On May 29, 2011, Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Convener, International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) and Editorial Consultant, Economic and Political Weekly, was stopped at Srinagar airport on his arrival from New Delhi, and asked to go back. Officials invoked Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. By the time the authorities finalized their decision regarding his return, there were no remaining flights out of Srinagar. Mr. Navlakha is being detained and taken to an undisclosed location until May 30, when he will be allowed to return home.
Mr. Navlakha is a noted public intellectual and peace activist. His denial of entry raises urgent concerns about the status of freedom of speech and movement in Kashmir. Given the egregious violence that was inflicted on people by state forces in the Summer of 2008, 2009, and 2010 in Kashmir, we are deeply concerned that state forces not suppress democratic activities in the Summer of 2011, and not isolate Kashmiris from human rights defenders that travel to Kashmir to bear witness to atrocities and speak for peace and justice.
We understand that harassment, intimidation, and threats to IPTK members or their families are acts aimed to target and obstruct the work of the Tribunal. In November 2010, Professor Richard Shapiro, an academic from the United States and life-partner of IPTK Co-convener Angana Chatterji, was denied entry into India without any charges or due process.
Earlier, in June 2008, IPTK Co-convener Pravez Imroz and his family were targeted and an explosive device was thrown at his home. Imroz has been denied a passport. In July 2008, a First Information Report charged Angana Chatterji and IPTK Co-convener Zahir-Ud-Din, then editor of Etalaat English Daily, with acting to incite crimes against the state, following his publication of an article on mass graves written by Chatterji. IPTK Liaison Khurram Parvez has been threatened and is extensively surveilled. All Tribunal communications and the movements of its members in India and abroad are monitored.
We remain gravely concerned about the physical and psychological safety and integrity of all Tribunal members. We remain gravely concerned about our ability to continue our work, and the ability of out-of-state Tribunal members to travel to Kashmir.
(Dr. Angana Chatterji is Convener IPTK and Professor, Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies.)
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Police stop Navlakha at Kashmir airport