Lawyer Parvez Imroz recently shared Norway’s Rafto Prize with Parveena Ahanger. JKCCS that he leads has exposed the unmarked graves issue and has been following it up in the court and other statutory bodies. Imroz talked to Umar Mukhtar about the prize, the activism and the state of human rights
KASHMIR LIFE (KL): You received Rafto award recently. How do you see this achievement?
PARVEZ IMROZ (PI): This award is being given in the name of professor Rafto since 1987 to the people who are fighting for human rights. In Europe, it is considered second highest after the noble prize.So it is really an honour to get this award.
KL: How it is going to help activism in Kashmir?
PI: This award is just an opening or we can say breakthrough, it is basically a step towards long drawn process. In Europe people know very little about the human rights violations in Kashmir. India has been successful in preventing the truth to come out.
Unfortunately the Kashmiri diaspora in Europe has also failed to highlight the massive human rights violations by the armedforces. So after this award I think the diaspora and people here in Kashmir are very excited. Also the civil societies in Europe and in particular in Norway, they have taken note of the human rights issue in Kashmir.
KL: Why, you think, the human rights issues of Kashmir are unknown to people world over?
PI: Kashmiri civil society has so far failed to disseminate truth about ourselves in order to engage the civil societies across globe. India has been successful in maintaining a narrative and an image as largest democracy, soft power, secular country.
Now our effort is how we will expose the contradictions of the Indian state and to contest the Indian image that they have made before the European democracies.
KL: What basically prompted you to become a human rights activist?
PI: No there was no episode that forced me to this activism. To be a human rights activist is my conscious decision. It was when I joined the Bar many years back, I started it from the judicial activism. I have been very inspired by the people who have done tremendous work in the conflict areas. So when in 1889 conflict started here, naturally people have to do it.
KL: How do you document and study human rights violations?
PI: We do field study, send our teams to far off places and document the cases. We interview the victims. We also encourage the victims to come forward and speak and register cases. By doing nothing we actually become accomplice to the crime.
So if we have to stop human rights violations in future then we have to agitate. If you are accepting it by doing nothing then it will happen again and again.
KL: Once a case is registered,how far do you think the judiciary has been able to address such cases?
PI: We have to see this in context, Kashmir is a non-international armed conflict. And here forces are having impunity that means criminal courts have no jurisdiction over them. There is impunity to seven lakh security forces. It is nowhere else in the modern and the civilised world.
So judiciary has miserably failed here but once the domestic remedies are ineffective and fail to deliver the justice, it gives us a moral legal right to go to the international institutions and communities for humanitarian support.
Even we are trying to go the ICC (intrenational court) but India has not signed the Statute. So there are ways but it needs a proper push from the civil societies.
KL: JKCCS has exposed the mass graves in many parts of the Kashmir. What is the current status of it?
PI: Mass graves is a serious human rights violation which is very sensitive issue for the international community. India cannot brush it aside by not acting. We have nearly 4000 mass graves confirmed by the state human rights commission. The state is in a denial mode but we are lobbying internationally to have DNA tests done.
KL: What next?
PI: We are having huge lobbying outside as we are reaching the UN international peace keeping forces about the crimes perpetrated by the Indian forces here. India is sending almost 7000 forces on rotational basis every year to UN peace keeping mission. We will ask them to look into it and how can they be part of UN peace keeping mission.
We have also prepared the list of the perpetrators who have committed crimes here. We have prepared a list of 1000 people involved in the crimes.
KL: To be a human rights activist in a conflict zone is a very daring task.
PI: We are living in a conflict area where everybody is at risk, so it is not only me. But anybody exposing the state’scrimes is expecting problems. But the stakes are very high in comparison to the risk that I am taking.