Parvez Khurram, the noted human rights defender has finally been booked under Public safety Act (PSA) and sent to Kotbalwal jail 300 Kms away from his native place in an alien weather, hostile environment and intimidating conditions. Many Kashmiri detunes lodged earlier in this jail have complained of highly communalized atmosphere prevailing there. It is the same jail where few years back, a Muslim prisoner was killed by Hindu criminal inmates.
Why does India need to arrest a human rights defender, like Parvez Khurram, who would investigate, document & report massive human rights violations in Kashmir committed by Indian security forces, comprising of Indian Army, paramilitary forces and local police in Kashmir?
The answer is that Khurram Parvez’s knowledge of such violations bordering on war crimes & crimes against humanity is quite comprehensive. As a co-founder and coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), he has produced,inter-alia, two voluminous publications titled ‘Alleged perpetrators” & ‘structures of violence’ documenting in detail few of those crimes & the persons behind them.
India calls itself largest democracy in the world but in actual practice its actions are anything but democratic. In democratic countries, HR defenders are highly respected persons & their work acknowledged with much appreciation. They are included in consultative process to continuously improve & upgrade the human rights record to make the society more polished & humane. In India, they are either eliminated through covert actions (Dr. Guroo, Jaleel Andrabi, Jaswant Singh Kalra etc) or silenced by putting in jails.
It may be noted that human rights defenders of the world are protected by a United Nations General Assembly resolution No. 53/144 which adopted a declaration in 1998 on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights .The salient features of the said declaration read with Conference for Security and Co-operation commitments, are:
1) That the declaration was adopted by consensus by the General Assembly and therefore represents a very strong commitment by States to its implementation.
2) The declaration confers following rights on HR defenders
a) To seek the protection and realization of human rights at the national and international levels;
b) To conduct human rights work individually and in association with others;
c) To form associations and non-governmental organizations;
d) To meet or assemble peacefully;
e) To seek, obtain, receive and hold information relating to human rights;
f) To develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance;
g) To submit to governmental bodies and agencies and organizations concerned with public affairs criticism and proposals for improving their functioning and to draw attention to any aspect of their work that may impede the realization of human rights;
h) To make complaints about official policies and acts relating to human rights and to have such complaints reviewed;
i) To offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other advice and assistance in defence of human rights;
j) To attend public hearings, proceedings and trials in order to assess their compliance with national law and international human rights obligations;
k) To have unhindered access to and communication with non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations;
l) To have effective protection under national law in reacting against or opposing, through peaceful means, acts or omissions attributable to the State that result in violations of human rights;
m) To solicit, receive and utilize resources for the purpose of protecting human rights (including the receipt of funds from abroad).
3) The declaration requires member states to afford necessary protection & a free and non-coercive atmosphere to human rights defenders in their areas, more particularly
a) To protect human rights defenders from abuses by third parties on account of their human rights work and to exercise due diligence in doing so;
b) To take proactive steps to promote the full realization of the rights of human rights defenders, including their right to defend human rights.
c) To provide a safe and enabling environment to empower human rights work:
d) To afford effective protection of the dignity, physical and psychological integrity, liberty and security of human rights defenders
e) To set up appropriate instruments and mechanisms that deal with the protection of human rights defenders domestically and abroad
f) To refrain from any acts of intimidation or reprisals by threats, damage and destruction of property, physical attacks, torture and other ill-treatment, killing, enforced disappearance or other physical or psychological harm targeting human rights defenders and their families.
g) To ensure that HR defenders do not face reprisals for complaints against police or other law enforcement officers
h) The state must not shield any unlawful actions of public officials or non-state actors directed against human rights defenders from prompt, thorough, independent and transparent investigation. Investigations must be capable of and effective in identifying the perpetrators and lead to their prosecution where necessary.
It is manifestly clear that India has imprisoned Khurram Parvez in total breach of the above declaration. Few hours from now, Indian Foreign Mister, Smt. Suhma Swaraj will be addressing UN general Assembly, the same august house whose resolutions, whether on holding plebescite in Kashmir or protecting HR defenders, it has trampled with utmost disdain. It reminds me of this couplet of Mirza Ghalib, a 19th Century Indian Poet
‘Kaaba kis munh sey jawoogay ghalib-Sharam tumko magar nahi aati’
(With so many sins committed, Don’t you feel shame in undertaking a religious piligrimage, Ghalib)
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. E mail: email@example.com)