SRINAGAR: In a new twist to the continued detention of the PDP youth leader, Waheed Parra, five UN Rapporteurs have revealed that he was arrested after his interaction with UN Security Council members in a virtual event on July 30, 2020. The revelations are part of the detailed communication by five top officials to the Government of India sent on March 31, and put in the public domain 60 days later.
“Our concern in the case of Waheed Para is heightened by the fact that his arrest and detention appear to be linked to his interaction with UN Security Council members, which would amount to acts of reprisals for such cooperation,” the 8-page communication mentions. Apart from Parra, the communication pertains to two other individuals – Irfan Ahmad Dar of Sopore and Naseer Ahmad Wani of Dompora Shopian. While Dar was killed in police custody, Wani is missing in custody.
“.. on 30 July 2020, Para engaged with current and future members of the UN Security Council as a participant in a closed virtual meeting where he raised the alarm about the Government of India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir, its treatment of Muslim minorities, and the recent border tensions with China.,” the communication signed by five Rapporteurs – Nils Melzer, Elina Steinerte, Tae-Ung Baik, Agnes Callamard, and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin reads.
“Following this engagement, Para received threats from officials with the NIA indicating that he was inviting trouble by engaging in such events. They gave him an ultimatum that if he did not cease speaking out about the Government, action would be taken against him.”
Here is the complete section of the communication pertaining to Parra.
“Mr Waheed Para, is a grass-roots political and social activist advocating the cause of youth in the former State of Jammu and Kashmir. He is also a member of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership, a peace-builder, and serves as the youth President of the People Democratic Party. Mr Para has raised the alarm about the Government of India’s actions towards Kashmiris in the Muslim dominated former state of Jammu and Kashmir. He is from Naira in South Kashmir’s Pulwama District and previously worked as a journalist, who produced a number of human-interest news stories and anchored television shows broadcasted in the Jammu and Kashmir. Para was on house arrest until September 2020.
On 25 November 2020, Para was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on alleged militancy charges and held in their custody for one month at their headquarters in New Delhi, where he was allegedly subjected to ill-treatment. Para was permitted to meet with his attorney and a family member separately approximately ten days after his arrest and again in the third week of his detention. All visits were conducted under surveillance.
His arrest has raised concern as it came three days after he filed his nomination to run for the District Development Council elections.
Furthermore, on 30 July 2020, Para engaged with current and future members of the UN Security Council as a participant in a closed virtual meeting where he raised the alarm about the Government of India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir, its treatment of Muslim minorities, and the recent border tensions with China. Following this engagement, Para received threats from officials with the NIA indicating that he was inviting trouble by engaging in such events. They gave him an ultimatum that if he did not cease speaking out about the Government, action would be taken against him.
He was subject to abusive interrogations after his arrest, which lasted from 10 to 12 hours at a time and questioned about his participation at the above-mentioned event where he interacted with UN Security Council members. He was held in a dark underground cell at subzero temperature, was deprived of sleep, kicked, slapped, beaten with rods, stripped naked and hung upside down. His ill-treatment was recorded. Para was examined by a government doctor three times since his arrest last November and three times by a psychiatrist. He requested medication for insomnia and anxiety.
On 9 January 2021, following a hearing by a NIA Court, the judge ruled that the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) did not apply in this case. The NIA appealed the court’s ruling in a higher court. On 29 January, his legal team was granted two weeks to file their objections to the NIA challenge.
A few hours after his release, he was arrested and detained by the Counter- Intelligence in Kashmir (CIK) under a different charge related to providing financial support to terrorist groups. On 11 January 2021, he was formally charged and transferred to Srinagar under the custody of CIK. He appeared before court with a lawyer for a bail hearing. Bail was denied and he remains in remand.”
However, the communication has stated that they would not express “at this stage an opinion on the facts of the case”. They, however, called for “all necessary measures to guarantee the right of the detained person in this case not to be deprived arbitrarily of his liberty, in accordance with article 9 of the ICCPR”.
The UN Rapporteurs have sought detailed information about the factual and legal grounds for the arrests and continued detention of Waheed Para and Dar, and an explanation about how these measures are consistent with the international human rights obligations of India. They have also sought information about the factual basis justifying the recourse to militancy related charges levied against Para.
The UN Rapporteurs are used to sending detailed communications to the Government of India on issues of human rights. The Government has not responded to the communications mentioning or referring to the OHCHR report on Kashmir. On all other communications, however, the Government of India has responded. The last communication to which the Government of India has responded was about the costs and consequences of the reading down of Article 370. However, the Government of India is yet to respond to the particular communication about PDP youth leader.
Parra, it may be recalled here, faced detention post-August 4 2019 only to be released on February 5 2020 following which he was kept under house arrest. It was a couple of months later that he was completely set free only to be arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on November 25, 2020, just days after he filed nomination papers for the District Development Council elections which he won while in jail.
Two days later, a special NIA court in Jammu and Kashmir granted bail to Parra in an alleged “terror” case related to suspended Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Superintendent of Police Davinder Singh. Hours after the bail granted by the NIA court, Parra was again arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police’s Counter Intelligence Kashmir unit in a “terrorism” related case. Since then he has been in jail.