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AI claims Union Home Ministry refused to entertain it

The global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International (AI) said that Union Home Ministry refused to discuss the issue of Human Rights violations in India with its representatives.

india Updated: May 19, 2010 13:27 IST
Ashiq Hussain

The global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International (AI) on Tuesday said that Union Home Ministry refused to discuss the issue of Human Rights violations in India with its representatives.

A two-member AI team, on a five-day visit to Kashmir to assess human rights violations, said that government of India was not ready to discuss the human rights violations. "Before coming to Kashmir we sought an appointment with Union Home Ministry but they did not seem interested. We even approached joint secretary home but to no avail. The response from the secretary came that 'you can send your report to us'," said Bikramjeet Batra, India Campaigner of South Asia chapter of AI.

For the first time since armed insurgency erupted in Kashmir in 1989, AI has visited Kashmir to assess human rights violations. India has been continuously denying permission to the agency.

Batra along with another AI representative Ramesh Gopala Krishnan said that government did not allow them to visit Kashmir even this time but being Indian citizens they could not stop their visit.

"This is a compulsion for them. We are Indian citizens and they can't stop us from going anywhere we want to go," said Batra. "AI had continuously tried to visit Kashmir in last 20 years but often our representatives were denied VISA," he said.

The team would be meeting politicians (mainstream and separatists), human rights activists, victims of human rights violations, lawyers, journalists and civil society during the visit. After Kashmir the team is scheduled to visit Manipur.

Batra said that the team would be focusing on the preventive detention of people by the state particularly under Public Safety Act. "We wanted to start from somewhere so we are starting with preventive detention issue. Young children are detained under public safety act (PSA) in Kashmir," Batra claimed.

He said that AI wants a continued engagement in Kashmir. "We would be taking on other issues like armed forces special powers act (AFSPA), unmarked graves as well," said Batra. Amnesty in 2008 had demanded a probe into the claims by a local human rights group , coalition of civil societies which stated the "presence of hundreds of unmarked graves across valley of those people allegedly killed at the hands of security forces since 1989".

The team said that a probe into Shopian alleged rape and murder of two women was also on the agenda of Amnesty. "Shopian incident is a big issue even now," said Batra.

On second day of their visit today, the team met moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman, Yasin Malik. The team is also scheduled to visit chief secretary of the state S.S Kapoor and Director general of Police Kuldeep Khoda. The team said that they are also hopeful of meeting Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and hard line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.