World Human Rights Day: Meet the Iron Lady of Kashmir

SRINAGAR:  Inside a well laid-out room with a portrait size picture of her missing son hanging from the neatly done wall, sixty -year old Parveena Ahangar betrays no sense of fatigue after putting in 30 long years to fight for justice for disappeared people.

For Parveena personally it has been relentless fight for justice since 1990 when her 16 year old student son Javid Ahmad Ahangar went missing after he was picked up allegedly by the NSG from her Batamaloo residence.

A Class V drop-out, she took on the mighty state seeking whereabouts of her son at a time when Kashmir was up in flames. Braving odds, she went to court against the government and security forces caring too little of her own safety.

“Though the court has sent the file to center for sanction to prosecute two NSG officers, little headway has been made till date”, she says.

It was perhaps for the first time that Parveena ventured out of her kitchen and joined a public platform in pursuit of justice. And today she has emerged a true leader of the victims of violence.

Popularly called `The Iron Lady of Kashmir’, Parveena got the rare honour in 2005 when she was one of 1000  women nominated for the noble peace prize by an NGO `1000 Global Women for Peace’.

“I was a shy home-maker who seldom ventured out of her kitchen. I would even get lost in reaching Lal Chowk. But after my son went missing, I had to come out and fight for justice”, says Parveena, mother of four children.

And in the process she was joined by scores of parents who shared her tragedy. She later floated Association of Parents of Disappeared people (APDP) to locate whereabouts of thousands of youth believed to have gone missing in custody.  Her work has got international recognition and she has been to different international foras to champion her cause.

“I won RAFTA award and met many families in Europe. I have been telling the world that I am not an activist but a victim. Recently I was nominated for one of 100 women by BBC”, she says.

Figures presented in the state assembly in 2009 revealed that 3429 persons have gone missing from their homes while only 110 persons have disappeared after arrest in the state from 1990 to July 2009. Of the total missing persons, 2367 belong to Jammu zone and 1062 hail from Kashmir province.

But in 2010 the government has come up with another list of figures in the assembly. In a written reply to a question, the government said 1105 persons are reported to have disappeared from the state since 1989 and around 530 cases of ex-gratia relief has been provided to the affected families so far.

Frain and failing health has not deterred Parveen from taking the fight to logical conclusion. “We will not give up till government tells us about the fate of our dear ones. No amount of compensation will mitigate our suffering. The government can’t break our will because we will wait till eternity for justice”, says the APDP chairperson

Ishfaq Ul Hassan

An accredited journalist with 22 years of professional experience, Ishfaq-Ul-Hassan has worked as a reporter based in Kashmir for two decades. He has covered various beats including militancy, politics, defence, minorities, social issues, religious groups and women issues in Kashmir. He had previously worked as Special Correspondent in Jammu and Kashmir for DNA (Daily News and Analysis) Newspaper for 13 years. Ishfaq is also associated with the New Delhi- based television company `Asia Pacific Communication Associates’ which produced the famous series “Subah-Bakhar-Kashmir” for satellite Kashmir channel of Doordarshan. In 2004, he was awarded the Charkha-Sanjoy Ghosh Fellowship for Peace and Development for his research on families divided across the LOC in Kashmir.

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