A group of 52 writers, activists, scholars, lawyers and other well-known personalities have written an open letter seeking the immediate release of Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez, who was detained on Friday.
The signatories include writers Arundhati Roy, Basharat Peer, Mirza Waheed and Amitava Kumar, scholars Noam Chomsky, Ania Loomba, and Partha Chatterjee, activists Harsh Mander, Gloria Steinem and Teesta Setalvad, and lawyers Vrinda Grover and Mihir Desai.
Parvez, who has spoken out against the continuing violence in Jammu and Kashmir over the past several weeks, was arrested by the police after he was stopped from boarding a flight to Geneva. The 39-year-old, who had a valid invitation, visa and air ticket, was headed there to attend the ongoing session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) to speak about crisis in Kashmir. Although Parvez was detained, his colleagues, Parvez Imroz and Kartik Murukutla, were allowed to travel to Geneva.
Murukutla, a lawyer, went on to speak to a hall full of rights activists about the violence in Kashmir and expressed his concerns over being banned from travel, Greater Kashmirreported.
Parvez, who is programme coordinator with Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and chairperson of Asian Federation Against involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), was first detained at the Kothibagh Police Station and later shifted to the Kupwara sub-jail, The Indian Express reported.
As the open letter noted, "An executive magistrate in Srinagar issued the order against Khurram Parvez, invoking Sections 107 and 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) (pertaining to detention for breach of peace and design to commit a cognizable offence)" and observed that "the actions against Mr. Parvez are symptomatic of the escalated repression in Kashmir by institutions of state since July 8."
According to The Indian Express, the police said Parvez had "stood outside a mosque near his house (on Thursday evening) and incited people to shout slogans and march towards (nearby) Tourist Reception Centre". The police's claim, however, was based on the testimony of three of its own employees.
The open letter went on to say that since public protests erupted in Kashmir following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani on 8 July, "rights to freedom of speech and movement and the right to dissent and self-determination are being imperilled" there. It also noted the rampant use of pellet guns, which have left hundreds blind, maimed and injured.
Over 80 people have been killed in clashes between the armed forces and the public in Kashmir, where most tele-communication networks have collapsed in the past few weeks.
The full text of the letter can be read here.
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