Police say women were raped before Kashmir unrest | india | Hindustan Times
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Police say women were raped before Kashmir unrest

india Updated: Jun 08, 2009 13:23 IST
Police say women were raped before Kashmir unrest

Forensic tests confirmed the rape of two young women whose deaths sparked more than a week of violent protests in Indian Kashmir, police said, increasing the potential for more unrest on Monday by demonstrators who blame Indian troops for the killings.

Security forces erected metal barricades and laid down razor wire to block access to and from Srinagar, the divided Himalayan region’s main city. Separatist groups have called for a protest march Monday to Shopian, a town 35 miles (60 kilometers) south of Srinagar, to express solidarity with the families of the dead women.

Protests erupted May 30 after the bodies of a 17-year-old girl and her 22-year-old sister-in-law were found in a shallow stream in Shopian, their hometown. Locals accused Indian soldiers of raping and killing the women, sparking angry street protests that left one person dead and more than 400 injured. A general strike called by separatist groups has shuttered businesses, government offices and schools across the Kashmir Valley.

Human rights groups and separatist leaders have long accused the Indian military of using rape and sexual molestation to intimidate the local population as it wages a 20-year battle against separatist insurgents.

A police statement released late Sunday said forensic tests confirmed that the two women had been raped but that the cause of death had not been determined. Police were investigating the rapes but no one had been charged, the statement said.

India’s military and paramilitary forces have not responded to the allegations.

The protests continued even after the state government ordered an independent judicial investigation into the deaths. Rights groups say such probes rarely yield results and are often intended only to calm public anger.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, a Muslim-majority territory divided between India and Pakistan that is claimed in its entirety by both. The South Asian neighbors have fought two of three wars over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947.