Amnesty Team On Rare Visit To Indian Kashmir: Officials17 May 2010
Srinagar: A two-member team from Amnesty International arrived Monday on a rare visit to Indian-ruled Kashmir to assess the human rights situation in the revolt-hit region, officials said. It is for the first time since the eruption of an insurgency against Indian rule in 1989 that New Delhi has allowed the rights watchdog to visit the scenic region. 'The two-member team arrived in Srinagar on an assessment tour today,' a police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity. 'They will be here for few days,' he said, adding local human rights activists were coordinating their visits to various places. The two members - both Indian - visited the house of jailed separatist Shabir Shah and held a two-hour meeting with his wife. 'I told them how my husband has been arrested on and off on meaningless pretexts,' Bilkees Shah told AFP. Police say the separatist has been booked for instigating anti-India protests. 'I also apprised them of grave human rights violations taking place in Kashmir at the hands of security forces,' she said, urging Amnesty to play its role in securing the release of political prisoners. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is a leading separatist and chief cleric at Kashmir's main mosque, welcomed the rare visit by Amnesty. 'Amnesty should focus on the ground situation in the territory, particularly the illegal detention of political figures and the disappearances of over 9,000 persons,' Farooq said in a statement. Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. Rights groups have accused troops of committing human rights violations in the region. Indian officials say they investigate all the claims. Militants are also accused of rights violations. The insurgency has left more than 47,000 people dead by official count. Rights groups put the toll at twice as high.