By Nation special report
LONDON: Labour Member of Parliament (for Oldham East and Saddleworth) and Chair of Kashmir APPG, Mrs. Debbie Ahrahams has written a letter on December 20 to Indian High Commissioner Gaitri Issar Kumar on the Kashmir issue.
She said that further to her letter of 1st December 2021, Parliamentary colleagues from all political parties, and from both Houses of Parliament, beseech you to respond to our request for an update on the welfare of Khurram Parvez, the Kashmiri human rights activist, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency in Srinagar Indian-administered Kashmir, and who is currently reported to be imprisoned in New Delhi.
“I understand his arrest took place after the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, which Mr Parvez coordinates, criticised security forces for allegedly killing civilians during a controversial shootout with alleged rebels in Srinagar.
“As you know his arrest has raised concerns not just in the United Kingdom, but in the United Nations, by Mary Lawlor, the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, who made clear that Mr Parvez is not a terrorist but a human rights defender. The Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) has also issued a statement expressing their deep concern on the arrest of Mr Parvez. We understand that in addition to Mr Parvez, over the last 2 years nearly 2,500 Kashmiris have been detained under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, who allows detention without charge for months.
“There are also alarming reports regarding recent so-called ‘fake encounters’, where alleged terrorists have been killed by Indian armed forces and/ or police, but in fact have been found to be civilians.
“The latest of these was a reported ‘shootout’ in a shopping complex in Srinagar. Indian police initially described the incident, which took place last month, as a counter-insurgency operation in which two militants and their associates had been killed in this gunfire. However, the families of three of the men that died have accused Indian forces of killing civilians and using them as human shields. To add to the families’ grief the Indian authorities refused to initially hand over the bodies to the families and buried them in a graveyard 80km (50 miles) away. What is the justification for this?
“This follows security forces claiming they had killed three “unidentified hardcore terrorists” in a gunfight in Amshipora village of Kashmir’s Shopian district last July 2020, only to have the families of these young men strongly dispute that is the case”.
She went on to say that Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch has called on the Indian authorities to have a transparent, credible and independent investigation into the Srinagar shopping complex incident. We understand that Magisterial Inquires are normally required in these circumstances but given 108 magisterial probes have been ordered in Kashmir in the aftermath of violent incidents since 2008, and that none of the reports from these have been made public, nor has a single person been convicted, there is not much trust in the process.
“As human rights advocates, we support Human Rights Watch’s request and look forward to your favourable response to this request.
“In conclusion, we would be grateful for your response concerning the welfare of Mr Parvez, as well as an update on charges against him. In addition, we look forward to your response on establishing an independent and transparent inquiry into the killings of civilians by security forces at the Hyderpora shootout in November, Debbie Abrahams wrote.
Following members of Parliament have been mentioned in the letter as signatories.
Apsana Begum MP, Paul Blomfield MP, Paul Bristow MP, Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP, Stella Creasy MP, Judith Cummins MP, James Daly MP, Andrew Gwynne MP, Kate Hollern MP, Imran Hussain MP, Lord Qurban Hussain, Rupq Huq MP, Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece OBE, Kim Johnson MP, Rt Hon Tony Lloyd MP, Lord Wajid Khan, Kim Leadbeater MP, Khalid Mahmood MP, Layla Moran MP, Lord Purvis of Tweed, Yasmin Qureshi MP, Naz Shah MP, Baroness Sheehan, Chris Stephens MP, Zarah Sultana MP, Zarah Sultana MP, Baroness Thornhill MBE, Nadia Whittome MP, Mohammad Yashin MP.