It was a cloudy day and the drizzle had already started. People huddled inside the warm blankets in the spring of April to escape the untimely cold. A woman left her cozy bed, despite being ill, and went out to monitor the election process with her team. As the vehicle moved forward, approaching the Chandigam, Lolab area of Kashmir, there was a loud bang.
Everything went dark.
The budding spring flowers drenched with the April sprinkles turned red.
Aasiya Jeelani was no more.
Mandela once said, “You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” Aasiya Jeelani was one of those peacemakers who chose the path of struggle and walked, undeterred, to bring a positive change in the society.
A Journalist and a Human Rights Activist, Aasiya was born on February 9, 1974 inShehr-e-Khaas of Srinagar city. As a kid, she went to Presentation Convent High School to do her schooling and finished her Bachelors in Science from Government College for Women, Srinagar. After her Masters in Mass Communication and Journalism from University of Kashmir, she emerged as the Aasiya we know.
Started her career with Agence France-Presse (AFP), Kashmir Bureau, as a trainee reporter in the year 1998 and moved to Delhi in 2001 to do her internship with largest circulating Indian Daily, The Times of India. The next step was to join Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) as its active member. Aasiya was also a member of Kashmiri Women’s Initiative for Peace and Disarmament (KWIPD) and reported for Informative Missive, a monthly newsletter of Public Commission on Human Rights.
A training session on ‘Self Help Group’ (SHG) formation in Chennai in June 2003 and a conference on Peace Management, organized by the ‘CM Partners Negotiation and Conflict Management Advice’ at the Roger Fisher House, Cambridge, USA in August had set the ball rolling. It was during this period that Aasiya took the initiative of launching a newsletter magazine, dedicated to the women of Kashmir in conflict. The first issue of this exclusive magazine was circulated in January 2003. She became the editor and continued to edit it till her last breath.
‘Voices Unheard’ was the first of its kind magazine that highlighted the issues of women caught in the circle of conflict Quoting Aasiya, “Women, being the most vulnerable, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict. Women have unique ability to bridge seemingly insurmountable divides.” The quarterly magazine was an attempt to focus on the plight of women in Kashmir.
Aasiya’s presence in far-flung areas to report on the violence against women that usually goes unnoticed was a step forward. It was an attempt to come out of the veils of ‘normalcy’ and document the atrocities of women living under the shadows of despair.
On 20th April, 2004, while on election monitoring in Kupwara, the voice of the voiceless became silent. A landmine blast in Chandigam, Lolab snatched her of her vibrant youth.
Aasiya continues to symbolize peace and resilience for women, both as a journalist and a Human Rights Activist.
As a journalist, she created a path for herself and for other women to follow; dared to report the truth first hand. As a Human Rights Activist, she championed the cause of Kashmiri women.
People come, they go, but there are few who leave a permanent mark in our lives. As one is drowned in the memories of the past, memories that are scarred by the absence of the people who matter, every moment is drenched with pain and longing to bring them back. A helpless sigh, and life goes on. But people who matter live along.
“This newsletter is a salutation and tribute to those women who fight with courage and deserve all praises and applaud, but go unnoticed even in the eyes of their own people,” Aasiya wrote in her first editorial. This is our tribute to the valiant.
Rest in peace.
Aasiya’s work at www.voicesunheard1.wordpress.com
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