Kashmir pledges action on murders

12 August 2009

London: The government in Indian-administered Kashmir has offered to hand over a criminal case to federal investigators amid protests over its handling.A senior minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, made the announcement in the parliament of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday. The opposition had complained about allegations that there had been official tampering with DNA samples of two women who were raped and murdered. The case has triggered widespread street protests. 'An accident'Last month High Court Chief Justice Barin Ghosh assured the families of the two women that 'we will get to the bottom of this matter and bring the culprits to justice'. The government's offer to call in India's top investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may be an indication of official determination to deliver on this promise. Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has led protests Shopian - the area where the rapes and murders took place - has seen days of protests and strikes over the case. Four policemen and a forensic laboratory official have been suspended following an inquiry into the case. The bodies of the two women were discovered in a canal in Shopian on 30 May. The government initially maintained that they had died in an accident and that they had not been raped or killed. But the police later said they had been raped and murdered. The incident seriously challenged the credibility of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who ordered a judicial inquiry into the case following days of violent protests in the Kashmir Valley. Mr Rather said the government would consult the high court before ordering a CBI investigation. The opposition did not oppose the government's proposal. The allegations of tampering with the DNA samples of the two dead women were confirmed in a report submitted to the high court on Wednesday. It visibly upset Justice Ghosh, who is monitoring the investigation. 'We will not allow any person to snatch the truth from us. We may be late but we'll get to the truth,' he said. Relatives of the two dead women told the court that the truth could be known 'within hours' if only the investigating authorities had the will to expose it.