NEW DELHI — India on Thursday described the UN Human Rights Office’s criticism of the arrest of rights activist Khurram Parvez and recent killings in Kashmir as “baseless and unfounded allegations” against the country’s security forces.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had on Wednesday expressed deep concern at the arrest of Parvez under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and also said it is “increasingly alarmed by the rise in killings of civilians”, including members of religious minorities, by armed groups in Kashmir this year.
Responding to the UN agency’s criticism, External Affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the statement “makes baseless and unfounded allegations against law enforcement authorities and security forces of India.”
The criticism also “betrays a complete lack of understanding” on the part of the UN agency of security challenges faced by India from cross-border terror and its impact on the most fundamental human right of “right to life” for citizens, including in Jammu and Kashmir, he said.
Bagchi said the UN agency’s reference to “proscribed terrorist organizations as ‘armed groups’ demonstrates a clear bias on the part of the OHCHR.
He added, “As a democratic country, with an abiding commitment to promote and protect the human rights of its citizens, India takes all necessary steps to counter cross-border terrorism.”
National security legislations such as UAPA were enacted by Parliament to protect India’s sovereignty and ensure the security of its citizens, and the arrest and subsequent detention of Parvez was “done entirely as per provisions of law”, he said.
“Authorities in India act against violations of law and not against the legitimate exercise of rights. All such actions are strictly in accordance with the law. We urge the OHCHR to develop a better understanding of the negative impact of terrorism on human rights,” Bagchi said.
UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Rupert Colville had said in his statement that Parvez, now in custody for more than a week, was accused of terrorism-related offences, but the UN agency was “unaware of the factual basis of the charges”. He described Parvez as a “tireless advocate for families of the disappeared” who has been targeted before for his activism.
Colville had called on Indian authorities to fully safeguard Parvez’s right to freedom of expression, association and personal liberty and to “take the precautionary step of releasing him.”
Contending that the UAPA empowers authorities to “designate individuals and organisations as terrorists based on imprecise criteria”, “contains a vague and overly broad definition of ‘terrorist act’” and “allows people to be held in lengthy pretrial detention”, Colville said the act was increasingly being used to stifle the work of human rights activists and journalists in Kashmir and other parts of India.