Once A Youth Icon In Kashmir, Jailed PDP Leader's Family Is Now Pleading For His Health

PDP leader Waheed Para had earned the gushing praise of then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh when he assembled hundreds of young people at a function addressed by Singh in Srinagar in 2018.

Jailed PDP leader Waheed-ur-Rehman Para

The incarcerated PDP leader Waheed-ur-Rehman Para was once projected as a youth icon in Kashmir by the top BJP leaders including the defence minister Rajnath Singh. Para earned the gushing praise of then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh when he assembled hundreds of young people at a function addressed by Singh in Srinagar in 2018. However, now his family is appealing to Governor Manoj Sinha that he should be given medical attention as he has developed medical complications last week, forcing the jail authorities to take him to the police hospital.

Para’s case is one among hundreds of cases where people have been booked under the UAPA. He was first detained on August 5, 2019, after questioning the central government’s decision to abrogate the special status of J&K on national television, NDTV. He was arrested under section 107 of the CrPC. Later he was released and kept under house arrest.

In November 2020, Para was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate his alleged links with one of the two Hizbul Mujahideen militants arrested earlier last year. It's alleged that Para was in touch with one of the arrested militants in 2019, at a time when the elections were due in J&K.The special court of the NIA granted him bail in the case on January 9, 2021. But within moments of getting released, he was again booked under UAPA by Jammu and Kashmir police wing, Counter Intelligence (CIK) and was held at a joint interrogation centre in Kashmir for months and later shifted to Central Jail Srinagar.

In June last year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms have asked the government of India to provide details about the continuing detention of Waheed Para and others.

His arrest has raised concern as it came three days after he filed his nomination to run for the District Development Council elections. Furthermore, on 30 July 2020, Mr Para engaged with current and future members of the UN Security Council as a participant in a closed virtual meeting where he raised the alarm about the Government of India's actions in Jammu and Kashmir, its treatment of Muslim minorities, and the recent border tensions with China.

Following this engagement, Mr Para received threats from officials with the NIA indicating that he was inviting trouble by engaging in such events. They gave him an ultimatum that if he did not cease speaking out about the Government, action would be taken against him,” the report says.

“He was subject to abusive interrogations after his arrest, which lasted from 10 to 12 hours at a time and questioned about his participation at the event where he interacted with UN Security Council members. He was held in a dark underground cell at subzero temperature was deprived of sleep, kicked, slapped, beaten with rods, stripped naked and hung upside down,” the report reads.

According to his family, Para was found unconscious in jail on Saturday. “His jail inmates were alarmed about his unconsciousness, the jail authorities took him to Police Hospital for a check-up," they said.

The family says Para’s health is worsening every day and that they are "in shock to hear that he was found unconscious in barrack by fellow detainees."

The family has appealed to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha for facilitating Para's medical check-up. Calls for his release are also coming from political leaders including members of the People’s Conference and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

“Administration must release Waheed Para, whose health is deteriorating so that he can get access to medical care. Of note, charges against him have not been proved by investigative agencies in the court of law,” senior leader MY Tarigami said in a statement. “I hope there is nothing serious. And hope he is medically examined. Waheed and I were jail mates together for six months. He is an amazing person. Hope he is a free man soon. My best wishes. And lots of love,” Sajad Lone tweeted remembering the time he served with Waheed following their arrest after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.  

In May 2015, Mehbooba Mufti nominated Para as the President of the party’s youth wing. A month later in June 2015, the then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed appointed him political analyst in Chief Minister’s office. During the Mufti Sayeed government and later during Mehbooba’s Chief Ministership, Para was considered part of Mehbooba's inner circle.  Para has studied International Peace and Conflict Studies from Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora, and was awarded a peace scholarship by the SIT Graduate Institute, Vermont USA. In 2016, Mehbooba made him Secretary, Sports Council during the 2016 uprising. He engaged youth in large numbers, establishing Football and the Cricket Academy. In 2017, Para engaged around 1,20,000 youth in different sports activities across Jammu and Kashmir. The party’s sole USP in 2017 were sports activities.