Indien: Parveena Ahangar

Parveena Ahangar has been the voice of the "disappeared" for over a decade. When her son was abducted by the army in Kashmir, she promptly formed the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons.

— Parveena Ahangar

Parveena Ahangar (born approximately 1957) is an extraordinary woman who has risen above personal trauma to rally against injustice. The mother of a son who "disappeared", she formed the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) to fight this pernicious form of human rights' abuse. Thanks to the APDP's efforts, the government has finally acknowledged that almost 4000 people have vanished in custody, and has promised to bring this practice to an end.

Parveena Ahangar is an ordinary housewife from a lower-middle-class family whose young son "disappeared" after being abducted by three army officers from outside his house when he had just returned from school. Parveena brazenly demanded information on his whereabouts, and later formed an association of parents whose children had become victims of "enforced disappearances". The APDP is tenacious in demanding information on disappearances during the 16 years of conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. The organization, which brings together nearly 450 such families, finally forced the government to acknowledge that almost 4000 people have disappeared, although its numbers are disputed by civil society groups. Parveena relies on advocacy, visiting the relatives of the disappeared, helping them work out strategies for action and peaceful forms of agitation. She also provides counseling to traumatized women by holding regular meetings with them. She formed the APDP in 1994, when disappearances were peaking, and the existence of such a watchdog body was chancy. Parveena persuaded the families of the disappeared, mostly uneducated people, to persist in demanding information. Her actions were timely, since the rate of enforced disappearances in Kashmir grew exponentially after the 1989 outbreak of armed conflict in the valley. Parveena's work was fraught with risks. At a demonstration in Srinagar in 1998, the security forces shot dead a prominent woman APDP member on the spot. Parveena still has no information about her son's fate. She is not reconciled to his loss, demanding accountability through her movement and the courts.

Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP)