More Protests Over Kashmir Rape, Murder Charge

2 June 2009
Agence France-Presse

Srinagar: Indian authorities Tuesday deployed thousands of police in Kashmir to prevent more demonstrations over the alleged rape and murder by security forces of two young Muslim women, witnesses said. Police said they were probing the deaths of the 17-year-old woman and her 22-year-old sister-in-law, whose bodies were found in a shallow stream Saturday. Their families said the corpses bore marks of violence and their clothes were torn. They have accused security forces of abducting, raping and killing the women. But the state government said that according to initial investigations the deaths appeared to have been caused by drowning and no foul play was involved. A judicial probe has been ordered by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, but it has failed to cool tempers. Police and paramilitary forces shut down parts of the summer capital Srinagar and southern Shopian town, where the deaths were reported, after separatists called for more protests and extended a strike call by two days. The strike closed down shops, schools, banks and offices for the second day running in Srinagar and other towns in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. Anti-India sentiment runs so deep in the valley, where there has been a two-decade insurgency against Indian rule, that even the suspicion of violence against locals, especially women, is enough to stir major demonstrations. Since Saturday, over 100 people have been wounded in clashes between police and angry protesters in the women's home town of Shopian, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Srinagar, as well as in Srinagar. Indian security forces battling militancy in Kashmir have frequently been accused of committing human rights violations in the scenic Himalayan region. Officials say they investigate all cases and punish those found guilty. The insurgency has left more than 47,000 people dead, according to official figures