OSLO: Two activists from India-held Kashmir on Thursday won Norway’s Rafto Prize for human rights for their long-term struggle against violence in the disputed region, the jury announced.

Parveena Ahangar, nicknamed “The Iron Lady of Kashmir”, founded the Association of Parents of Missing Persons after her 17-year-old son was kidnapped by security forces in 1990. She hasn’t heard anything from or of him since.

Her co-laureate, lawyer Imroz Parvez, founded the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society which promotes human rights and non-violence.

It has documented the authorities’ use of torture in the disputed Himalayan region.

“Parveena Ahangar and Imroz Parvez have long been at the forefront of the struggle against arbitrary abuses of power in a region... that has borne the brunt of escalating violence, militarisation and international tension,” the Rafto Foundation said in a statement.

“Their long campaign to expose human rights violations, promote dialogue and seek peaceful solutions to the intractable conflict in Kashmir has inspired new generations across communities,” it added.

The prize of $20,000 will formally be presented on November 5 in the western Norwegian town of Bergen.

In late 1989 Kashmiri groups launched an anti-India uprising in the held Valley. Since then tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 people have gone missing since the beginning of escalation of fighting in the 1980s, according to the Rafto Foundation.

Named after the late Norwegian human rights activist Thorolf Rafto, four past winners of the prize (Aung San Suu Kyi, Jose Ramos-Horta, Kim Dae-Jung and Shirin Ebadi) went on to win to Nobel Peace Prize, whose laureate for 2017 will be announced on October 6.

Many analysts regard southern parts of India-held territory as the ‘ground zero’ of militancy in the region, with the highest number of attacks on security forces recorded last year. But 73 militants have allegedly been killed this year in this region alone, more than twice the average number in previous years.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2017

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