Khurram Parvez – The Tireless Human Rights’ Defender

On the banks of Jehlum, adjacent to Amirakadal bridge, is situated a repository of everything one needs to know about Kashmir. Not many people inhabit this place during the day except for the regular members and some voluntary interns. Inside this place, stacks of books, reports, files can be seen everywhere. Few rooms, a hall which cannot be called a conference hall, and a narrow lawyer’s office is all this place has got.

This place is the office ofJammu & Kashmir Coordination of Civil Society, better known as JKCCS, a widely acclaimed human rights organisation, where Khurram Parvez works as a Programme Coordinator. He is also the chairperson of Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances. Khurram has been a tireless human rights defender whose life has been all about Kashmir and the conflict, as an encompassing term, thereof.

The work that Khurram, and JKCCS, are involved in includes providing legal counsel to victims of occupation, linking various donors for providing direct financial help to the latter, keeping a bird’s eye view on the operation of colonial legislative structures and more importantly documenting facts, figures and evidence against the crimes perpetrated by the Indian state. The documentation of oppression becomes vital as people like him stress to lay out truth, bare and naked.

On the surface of it — and this question has frequented — JKCCS seems to knock the doors of the very judicial system that oppresses us and is hand in gloves with the state in suppressing popular aspirations and subsequent dissent. But then, our plight would never reach global audiences and human rights groups. Acknowledgement of oppression at the hands of Indian state by the world community is possible only after, and requires, the exhaustion of local judicial structures and their justice-delivering mechanism, following which a case for external intervention can be made.

Also, the exposure of such systems is not possible unless someone goes and demystifies their sense of justice which has become synonymous with time-consuming cases, farcical probes and in rare cases, unjust adjudication. This further reveals the contradictions in India as a procedural democracy with an independent judiciary and the substantiative aspect of it. Numerous cases studied by JKCCS in great detail serve as a testimony for the world to brandish India as an oppressor state which is forcibly holding a valley despite it’s will.

Documentation not only refers to the count of dead or disappeared, as the report Buried Evidence does, but also collecting data and then unveiling the different masks of perpetrators operating in the valley. Reports like the Structures of Violence revealed names of many such persons based on credible evidence. The report Occupational Hazard on 2014 floods deconstructed the hypocrisy of Indian state and its media while dealing with a disastrous situation wherein they left Kashmiris at their own mercy.

While accessing the judiciary put in place by India, and filing cases in the local or apex courts, JKCCS utilises the existing structures to obtain the state narrative regarding crimes perpetrated by it’s military and other oppressive arms. The state narrative, as we know, is based on lies and concoctions and the organisation proves this by using their undelivered justice to the victims of occupation.

An important aspect of JKCCS has been the internationalisation of Kashmir issue on various global platforms and Khurram Parvez has been a regular attendee at many conferences around the world. Pushing upon the world to recognise our plight and pressurise the required parties to grace the talking tables, along with the people concerned, has been a major work he and his organisation are involved in. For this, tapping of genuine third-party mediators has been a part of JKCCS.

Human rights is a global challenge, universal to all nations of the world. All the human rights groups emphasise on the need of governments to uphold basic human rights of people. An extended connotation of “right to life” includes providing Kashmiris a choice to choose their own future. All human rights groups work in tandem and recognise our powerlessness by default. JKCCS and Khurram have been instrumental in marking Kashmir on notable human rights maps.

Khurram has also been a part of election-monitoring teams which thoroughly looks over the periodic dramas of elections in the valley. During one of these trips in 2004, a bomb blast consumed his friend and a JKCCS researcher Aasiya Jeelani whereas Khurram lost his leg. His human rights work has continued despite that, till date.

This year, before departing to Geneva for United Nations Human Rights Council session, Khurram was stopped by immigration authorities and sent back from Delhi airport. Back home, on September 15, he was arrested, rearrested and subsequently booked under PSA. He was shifted to Kot Balwal jail where he met street protestors and leaders and also studied. During his work, the solidarities he forged with other human rights groups all over the world, campaigned for him. The world took notice of the indiscriminate use of the “lawless law”.

Campaigning and support from global human rights groups for Khurram’s arrest raised questions about the similar missing campaigns for thousands of political prisoners languishing in jails.
However, it was a consequence of the reputation gained for his work and it’s subsequent recognition, which integrally includes speaking for those who are still in prisons, that resulted in outcry over his arrest.

The High Court ordered his release on November 29 but he was detained for another night at JIC Jammu before being released. He spent a total of 76 days in prison. And returned to work as soon as he was released. His tireless efforts continue.