India must end crackdown on Kashmiri human rights defenders: UN official on Khurram Parvez’s arrest
Mary Lawlor said that Indian authorities appear to be ‘intensifying the long-standing repression’ of Kashmiri civil society.
A United Nations official on Friday urged the Indian government to “immediately end its crackdown against Kashmiri human rights defenders”, two days after the National Investigation Agency arrested activist Khurram Parvez in an alleged terror funding case.
Parvez had already been in prison since November 2021 on allegations that he collected information about vital installations and deployment of security forces, procured secret official documents and shared them with his handlers in militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The National Investigation Agency arrested Parvez in the second case when he was produced before a court on Wednesday. In the second case, he faces allegations under the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act.
Mary Lawlor, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, said that Indian authorities appear to be “intensifying the long-standing repression” of Kashmiri civil society. “The State must respect its human rights obligations and be held accountable where it violates them,” she said.
On Monday, the agency had arrested Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehraj in the case, claiming that he was a close associate of Parvez.
Both Mehraj and Parvez are associated with the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a union of non-profit campaign and advocacy organisations in Srinagar.
The investigating agency has alleged that JKCCS was funding terror activities in the Kashmir Valley and was propagating a secessionist agenda under the garb of protecting human rights.
However, Lawlor said that JKCCS carries out the essential work of monitoring human rights. “Their research and analysis of human rights violations are of huge value, including to international organisations seeking to ensure accountability and non-repetition of abuses,” she said.
The office of the special rapporteur also said that United Nations experts have in the past expressed grave concerns about the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. It noted that the law allows for the designation of any individual as a terrorist, bypassing the requirement to establish membership or association with banned groups.
“The Act is applied as a means of coercion against civil society, the media, and human rights defenders in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir,” the statement by the office of the special rapporteur read.