Begum zaffar Ali
By Sufaya Yousuf
Begum zaffar Ali was born in 1901 to Khan Bahar Agha Syed Hussain Thakur, the Judicial Minister during Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule. She begun her career as a teacher in 1925 at the Girls MissionHighSchool (present day Mallinson Girls School). A staunch believer of women’srights, she went door to door to raise awareness regarding girls’ education in the valley and empower them through.Her speeches at public events inspired women who started sending their girls to schools.Begum zaffar Ali was the first woman matriculate of kashmir who went on to become Inspector of schools in kashmir. She was an educationist,women
liberation activist, Deputy Director ofEducation and later a legislator in the Indian state of jammu and kashmir. She was associated with the activities of the All India women’s conference and was its Secretary before partition, but a chance meeting with Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his sister,Fatima Jinnah in kashmir, who would later visit the family for banquets, influenced her and she left the conference to concentrate her efforts in women’s liberation movement in the pre-independantIndia.Begum zaffar Ali was married to Agha zaffar Ali Qizilbash, a scion of an aristocratic Afghan family settled in kashmir. The couple had three sons, Agha Nasir Ali, a civil servant who retired as Labour Secretary of Indiain1977, Agha shaukat
Ali, who joined civil services of Pakistanduring the partition of India in 1947 and Agha Ashraf Ali, an academician who retired as the Commissioner of higher education in Jammu andKashmir.As a chief inspector, she also introduced midday meals in school. Before her retirement, she was also appointed as the Deputy Director Education Kashmir for the relentlessness efforts in the matter of empowerment. She was also a member of the social welfare Advisory Board, Jammu and Kashmir.Begum Zaffar Ali also established a technical training centre for women of limited means in the valley, in the capacity of Deputy chairman of the advisory board. Between1977-82, she became a member
of the legislative Assembly and tried tobring out various reforms for education and women’s emancipation along with other social issues. The policies she endorsed were by and large progressive and directed towards the uplifting ofwomen.Begum zaffar Ali died in 1999 at the age of 99 at the residence of her son Agha Shaukat Ali in the United States of America. Her grandson Agha Shahi Ali an award- winning kashmiri American poet, wrote a poem in memory of her which was included in the collection “ The Veiled Suite: the Collected Poems”. The Government of India awarded her the fourth highest civilian honour of Padma shri in1987.However, renounced the award due to what she termed the undemocratic policies of the IndianGovernment in Jammu and Kashmir.
Begum Zaffar Ali will be remembered forever for her efforts in the enlightenment of women. Such kind of people are difficult to find. Jammu and Kashmir is lucky in producing such kind of personalities who live for others.
The writer SUFAYA YOUSUF is Currently pursuing bachelor’s degree atsrinager