A day after court ordered his release; J-K government has slapped Public Safety Act (PSA) against prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez and is shifting him to Kotbalwal jail in Jammu.
Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Farooq Ahmad Lone, who booked Khurram under the PSA, didn’t respond to calls. However, J-K government spokesman and Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar said that the decision to book Khurram under PSA must have been taken by someone in the government. “I am learning it from you,” he said. “But it must have been taken on merits”.
The valley has witnessed a steep increase in booking people under the PSA since the centre asked the state government to “act tough against the instigators” of the protests.
While the J-K government had recommended PSA against 205 persons in the first two months of the massive street protests, the number of recommendations has increased to 483 in past 15 days.
The figures reveal that the District Magistrates have so far sanctioned PSA against 398 people – the number on September 5 was 174. While only 105 sanctions were executed till September 5, the number has gone up to more than 307.
On Tuesday, the Principal District & Sessions Judge Srinagar Rashid Ali Dar had set aside the detention orders against Khurram and directed the J-K Police to release him.
However, instead of following the court orders, J-K Police on Wednesday booked him under PSA, a law that allows police to detain a person without trial for a period of six months.
“We have been told that he has been booked under PSA and is being shifted to Kotbalwal jail. We have been told that government has registered an FIR against him in Police Station Nehru Park for ‘activities likely to cause breach of peace and hatred among communities,” said Zahir-ud-din, a member of JKCCS.
He said that Khurram’s family had written to the Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Lone asking him not to shift him to Jammu as he is physically challenged. “There was no answer from the deputy commissioner,” Zahir-ud-din said.
Though Khurram has been arrested first time for his work, he has made bigger sacrifices for his commitment to human rights and civil society activism in Kashmir.
On April 20, 2004, while polling for general elections was going on in Kashmir, Khurram and Asiya Jeelani (29), a friend and colleague, were traveling in Kupwara district to monitor poll proceedings in remote villages of Lolab. They were working for JKCCS, a voluntary group set up in 2000 with an aim to “reinforce civil society, protect human rights and replace the culture of intolerance by the culture of dialogue and understanding for ensuring peace and democracy”.
The chairperson of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and programme coordinator of J-K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), Khurram was picked up by on the night of September 15 and put under “preventive detention” because police “apprehended he may cause a breach of peace”.
The executive magistrate, a revenue officer, who ordered Khurram’s detention, had invoked section 107 and 151 of RPC against him. But the court on Tuesday reprimanded the executive magistrate and questioned his knowledge of law.
A day before his arrest in Srinagar, Khurram was stopped from boarding a flight – at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi – to Geneva, where he was going to attend the 33rd session of UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC).
In 2006, Khurram received the Reebok Human Rights Award, a prestigious international prize that “recognizes young activists who have made significant contributions to human rights causes through non violent means”.
A graduate from Media Education Research Centre, Khurram has also helped set up Global Vision – a voluntary group of media students – and have made two films: Chandov (The Search), which documented the sufferings of parents of men who disappeared during the conflict, and on the life of Asiya Jeelani, killed in the mine blast while on election monitoring project with Khurram in 2004.
Over the years, Khurram has been at the centre of projects conducted by JKCCS on serious human rights issues, civil society debates and published detailed reports on enforced disappearances, mass graves, fake encounters, half-widows (whose husbands disappeared but have not been declared dead), besides coming out with annual human rights reviews. The organisation also runs ‘Voices Unheard’ – a magazine run by Kashmiri Women’s Initiative for Peace and Disarmament and a wing of JKCCS where the group documents stories of the struggles of ordinary Kashmiri women.