Amnesty International on rare visit to Kashmir
New Delhi has allowed a team from rights watchdog Amnesty International to visit strife-torn Kashmir for the first time since an armed rebellion against Indian rule broke out over two decades ago.
The two-member team arrived earlier this week to assess the human rights situation in the region where officials say more than 47,000 people have been killed since 1989.
Local human rights groups put the toll at about 60,000 dead or missing.
Amnesty International has in the past reported on human rights violations in the disputed Himalayan region and accused both government forces and separatist rebels of abuses against
the people of Kashmir.
At least 209 Kashmiri Hindus, locally known as Pandits, have been killed and tens of thousands fled their ancestral homes since violence broke out in India’s only Muslim-majority region.
Government forces fighting insurgency in Kashmir have been accused by locals of killing innocent people in fake gun battles, passing them off as militants killed to earn cash rewards and medals.
The two members of the rights group — both Indian — met separatists, victims, pro-India politicians and Pundits in the region.
Kashmir’s hard line separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani said the human rights group should have sent “neutral individuals not those with Indian nationality.”
But moderate separatists welcomed the rare visit by Amnesty.
“We want that this organisation should bring out the real situation, make it clear and take a stand on the issue then,” Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said.
Though violence involving separatist militants and government troops has fallen considerably in Kashmir, sentiments against India still run deep.
But people are still killed in almost daily gun battles and near daily street protests in the last two years are giving new life to the separatist movement.
By allowing Amnesty International in Kashmir, is India lifting veil on a region where two-decades of unrest have brought untold misery?