of constitutional provisions. He was arrested midnight on grounds that are flimsy and preposterous. The arrest has not helped the Indian government to cover up its ugly footprints of atrocities and culture of impunity. Rather it has evoked widespread concern and tarnished the country’s image internationally. Several human rights groups and intellectuals have supported campaign for releasing Khurram Parvez.

A letter has also been written and circulated by 52 prominent intellectuals from across the globe, including Noam Chomsky and noted writers, Amitava Kumar and Arundhati Roy. The arrest, thus, further corroborates the ongoing cycle of repression unleashed on Kashmiris and reveals that not only does the government wish to clamp down on and crush the people through brutal and violent means, it also seeks to silence all voices of sanity, reason and peace. Such ruthless gags will eventually only prove counter-productive and harmful for the interests of peace. While Khurram Parvez needs to be released immediately, the government needs to ensure that human rights defenders are not harmed and coerced through such intimidating and harassing tactics. Instead there is need to encourage such rational voices for peace and justice, which can help the government in restoring calm in the Valley. It is a shocking state of affairs that in the strong armed tactics that being employed in dealing with Kashmir, the government makes no distinction between an armed militant, a stone pelter and a campaigner for human rights and dialogue.