As prominent Kashmiri Human rights defender Khurram Parvez was put under “preventive detention” and sent to a jail in Kupwara at midnight, the J&K Police have given a flimsy reason for his arrest: “he stood outside a mosque near his house (on Thursday evening) and incited people to shout slogans and march towards (nearby) Tourist Reception Centre”. The J&K Police’s only proof is the testimony of three of its own policemen.
This happened, as per police report, a day after authorities stopped Khurram at IGI airport in Delhi and disallowed him to board a flight to Geneva, where he was scheduled to attend the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) session.
Khurram is presently Chairperson of Asian Federation Against involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and Program Coordinator of JKCCS and is internationally known for his human rights advocacy. In 2006, Khurram was conferred the Reebok Human Rights Award, a prestigious international prize that “recognises young activists who have made significant contributions to human rights causes through non-violent means”. Earlier while monitoring elections in Lolab for his civil society group in 2004, an improvised explosive device blew up his car, killing his colleague and the driver. He was seriously injured and lost a leg in the bomb blast.
In its report, the SHO, Ram Munshi Bagh Police Station has claimed that “late in the evening (on September 15), Sub-Inspector Mohammad Sarwar, Head Constable Bashir Ahmad, Constable Wali Mohammad and others were patrolling in Sonwar area”.
“According to the Sub Inspector (Sarwar), while people were leaving the Sayeed Sahib (mosque) after “nimaz-e-khoftan” (the late evening nimaz), the said person (Khurram) was instigating the local people to shout slogans and march towards TRC. The police party tried to make him understand but he didn’t listen. So there is apprehension of breach of peace,’’ the SHO’s wrote to an executive magistrate, seeking Khurram’s preventive detention.
“This police report is a complete lie. How can anybody believe such a concocted story? If they (policemen) saw him and spoke to him as they have claimed, why didn’t they arrest him there,’’ Khurram’s wife Sameena Mir said. “Khurram had returned from Delhi that day after he was stopped from boarding a flight to Geneva. We had gone to my parents’ place at Rawalpora, which is on the other side of the city. While we were away, a police party had come to our home at 8 PM. We got a call from home saying the policemen are here and they are saying SP wants to talk to him urgently. Subsequently, Khurram called the SP and told him he will come to meet him in the morning”. She said that the police again came after midnight and took Khurram to Kothibagh police station.
“It is a concocted case. In their report, the police claimed that the name of Khurram’s father is Manzoor Ahmad which is wrong,’’ she said.
When contacted, SHO Ram Munshibagh Sabzar Ahmad refused to comment. “I am not authorised to talk about this case. Talk to higher ups,’’ he said. No senior officer was ready to speak on record on the issue.
The J&K Police have put Khurram under preventive detention after they picked him up from his home at 11.45 PM on Thursday because they “apprehend he may cause a breach of peace”. As per the sections (107/151 CRPC) of the law invoked by the police against Khurram, “a personal bond with or without sureties would have sufficed for his immediate release”. The police didn’t allow that to happen.
The order issued by Executive Magistrate to send Khurram to a jail in Kupwara, however, claimed that he couldn’t produce a guarantor or the personal bond” and therefore was sent to a jail in Kupwara.
“This too is a lie. He wasn’t taken before the magistrate at all. The copy of the magistrate’s order and police report were given to us an hour before he was taken to jail in Kupwara,’’ Sameena said. “Subsequently, I went to meet the Executive Magistrate as well as the Deputy Commissioner and raised this issue. I gave them written complaints too”. She said that she was told that the order to send him to jail in Kupwara was signed by a naib tehsildar. “He (Khurram) wasn’t taken to him at all,’’ she said. Sources reveal that the executive magistrate, who had issued the initial order of arrest on the police report, was on leave.
In fact, once the flimsy grounds of Khurram’s detention and subsequent procedural violations were brought to the notice of the authorities, additional deputy commissioner Srinagar today sought a “factual report regarding the issue from the Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar”.
When contacted the official spokesperson of the J&K Government and Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar told The Indian Express that “if the police did this, they have to prove it in court. The onus lies on them”.
Meanwhile, Khurram’s organisation JK Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) today initiated legal proceedings for his release. “The order for police detention for ten days, until 26 September, issued by a Naib-Tehsildar in Srinagar, was challenged before the Sessions Court for having been passed in violation of the procedure and with complete disregard for Khurram’s rights,’’ a statement issued by JKCCS President Parvez Imroz said. “He (Khurram) was not allowed access to legal counsel and he was in fact not even produced before the Naib Tehsildar to be able to submit a bond for his release. The Sessions Court heard part arguments today and the orders will be delivered on 19 September”.
Imroz said that “the fundamental basis of the challenge of unlawful detention of Khurram remains the abuse of law to punish a human rights activist for consistent and responsible human rights work to highlight the widespread and systematic rights violations”.
“This is clearly brought out by the police report that formed the basis of the detention order,’’ Imroz said.