Police Fire At Demonstrators In Indian Kashmir

26 June 2009
Agence France-Presse

Srinagar: Police in revolt-hit Indian Kashmir fired live rounds and teargas Friday at hundreds of demonstrators protesting over the alleged rape and murder of two Muslim women, police said. Ten people were hurt, including three who suffered bullet wounds, a police officer said, asking not to be named. 'Police had to use force to disperse violent demonstrators,' he said, adding the incident took place in southern Shopian, the hometown of a 17-year-old and her 22-year-old sister-in-law found dead in a stream on May 30. In summer capital Srinagar, schools, shops and offices were shut Friday to protest at the arrest of separatists who have led anti-India protests over the killings. Indian police initially insisted the women had drowned, despite allegations from family members that they were abducted, raped and murdered by members of the security forces deployed in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. Forensic tests later revealed they had indeed been raped, and police registered a murder case. Separatist leaders have either been jailed or placed under house arrest after leading huge protests. 'Today (Friday's) strike is to protest the arrest and detention of separatists for leading peaceful demonstrations,' read a statement by the hardline faction of Kashmir's main separatist alliance. The strike closed down shops, schools, banks and offices in Srinagar, witnesses said. Indian police and paramilitary forces were also out on the streets of Srinagar in large numbers to prevent protests, which have continued despite a ban on demonstrations. Despite the heavy security presence, scores of Kashmiris held a demonstration near the main mosque in Srinagar, witnesses said, prompting riot police to fire teargas and swing their batons. Protesters retreated into narrow lanes and pelted the police with stones. Earlier, riot police fired shots over the heads of Kashmiris protesting over the alleged harassment of a woman by a member of the federal paramilitary forces. Four policemen were hurt when the angry crowd attacked their vehicle, police said, adding that a case had been registered against the accused trooper. Kashmir is in the grip of a 19-year insurgency against New Delhi's rule that has left more than 43,000 people dead by official count. Human rights groups put the toll at 60,000 dead and 10,000 missing.