Memory is the most important strategy in Kashmir: Khurram Parvez, on thirty-one years since Kunan Poshpora

23 February 2022
Human-rights activist Khurram Parvez in Srinagar, in 2015. The NIA arrested Parvez in late November 2021. Parvez’s organisations, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, has worked extensively to document instances of sexual violence by the armed forces, enforced disappearances, and torture, in Kashmir.
Umer Asif
Human-rights activist Khurram Parvez in Srinagar, in 2015. The NIA arrested Parvez in late November 2021. Parvez’s organisations, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, has worked extensively to document instances of sexual violence by the armed forces, enforced disappearances, and torture, in Kashmir.
Umer Asif

The prominent Kashmiri human-rights defender Khurram Parvez is one of the founding members of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, which has documented numerous cases of state atrocities in Kashmir, including sexual violence and enforced disappearances. The independent journalist and University of Sussex scholar Shalini Nair, who is researching sexual violence in India, met Parvez in November 2021 at the JKCCS office in Srinagar. They discussed incidents of mass sexual violence, as well as political developments in Kashmir in recent years and assembly elections that were then underway. In particular, they discussed the Kunan Poshpora incident.

In February 1991, a group of soldiers and officers of the Indian Army stormed into the two villages of Kunan and Poshpora. By many villagers’ accounts, the soldiers raped over thirty women and brutally tortured the local men. Fifty Kashmiri women petitioners, in consultation with JKCCS, were instrumental in filing a public-interest litigation case before the Srinagar High Court in the Kunan Poshpora matter in 2013. The case is currently in the Supreme Court registry, awaiting hearing. Today, 23 February, is observed as Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day, in tribute to the sustained struggles and courage of the Kunan Poshpora mass-rape survivors.

Just a few weeks after the interview, the National Investigation Agency raided the JKCCS office and arrested Parvez, accusing him of criminal conspiracy and waging war against India. The NIA also charged him under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Several international organisations—including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others—have since demanded his immediate release. Parvez, who had been under judicial custody at Delhi’s Tihar jail after his arrest, was remanded to NIA custody on 21 February.

Edited excerpts from Shalini Nair and Khurram Parvez’s discussion have been published below.

Shalini Nair: In the course of your work on sexual violence in Kashmir, you have dealt with instances of predominantly military and state violence, the most widely known among which is the Kunan Poshpora case. What has been your experience of dealing with that and other such cases?
Khurram Parvez: There are many more cases which we have documented, and there are a few which we have also successfully been able to file in the courts. The problem in the context of sexual violence is manifold, if you compare [these incidents] to other human-rights violations. Getting these cases registered in the court is not easy. It’s not easy anywhere in the South Asian context, because of the manner in which the honour of women is construed in communities. People feel that these women have been dishonoured and, therefore, talking about it more and more is further dishonouring them. Besides the violation which has happened, you have to fight that mindset as well.

Shalini Nair a journalist and a gender-studies PhD scholar at the University of Sussex in the UK, researching sexual violence in India.

Keywords: Khurram Parvez Kashmir Sexual violence
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