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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
India denies Amnesty visas
A muslim woman whose house was burnt down
Months of rioting has led to criticism of the government
The Indian Government has refused visas to a team from the human rights group Amnesty International to investigate communal killings in Gujarat.


They wanted to go on a fact-finding mission which... could be done through Amnesty's strong network with their local associates in India

Press counsellor Navdeep Suri

A two-member team was due to visit India at end of July - but its members have not been granted visas.

Amnesty's spokesperson said visas were refused, despite the fact that the application was made before an agreed deadline.

"This refusal damages the image of both the Indian and the Gujarati governments before their citizens and the international community," added the spokesperson.

The state was the scene of some of the worst Hindu-Muslim violence in a decade, and the state government has faced widespread criticism for its handling of the situation.

Reasons for refusal

Diplomats at the Indian High Commission in London said they felt that a visit by a two-member team from London was unnecessary.

Families leaving home during Gujarat violence
Violence displaced hundreds of families
Navdeep Suri, the Press and Information Counsellor at the mission said: "They wanted to go on a fact-finding mission, which we felt could be done through Amnesty's strong network with their local associates in India."

Mr Suri said Gujarat had been under continuous scrutiny by various local and international organisations since the beginning of violence, and that no attempt was made to block their work.

However, Amnesty International has interpreted the refusal to issue visas as hindrance of its investigation of the Gujarat violence.

"A government which fully accepts its responsibilities in protecting its citizens and upholds their constitutional rights to life and equality does not shy away from international scrutiny," added Amnesty's spokesperson.

Months of violence

The violence, which took place last February, led to the deaths of an 2,000 people, according to human rights groups.

It erupted after an attack on a train carrying Hindu activists killed 58 people. Most of those killed in the subsequent violence were Muslims.

The rioting in Gujarat brought the Hindu nationalist government in the state and in Delhi under heavy fire for its alleged failure to do more against the perpertors of the violence.

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, resigned last week to pave way for fresh elections in Gujarat.

Mr Modi had been severely criticised for his handling of the situation, amid charges that the state's police force had done nothing to prevent it and may have actually encouraged it.

Violence has continued in the state sporadically since February.

See also:

05 Mar 02 | South Asia
03 Jul 02 | South Asia
19 Jul 02 | South Asia
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