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KASHMIR'S MOTHER OF DISAPPEARED

Parveena Ahangar By Farooq Khan

As night falls Parveena grows restless. She is missing her son. She thinks of the clothes (a shirt and a pant) last worn by her son nestled between her clothes in the cupboard. She thinks of the night someone rushed to tell her that her son sleeping at his uncle’s place was picked up in his undergarments by Indian troops. That was 19 years ago and Parveena Ahangar is still waiting for her son to surface.

This stocky mother of five is among thousands of families of Indian administered Kashmir whose members are missing in the two decades of the armed conflict.

What set her apart is her struggle and drive to turn her personal tragedy into a fight for the whole lot. “It is no longer the fight for my son. It is fight for all the disappeared. They are all my sons,” says Parveena, the Chairperson of the Association of Parents of the Disappeared Kashmir (APDP).

She founded the APDP in 1994, by bringing together parents like her.

Divided between Indian and Pakistan, Kashmir is claimed in full by both countries. An armed Muslim insurgency broke out in Indian administered Kashmir in 1989, enjoying popular support. Kashmir separatists demand independence (from India) or merger with Pakistan.

Unofficial estimates say 80000 people have died in two decades of armed conflict, as Kashmir became one of the highest militarized region in peace times. Human rights activists put the figure of disappeared at 10,000. Most of the disappeared were picked up by security agencies and never accounted for.

Parveena calls her pain a malady with no cure. The relatives of people killed, Parveena says, at least had a last glimpse of their children, and graves to pour out their grief. Family of inmates know the jail their kin are in. But the kin of the disappeared have nowhere to go. Not even a graveyard.
Parveena’s determination turned her from a semi literate homemaker to an international activist for the parents of missing children. She represents APDP at Philippines based Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and has travelled across continents to attend seminars, conferences, workshops highlighting their plight.

Media savvy Parveena says the world needs to know what is happening in Kashmir. Even in India, she says, people are unaware of the situation in Kashmir let alone the issue of disappeared people.

Travelling to other countries and meeting mothers like her has given Parveena courage. “We are not alone and it feels good when people listen to you. At such meetings we share our stories, our grief and give each other courage. It helps us to fight on”.

In Philippines Parveena saw a statue erected in a church in the memory of the missing. On her return the APDP tried to set up a memorial in Srinagar, near the region’s main martyr’s graveyard in Iddgah.

It would have been a simple marble plaque with the names and details of the disappeared. Police overnight demolished the foundation stone with names of three children born after their fathers went missing. Parveena and an associate were charged of trespassing.

“There is no place where people like me can go to unburden our grief when we are missing our children”

Parveena’s son Javed Ahmad Ahnager was her second child. On that fateful night in 1990 Javed was sleeping at his uncle’s place a few houses away. In the precarious situation of the nineties in Kashmir Javed felt safer at his uncle’s house. Ironically, it was there he was picked from. That night, when Parveena received the news, she panicked but had no idea of the long struggle ahead of her. She thought he would be released in a day or two.
“He was a student and had no links with militants so I had no reason to think otherwise”.
The next morning Parveena visited an army camp, which had picked up his son. “It was a case of mistaken identity. They were looking for a neighbour Javeed Bhat who had militant links.”

Over the next months which later extended into years Parveena visited almost every camp in the state searching for her son. At times she would hear of some unidentified youth in a jail and rush to check. Her search took her to jail barbers and other people who had access to camp and prisons.

“They would say, there is a boy in this jail, he stammers, and his parents have not come to him. I would go and check.”

Parveena took a legal course too. She filed a case in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court seeking her son’s whereabouts.

“I knew who had taken my child. I took them to court but the judge was helpless. It took them 13 years to identify the guilty and then the case was sent to the Central government (Indian home ministry) for sanction to prosecute the guilty. The sanction never came.”

A special law called Armed Forces Special Powers Act (APSPA) grants immunity to Indian armed forced fighting in Kashmir. Any requests to Indian home ministry for criminal prosecution of accused army men are mostly rejected.

“If a civilian commits a crime he is punished. Why can’t an army man be punished? How come they are above the law?” said Parveena.

Like Parveena most of parents of disappeared people were fighting their battles separately. Their voices were lost in the din of conflict. They faced harassment from security agencies.

Parveena went door-to-door assembling parents like her to put up a joint front. The APDP was born. They began to protest together, make their shrill voices loud. While the government did not succumb to their demands, the impact was still there.
“Return our children if they are alive, if they are dead give us the bodies,” the APDP members say in unison as they sit in protest in a Srinagar park every month reminding the state of its demand.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.

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Comments

stella Ndugire- Mbugua's picture

Deep....

I feel the pain. The women need their loved ones back.

They are all so hopeless and helpless...

Regards,

Stella Ndugire- Mbugua
ICS- Africa

Nusrat Ara's picture

I wish it was so easy. It

I wish it was so easy. It really breaks one's heart. I went to their last sit in , they have a sit in on 10th of every month, and every male scribe present there was puffing heavily on their cigrarates. Poeple here are also having various mental health problems because of the conflict. there is substance abuse. It all gets so complicated

Nusrat

Jennifer Ruwart's picture

I weep for Parveena

Oh, Nusrat. I just dropped Jonah off at daycare. I cannot even imagine what I would do if I got a call that he was kidnapped. My heart weeps for Parveena and all other parents and families of missing children.

