Khurram Parvez, the Kashmiri human rights activist, who was in the news recently when he was arrested by the Kashmir police in September under the controversial Public Safety Act, which allows detentions for up to two years without trial. He was released five days after the Jammu and Kashmir High Court termed his detention illegal a week ago. Khurram Parvez is the chairman of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances. In this interview with AKHTER RIZVI, Parvez talks about his future plans and India's Kashmir policy.
Why were you arrested?
I really don’t know why I was arrested. The government charged me with instigating the protests which was certainly not the case. The fact is that the ongoing resistance is spontaneous. It is led by people. All objective assessments of the current situation have attested to this fact. Besides, such Kashmir-wide mass scale uprisings can’t be manufactured. They can’t be a product of an individual’s instigation.
By blaming individuals for instigating people to resist is disrespectful to the people protesting on the streets. For it denies them not only the agency but also the legitimacy of their sentiment and cause. This is also escapism on the part of the government which doesn’t want to see the situation for what it is and accordingly address it.
How were you treated in jail?
To be fair to the jail staff, I was treated very well. However, the issue is not about how I was treated in jail, it is about why I was arrested.
How has your jail experience affected you?
I am not bitter at all. On the contrary, I got to see the plight of the prisoners from close quarters. And now I plan to raise a voice for their rights. I met prisoners who had pathetic stories to tell. Many of them appeared innocent of the charges slapped on them.
I also met some imprisoned soldiers and developed a bond with them. In Kashmir, you only see them under a helmet and with a gun in hand. And they have no individuality of their own, getting identified with the oppression of the state.
What are your future plans?
I will resume my work from where I left off. There are many reports on human rights situation in the state which were delayed as a result of my arrest. I also owe it to the prisoners to highlight their plight.
Having said that, we have to also think seriously about taking care of the families who lost their loved ones in the uprising and whose children got blinded. Our society cannot afford to ignore them.
Where do you see the situation in Kashmir heading? It is now five months since the uprising began in Kashmir since the killing of the popular militant commander Burhan Wani.
The situation will only get worse if New Delhi continues to be indifferent to the situation in the state and keeping delaying the resolution of Kashmir. India’s policy is militaristic and of denial. It wants absolute control of J&K. There is no other policy.
There is a need to treat Kashmir as an issue of the people of the state rather than a territorial dispute.
I think 2016 uprising was an opportunity for India to create a solution-friendly constituency in the country. The massive groundswell for Azadi in Kashmir could have been used to convince people in India of the need to take firm steps to resolve Kashmir. But this is not being done. Instead, political parties, media and even the government chose to rake up anti-Pakistan and anti-Kashmir passion. I see this as a fundamental impediment to the settlement of Kashmir.
Kashmir is among the few unresolved issues in the world which is not seeing any visible progress towards solution. This has created a lot of cynicism and disillusionment in the state. And this is not conducive to the long term peace.
How can progress towards a Kashmir solution be achieved?
India and Pakistan should begin the process of demilitarization. Justice has to be delivered for the human rights abuses and it will be the biggest Confidence Building Measure. It will create hope in Kashmir.
International community needs to be engaged in J&K resolution as a facilitator and observer. J&K people have to be accepted as real stakeholders in any solution and India and Pakistan should have no constitutional claims on Kashmir. Both countries have their parliamentary resolutions on Kashmir and there is a need to undo them for the two countries to move in the direction of resolving Kashmir.