More than 40 people have been wounded in two days of clashes between Indian police and Kashmiris demonstrating over the recent deaths of two young Muslim women, police said on Sunday.
Police said they have launched an investigation into the “mystery deaths” of the women, aged 17 and 22. Their families have accused Indian security forces of abducting, raping and subsequently killing them.
Angry demonstrators on Sunday hurled stones at riot police and paramilitary forces, who retaliated by firing teargas shells and charging at them with batons.
“Over 40 people, including several policemen, have been wounded in two days of clashes between police and protesters,” a Muslim police officer said, requesting not to be named.
Protesters ransacked a government hospital and a number of other government buildings after the bodies of the women, who were related, were found on Saturday.
They were fished out from a shallow stream in Shopian town about 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of the summer capital Srinagar.
Their families said the bodies had marks of violence and their clothes were torn. An autopsy report will be available on Monday, a police statement said.
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 the cases and punish those found guilty.
Kashmir is in the grip of a nearly 20-year insurgency against Indian rule that has so far left more than 47,000 people dead by official count.
However, violence has dropped sharply since India and Pakistan started a peace process in January 2004 to resolve pending disputes, including Kashmir, which is divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both.
Senior Kashmir minister Ali Sagar said those involved in the two women’s killings will be “given exemplary punishment.”
A hardline separatist Syed Ali Geelani has called for a one-day token strike on Monday to mourn and protest the deaths, a press release said.
Meanwhile, a policeman and an Indian trooper were killed by militants in two separate strikes in northern Kashmir’s Baramulla district on Sunday, a police statement said.
Rebels also made an unsuccessful attempt on the life of a lesser-known pro-India leader, Feroz Malik, the police said, without giving further details.