Her story is so inspiring. I always feel that I am witnessing divine grace when I learn of someone who has turned tragedy into action for the benefit of others. I hope that her work gives her some peace. If not always, then sometimes.

Thank you for sharing her story and bringing more attention to the conflict in Kashmir.

Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

Nusrat Ara's picture

This is the least we can do.

This is the least we can do. Thanks for understanding and support. The people of Kashmir need that.

Nusrat

Nusrat Ara's picture

Dear Jennifer u didn't answer

Dear Jennifer u didn't answer my query that can I use portions from my posts for my frontline journal assignment. Also I am a bit apprehensive as Fatima has already written on Kashmir. Looks like mine will be nothing New ;) of course mine can be different but... don't know

Love

Nusrat

Jennifer Ruwart's picture

Of course!

Nusrat,

Greetings! Yes, absolutely, you can use portions from your previous assignments. And although Fatima wrote a story on Kashmir, it was from her perspective. You have a unique perspective that will provide a different view, while complimenting, expanding, and enriching the overall story of Kashmir.

Does this help?

Jennifer

Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

Nusrat Ara's picture

Of course I am feeling

Of course I am feeling better. I am worried about something else: Got to attens a few weddings this week. It's marriage season here and marriages here are so elaborate and exausting.

Love

Nusrat

Nusrat,
Thank you for your bold, thoughtful and effective article. You have helped to shed more light on the situation in Kashmir. I was especially touched by the story of the destruction of the foundation stone for the memorial with the names of three babies on it. Women who have no voice, parents who have no answers and no place to speak out or share their grief are so powerless - of course they are having issues. Thank you for bringing your voice to this story.

Debra

Nusrat Ara's picture

Thanks Debra. The network was

Thanks Debra. The network was horrible the last time you called. Maybe I should give you my landline number as well. Tuesday / wednesday will be fine. Looking forward to your call.

Nusrat

Dear Nusrat,
Thank you so much for your post. Ms. Parveena is a bold and wonderful women. Her pain meke me voiceless and force me to think about my sisters and brothers in Nepal. I wanted to share one story that happened same weeks ago. Khyati Shrestha, 19 years old who was studying in class 12 was first kidnapped and killed by a former science teacher, Biren Shrestha(Pradhan) of AVM school. AVM school is located in Kathmandu. To know more about the situation, you can visit http://www.worldpulse.com/node/11092
Your story force to remember the past and think about others. I am wondering about our sisters and brothers in Nepal.
Thanks again for sharing with us.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Nusrat Ara's picture

we are still reeling in the

we are still reeling in the aftermath of the murder and gangrape of a woman and her sister in law. Things are worsening here. more deaths 4 more got killed . All boys below 25 . life is hell here.

It is good to know someone understands. Thanks

Nusrat

What can we do to help? How can we get the word out about the worsening situation. I shared your story on Facebook earlier. Let's our collective heads together and come up with a solution.

Love to you and your community,
Jennifer

Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

Nusrat Ara's picture

I wish I could really find a

I wish I could really find a solution. it has been going on from so many and the problem is so complex. at present I think we can only make people aware about the situation.

It is so difficult. Though I would love to do something for my people, yet you know I really want to get out of this place for sometime. i was looking for a fellowship but havn't been able to find a good one yet. I am trying to get away for a few months or years and then come back and have a look at my people and my land. To use Tanya's word I want to a detox . Though I know in the intervening period I won't be able to stay away completely either.

It is all so complicated.

Nusrat

Dear Nusrat,
I can understand you how it is going there. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOppps its much too painful. Enough is enough. No more destruction please. No comparison of life with things.

Can we do anything to bring peace in your country. If so let us know. We will try our best. Do you have any message to the peacemaker , if I find the sponsor on 2010, feburary , I will go to London. We will also discuss about the peace. You can email me privately in your free time.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Nusrat Ara's picture

That is a good idea. Will try

That is a good idea. Will try to think about it in free time.

Best of luck for the fund raising. I hope and pray you make it.

Nusrat

olakitike's picture

Touching article

Your article is so touching. Parveena is so strong and inspiring. I hope things get better in your part of the world. I am glad you and sunita are interested in doing something.
Great article, you pulled me right into it

Nusrat Ara's picture

Thanks dear

Thanks dear

Nusrat

Xthina-Avila's picture

You see ... I told you...

I am not (yet) asking you for an interview ... I will ... for sure ... but, in the meanwhile, I would love to ask for your permission to translate your story to spanish and publish it at Corresponsal de Paz May I !?

Thanks Nusrat for bring us this strong story ...

Kisses from Mexico and Congratulations, you are also a brave woman, I knew it ... and I TOLD YOU before read this!!

Peace. Grateful. Xthina " )

PS. Mh... and thinking better, I am also going to ask Jennifer and Janice if it is possible to use this material ... because indeed it was originally written for World Pulse ...

Cristina Avila-Zesatti - Journaliste&Productrice
Main Editor: www.corresponsaldepaz.org

"Un milagro no es la suspensión de una ley natural, sino la implementación de una ley superior"

Nusrat Ara's picture

Dear you have my permission.

Dear you have my permission. And thanks for all the love and support.

Nusrat

Starland's picture

sittin in

I will sit in the park with the women on the 10th of every month and on your doorstep from here far away. Always on my mind.
Hugs and love
K-lee

K-lee Starland, Ph.D.

Nusrat Ara's picture

It's been a long time. Hope

It's been a long time. Hope you are well. I am missing your posts.

Lots of love

Nusrat

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