Kashmiri rights activist Khurram Parvez, jailed by India since November last year on “terrorism” charges, has been named as one of the 100 most influential people of 2022 by the United States-based Time magazine.
Parvez, 44, is chairman of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a prominent rights group in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan who govern over parts of it but claim it in its entirety. Most residents on the Indian side either want an independent state or a merger with Muslim-majority Pakistan.
An armed rebellion against New Delhi’s rule began in Indian-administered Kashmir in the late 1980s. To suppress the revolt, India deployed nearly half a million troops in the valley, making it one of the most militarised conflict zones in the world.
Global rights groups have accused the Indian forces of large-scale human rights abuses in the region, including killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests, and the suppression of media and other fundamental rights.
For the last two decades, Parvez had been highlighting such abuses by the Indian forces and seeking accountability from the government.
One of the major disclosures made by the JKCCS, led by Parvez, was the presence of more than 2,000 unmarked graves in the northern part of Indian-administered Kashmir in 2008. The report shook the region.
“He had to be silenced, for his was a voice that resounded around the globe for his fierce fight against human-rights violations and injustices in the Kashmir region,” Time magazine said, calling Parvez a “modern-day David who gave a voice to families that lost their children to enforced disappearances, allegedly by the Indian state”.
“The attacks against him speak volumes of the truth he represents at a time when the world’s largest democracy is being called out for its persecution of the more than 200 million Indian Muslims,” said the citation, written by leading Indian journalist Rana Ayyub.
“Khurram is the story and the storyteller of the insurgency and the betrayal of the people of Kashmir.”
By “betrayal”, the magazine meant Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripping Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status guaranteed by the Indian constitution in a controversial move in 2019.
Parvez was arrested in November last year under a stringent terrorism law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), for “criminal conspiracy and waging war against the government”.
The UAPA is vaguely worded legislation that effectively allows people to be held without trial indefinitely. Convictions under the law are rare.
The United Nations has issued multiple statements since Parvez’s arrest, demanding his release and amendments to the UAPA to bring it in line with the international human rights law and standards.
Parvez’s family said his appearance in the Time list “is a moment of pride for them” and “means a lot” to them.
“We are really proud of him. It shows his contribution in the two decades and the body of work that he created. These are the platforms that are acknowledging his work and offering us solidarity in such hard times,” one of Parvez’s family members told Al Jazeera, requesting anonymity over fears of reprisal by the Indian government.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera “it is extremely unfortunate that Indian authorities are jailing human rights defenders or peaceful protesters”.
“Parvez has worked to draw attention to human rights violations in Kashmir, and instead of addressing those allegations, the government is punishing him,” she said.
The Time 2022 list also includes Indian lawyer Karuna Nundy, business tycoon Gautam Adani, and Chief Justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial.