This appeal is issued by Dr. Haley Duschinski, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Law, Justice & Culture at Ohio University. Professor Duschinski conducts research on law and conflict, militarization and impunity, and people’s movements for freedom and justice in Kashmir.

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This is an appeal to the international human rights community on behalf of Khurram Parvez, the leading human rights defender in Kashmir. Khurram has been arrested by the Indian authorities on baseless and fabricated charges. At this moment, he is completing his sixth night of detention in the jails, sub-jails, and police stations of Kashmir. The Kashmiri legal community has been working tirelessly to secure his release. Earlier today, the Kashmir court ordered the police to release him due to multiple police illegalities associated with his detention. The police have refused to release him, in violation of these court orders. Tonight, Khurram’s future and his freedom remain in the balance.

Kashmir is a contested and intensively militarized region, an occupied zone, the site of a longstanding Kashmiri people’s movement for self-determination and freedom from Indian rule. The struggle has lasted for generations, and has in recent years taken the form of stone pelting, street protests, legal advocacy, academic interventions, and the establishment of transnational activist networks. Across time, and to this day, India has unleashed the full force of its military power on Kashmir and Kashmiris. This military power overwhelms every aspect of society in Kashmir, transforming the region itself into a prison.

Today, Kashmir is on its 74th day of an all-encompassing state siege, with intensive restrictions on movement and communications including Internet and phone. In less than three months, over eighty people have been killed and hundreds, if not thousands, blinded and severely wounded with destructive pellet guns. These state actions are brutal and inhumane. There is little space to breathe in Kashmir, and there is little hope.

Under these conditions, Khurram is the heart and soul of civil society in Kashmir. Through the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, Khurram shines light on the human rights abuses of the Indian state. He does this by collecting legal documents, talking to victims and their families, compiling reports, training youth in documentation practices, and collaborating with human rights networks across South Asia and beyond. His work has illuminated Indian state abuses including disappearance, torture, extrajudicial killing, and sexual assault. He has traced impunity, identified perpetrators, and uncovered mass graves. This is the work of a tireless human rights defender. And this poses a threat to the Indian state.

For years, Khurram has dedicated his life to creating space for civil society – a space for dialogue, a space for discussion, a space for free exchange of ideas. Khurram creates space for networks to emerge, for contestations to play out in productive ways, for movements to endure. Khurram is a bridge across society and a bridge to the future. He is light in an otherwise black hole of violence, lawlessness, and impunity. Khurram is hope – hope for youth, hope for tomorrow, hope for freedom in Kashmir.

The Indian state has responded to Khurram with violence – the violence of fabricated evidence and illegal detention, the violence of lawless law. It has unleashed the full force of its military power upon him. We urge the international human rights community to please join this campaign for freedom for Khurram, and freedom for Kashmir.