‘I’ve Witnessed State Repression Closely. It Took My Near Ones Away:’ Kashmiri Activist

By: Mohammed Sirajuddeen

Khurram Parvez was forbidden from boarding his flight to Switzerland at the behest of the orders from Intelligence Bureau even after his possession of a valid visa and official invitation. He was scheduled to attend a session organized by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva and while his colleagues were allowed to travel, he was detained by the local police in Kothi Bagh and subsequently shifted to Kupwara sub-jail on the evening of September 16, 2016.

A vocal figure in the human rights circle, Khurram was always at the forefront in documenting the state excesses in Kashmir. Along with steering the activities of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), he is also the Chairman of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). In the context of the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir, Khurram was to brief the officials in UN and to put an account of the exceptions happening in Kashmir. The statement issued by Parvez Imroz, President of JKCCS had charged that the illegal blockade and unwarranted detention of Khurram is a result of ulterior motives of the Indian State which wanted to isolate the people of Kashmir and sought to provide impunity to the perpetrators of the inhuman violence.

Following are the excerpts from the interview I had with Khurram Parvez during my PhD fieldwork in Kashmir. The discussion took place before the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen’s commander, Burhan Wani. At the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) Office in Srinagar during the first week of May 2016, he had shared his views on the pertinent issues concerning Kashmir as follows:

How do you see state repression vis a vis militancy?

We don’t see parity between militancy and state oppression. Non-state violence is more or less an extension of state violence, a glaring example is the state vigilantes or ‘Ikhwanis’ who were scot free with weapons. The State is instigating military violence with impunity. Our primary task is to work for truth, and telling it through documentation and beyond. Besides human rights violation by State we also look into havocs like natural disasters, we have brought out a report on the flood. We work with the youth for the struggle against State repression. We are storytellers and completely rely on truth from the ground. Sometimes our movement has to be subversive and underground. This keeps the movement alive. Regimentation of the movement will make the cause vulnerable and make it an easy target for the State.

What do you think about State violence and how does it create constraints for your work?

We always had constraints but we overcame them. There are difficulties in resource mobilization and on the monetary front. Moreover, the volunteers associated with our organisation are always an easy target of the state. There is a great need of documentation of the mass atrocities perpetrated by the security agencies given the fact that the State violence occurs at two levels. Firstly, through the explicit or blatant use of force as evident in thousands of cases pertaining to enforced disappearances and secondly, the concealed violence which always goes unreported.

Unlike the cases of extrajudicial killings, fake encounters and open massacres, cases of sexual violence and tortures are floated in various ways in public. There are instances when survivors talk openly in public and on other occasions, the affected people stay silent given the normalization of  ‘accepted violence’ or ‘minimal violence’, which doesn’t amount to any violation at all in the mainstream public domain. This has a lot to do with the high level of forced subjugation and disciplinary tactics adopted by the state.

What is your response to the thousands of extrajudicial killings in the state?

Extrajudicial violence in Kashmir started on day one. Answer to the question ‘Why there is always problem in Kashmir?’ is another question: ‘Can democracy and occupation co-exist?’. It is always the army and police which decide on the political action of the government. There is a permanent state of exception. Courts have seized to work and the coercive apparatuses of the state interpret the law. Disappearance reduced because of our campaign. It happened when there was more militant resistance and now we witness ‘shoot and kill’.

What is the relationship between JKCCS and the political parties in the state?

We believe in compassion and maintain equidistance from all political parties and consider all of them part of us. Nayeem Qadir Bhat, the young budding cricketer who was shot dead in Handwara belonged to a family having roots sympathizing National Conference. Bullets never discriminated the body whether they are ‘pro India’ or ‘anti India’. Therefore we do not discriminate political parties on their differences of opinion. Neither we are in competition with any organization within or outside Kashmir nor do we fully depend on any kind of patronages. But like-minded and open hearted individuals help to sustain our movement. Compassion broaden the horizon of the movement, doors are always open for everyone. And there is solidarity among the different constituents of the movement.

What is your personal take on State repression?

Individually, I have witnessed State repression closely. It took my near ones away from me. In 2004, my car was attacked at the Lolab area, Northern Kashmir and exploded by a remote control bomb. The driver died and my colleague Asiya Jeelani died too. I was hospitalized and shifted to Delhi. It took three months for recovery and my leg got amputated. But I don’t feel restricted. I will continue to fight oppression.

There is a lot of talk about ‘old’ militancy (from the 90s) versus the ‘new’ wave of militancy? Do you see a difference between them?

I don’t think that there is old and new militancy. Militancy right now is the continuity of the old. There is no new group. The ‘new’ in militancy is the influence of militants in the social media and they are the new generation who learned from the mistakes of the past. In the 1980s, one person controlled the discourse of the freedom movement and in 1990s, a few people decided the political discourses.

Now we see a plurality of voices against the Indian state in Kashmir. All are becoming stakeholders in their own way. This is the beginning of a revolution. Earlier ‘Hurriyat’ was the opinion maker, now they listen to the people. Resistance is viral now and the ideology is anti-India.

The author is a PhD Candidate at the Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India. This interview was first published here

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