Police arrest rights activist in Indian-controlled Kashmir

SRINAGAR: Police have arrested a prominent rights activist in Indian-controlled Kashmir a day after he was barred from leaving India to travel to Geneva to participate in a session of the United Nations' Human Rights Council, police and family members said Friday.

Police picked up Khurram Parvez from his home in the region's main city Srinagar late Thursday night.

A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, gave no details about the possible charges against Parvez.

On Wednesday, immigration officials at New Delhi's international airport barred Parvez from boarding a plane to Geneva, even though he had a valid visa and letter of invitation from the UN body.

The arrest comes as the troubled Himalayan region has been hit by some of the most serious anti-India protests in recent years.

Triggered by the killing of a popular rebel leader two months ago, the protests have left more than 80 people dead and thousands wounded, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotgun pellets to quell the demonstrations.

Parvez and his organisation, the Coalition of Civil Society, were the first to report and draw attention to thousands of mass graves in remote parts of Kashmir and to demand that the government investigate them to make clear who the dead were and how they were killed.

His organisation has also written scathing reports on cases of brutality involving some of the hundreds of thousands of Indian troops in the region and highlighted the widespread powers granted to troops posted in the area, which had led to a culture of impunity and widespread rights abuses.

Kashmir is India's only state with a Muslim majority and is divided between India and Pakistan. Most people in the state favor independence from mainly Hindu India or a merger with Pakistan.