Amnesty back in Valley, separatists protest: They are Indians

A two-member team of Amnesty International (AI) landed in Srinagar for a first-ever visit on Monday, with the freedom to "go anywhere" and "meet anyone" to assess the human rights situation in Kashmir.

The visit by the high-profile international human rights group has come after years of persuasion and lobbying with the Indian government, but the hardline faction of the Hurriyat questioned its credibility, saying the team comprised "Indians" whose report would be "dictated" by the Union Home Ministry.

"The team landed in Srinagar today," a senior police officer told The Indian Express. "They are free to go anywhere in Kashmir and meet anyone."

In Srinagar, the AI officials, Bikramjeet Batra and Ramesh Gopalakrishnan, are expected to focus on the preventive detention of political prisoners and the laws that allow such detention. They are likely to meet some youth who have been released after being arrested under the Public Safety Act.

The officials met the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) on Monday, and also went to the residence of separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah.

They plan to meet separatist leaders and the government officials tomorrow.

Hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani told The Indian Express that AI should have sent a "non-partisan" team to the Valley. "The (Amnesty) team comprises Indians and they have come after permission from the Indian Home Ministry. We don't trust them. Indians, no matter whether they are in the Intelligence Bureau, Amnesty or the UN, give priority to their national interest," Geelani said.

"The report of Amnesty International would be a Home Ministry dictation," Geelani said. "We will put forward our point of view (to them). But in the end you will see what report they (Amnesty) prepare. That would be a dictation of the Home Ministry."

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