Right to Education Act (RTE) has been enacted by the Parliament of India since 4th August, 2009 which describes the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children. But there are places where instead of getting free education, you may’ve to pay something way more precious than money i.e., your life. Areas of Jammu and Kashmir fall under such an inferno.

Despite such struggles there is a lady in the state who was brave enough to provide quality education to children and improved the conditions of women in the abode of dead. Dilafrose Qazi started part-time courses for women, and eventually set up the SSM College of Engineering, the first private engineering college in all of Kashmir.

“My biggest achievement has been to get people to embrace, as well as pursue education. I don’t believe in giving alms.” – Dilafrose Qazi

Dilafrose’s life is a heart sinking piece of inspiration for the whole world. This woman persisted single-handedly trying to help women and children in the conflict-ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir, despite lack of security from the militants, rage of religious fanatics and harsh weather conditions.

“My biggest achievement has been to get people to embrace, as well as pursue education. I don’t believe in giving alms.” – Dilafrose Qazi

Unable to land into a government job, she decided to start her own venture. From her rented house in Rajbagh area of Srinagar, she started her journey with vocational courses for women in 1988. She taught girls cutting, cooking, stitching and shorthand.

Dilafrose Qazi was born in Baramulla in the Kashmir Valley. Her family was poorly educated and no one ever had a proper schooling experience at the first place. Dilafrose’s father made leather garments, and her mother wove pashmina shawls. But her mother was determined to nurture her children with a proper education and send her children to a free government school. Qazi completed her Master’s in Education as well as got a degree in Law from the Kashmir University.  Unable to land into a government job, she decided to start her own venture. From her rented house in Rajbagh area of Srinagar, she started her journey with vocational courses for women in 1988. She taught girls cutting, cooking, stitching and shorthand.  That was also the year she got married. Her venture picked up, but so did the spleen of the militants and religious zealots.  She had to pay if she wanted to grow further and since Dilafrose had no other source of income, she had to shell out ransom to keep her classes going. Even her family was not spared; her refusal to the diktats of her antagonists led  to the kidnapping of her father, brothers and husband. After her family members were kidnapped, she was told that if she didn’t give up her cause, that anyone who dared to unlock the college doors would be killed. But still she did not give up. 

She relocated to a safer place and procured a small land in the backward Baramullah district.  Still there were agitated religious leaders who would impede her from educating women. But she was resolute enough of her goal.

Qazi even opened a sister college in Haryana for Kashmiris, helping ensure that the next generation would have sources of livelihood. She was also nominated alongside 90 other brave women from India for 1000 women for Nobel Peace Prize.

 “There was no question of surrendering before anyone with vested interest. Instead of entering into a war of words, I opened a free school for the local children and made people, especially those who opposed me, to realise the importance of educating women” she says. That small school today stands to be a hefty engineering college.

Qazi continues to set examples for the women, as well as the men of her community. In pursuit of this goal, she has established schools for girls, an engineering and technology college as well as embroidery classes for women, camps for the medical and psychological treatment of women battered by the daily violence going around them, a dairy farm for rape victims, and rehabilitation programmes for militancy-hit families. Qazi even opened a sister college in Haryana for Kashmiris, helping ensure that the next generation would have sources of livelihood. She was also nominated alongside 90 other brave women from India for 1000 women for Nobel Peace Prize.

Qazi believes that to provide education is the best weapon to fight any evil. From fighting against militants to fighting against her own people, losing her entire family and staking her own life every single second, Dilafrose Qazi has set an outrage among the natives of Jammu and Kashmir to raise their voices against the orthodox and fight for their basic human rights.

 

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