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Amnesty in visa row

New Delhi, July 25: India has refused permission to the chief of Amnesty International to visit the country, apparently irked by the international civil liberty outfit’s “biased” approach to reports of alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.

According to reports that appeared in a section of the press, Bangladesh-born Irene Khan Zubeida, who took over as Amnesty chief in 2001, had expressed her wish to visit India on July 9.

When she applied for visa at the Indian high commission in London, officials refused her permission to travel to India. No reason was specified.

The reports also suggested that Zubeida was denied visa because of Amnesty’s reported plan to mobilise support to press the government to agree to a retrial in the Best Bakery case and other riots-related incidents in Gujarat. The accused in the bakery case were let off after witnesses turned hostile.

South Block, however, said the decision was taken in early June, much before a move had gained momentum across the country to demand a retrial in the bakery case.

Officials also emphasised that, as a practice, no reasons are ever given if visa requests are turned down.

But sources said Zubeida, who is well-known in Delhi for her anti-Indian stance, was refused permission to drive home the point that Delhi was unhappy with the outfit’s “biased” attitude in covering human rights abuses in the country, particularly those reported from Kashmir.

Zubeida and Delhi have clashed in the past, too. In the early 1990s, when she was posted here on an UN assignment, Delhi had asked for her recall apparently over her anti-India stance.

Sources said during a visit to Dhaka at the height of attacks on Hindu minorities there, Zubeida, by then the Amnesty chief, had refused to comment on the plea that she was on a private visit.

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