Two Indian Kashmir activists win Norway′s Rafto Prize for human rights
Two Indian activists from the heavily militarised region of Kashmir on Thursday won Norway's Rafto Prize for human rights for their long-term struggle against violence in the disputed territory, the jury announced.
Parveena Ahanger, nicknamed "The Iron Lady of Kashmir", founded and leads 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 (JKCCS) which promotes human rights and non-violence. It has documented the authorities' use of torture in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
"Parveena Ahangar and Imroz Parvez have long been at the forefront of the struggle against arbitrary abuses of power in a region of India 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 real Kashmir
Poets call it one of the most beautiful places on earth. Analysts consider it to be one of the most dangerous areas in the world. But what is Kashmir in reality? By Onkar Singh Janoti
Multicultural: Kashmir is well-known for its cultural and linguistic diversity. The Kashmir Valley has a Muslim majority. Hindus are predominant in Jammu while Ladakh is primarily Buddhist. But interminable violence has damaged the very fabric of society
Saffron: Kashmir is also famous for its saffron. India is the third largest exporter of saffron following Iran and Spain
'Switzerland of the East': Kashmir boasts some of the world's most beautiful flowering meadows and snow-capped peaks. Many people call it "The Switzerland of the East". On average, Jammu and Kashmir have welcomed over 1 million tourists in recent years
Under a blanket of snow: Kashmir wears pure white in winter. Many areas are perfect for winter sports but lack infrastructure. Islamist violence remains the biggest challenge
Rivers: the Himalayan part of Kashmir is the source of fresh water for more than 20 rivers, among which the Indus, Neelum and Ravi are the biggest. All these rivers flow from India into Pakistan
Wood: Kashmir is also famous for its wood, the Kashmir willow. Experts believe that it is the best wood for making a cricket bat. Kashmiri wood is also used for building boats
Sufism: Sufism, the mystical dimension of Islam, reached Kashmir in the 16th century. The Sufi tradition is associated with religious harmony. Many of the saints held dear by Kashmiris were Sufi monks. Sufi singers such as Abida Parveen are popular to this day
Kashmir on the silver screen: Kashmir used to be the most popular location of the Indian film industry during the 1980s. It was a golden era for Kashmir. However, the valley has witnessed violence on an almost daily basis ever since. These days, only one or two films are shot on location in Kashmir every year
Fighting in the clouds: the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan has been going on 1948 and experts see little hope of a solution in the foreseeable future. Both countries spend lots of resources on their half of the divided territory, with their respective armies squared off on what some view as the highest battlefield in the world, the Siachen glacier (5,753m)
The prize of $20,000 (17,750 euros) will formally be presented on 5 November in the western Norwegian town of Bergen.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947, but both claim the water-rich territory in full.
From 1947-1949 the two nations fought over Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state which ended up being divided along a de facto border still disputed today. A second war over Kashmir in 1965 ended in stalemate. In late 1989 Muslim separatist groups launched an anti-India uprising in Kashmir that was later taken over by Islamist guerrillas.
Since then the insurrection has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians.
Between 8,000 and 10,000 people have gone missing since the beginning of the escalation 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 6 October. (AFP)
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