Kashmiri activists Paveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz Sunday received the Rafto Prize for their human rights work.
Imroz is the President of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) while Parveena Ahangar is the founder and chairperson of the Association of Parent of Disappeared Persons (APDP).
Ahangar and Imroz delivered their keynotes at the University of Bergen on Saturday, the Norway-based Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, set up in 1986, said. “We got to hear Ahangar’s strong testimony and her personal struggle for human rights as a victim of the enforced disappearances in Kashmir.”
“I believed then as I believe now, that it is only through collective struggle that we can find our loved ones,” the foundation quoted Ahangar saying.
“With this recognition, I hope the international human rights community is more aware of the human rights violations in Kashmir – enforced disappearances, rape of women, torture, extra-judicial killings, and the daily injustices we face.”
Imroz spoke about his work as a human rights lawyer “in a region which has the highest concentration of armed forces in the world,” the foundation said.
The militarization is affecting every aspect of life, he said. In this context, he said, “organising civil society is important. As we are witnessing that governments across the world do not prioritize protection of human rights as their agenda, the global civil society has to speak more loudly and boldly on rights of people across the world.”
Parveena broke down during her speech and insisted that the voices of the Kashmiris are not being heard despite decades of struggle and sacrifice, media reports said.
She urged that crimes against humanity in Kashmir be stopped and that Kashmiris be given their rights.
Imroz in his address said that around 8,000 people have gone missing in custody with no trace anywhere. “They have no knowledge of the whereabouts of their loved ones. Questions are being raised constantly but nobody answers them,” Imroz was quoted by reports as saying.
In the subsequent question and answer session, Imroz said that India’s attitude is not re-conciliatory and it is not interested in a non-violent solution to the Kashmir issue.
Prominent Dutch human rights activist Marjan Lucas expressed hope that the award would give more awareness to the condition of human rights in Kashmir.