Authorities have detained one of the most prominent and internationally noted rights defenders in Kashmir, Khurram Parvez, under the draconian Public Safety Act at a time when the administration has come under pressure for deploying unprecedented force measure for suppressing what has looked like a near-total rural uprising against Indian rule. Many commentators have described the ongoing protestations in Kashmir as a certain maturation of a decades-long struggle by the Kashmiri people for right to self-determination.
That struggle is also a long history of alleged state brutality and crimes Khurram has been documenting for decades, peacefully and resolutely at the risk of his own person. The award winning activist has dedicated his life to defending human and political rights of his people, and for documenting crimes committed against them by various state forces and non-state actors, from within the space the law of the land guarantees.
His arrest under the PSA, described by rights watchdog Amnesty International as a ‘lawless law’ is a clearest indication that the state administration is least bothered about upholding even the fundamental rights of the people of Kashmir. Khurram’s detention also reveals an unwillingness of the administration authority to inform its policy approach to the people’s fundamental rights by his work. It also comes at a time when all politics seems either to have failed or not taken recourse to in the first place to engage with the political demands of the people and ensure their rights are restored. All that the State authorities have done in response to the popular political upsurge in Kashmir is deploy more force.
Khurram’s human rights work and investigation into the highly militarized conditions, the people of Kashmir are responding to and have endured for decades, has exposed to the world outside the phenomenon of unmarked and mass graves, enforced disappearances, rape, torture and killing of civilians blamed on government forces. It’s telling that instead of responding to the political and rights scenario on the ground in Kashmir, the administration authorities have chosen to put away a champion of rights and peace. In the past justice may have eluded the victims, or their families, whose stories and plight defenders like Khurram have tirelessly brought to international attention, but his arrest perhaps points to darker times ahead, insofar as how State’s political authority intends to deal with the ground in Kashmir is concerned.
By putting away in jail someone like Khurram, who could be its conscience keeper, the State authority is perhaps sending a message out to the people at the receiving end that it does not care about genuine peace and their fundamental political and human rights, and that it only desires control. Khurram’s arrest under PSA denotes a new low in the State’s history of denial and disregard for rights.