Pandits slam Abdullah government’s handling of Shopian deaths

June 14th, 2009 - 5:35 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 14 (IANS) A Kashmiri Pandit migrants group Sunday criticised the Jammu and Kashmir government for its handling of the rape and murder of two women in Shopian near Srinagar last month which had sparked off widespread protests, saying it had let a “law and order issue” get politicised.
Roots in Kashmir, a group of Kashmiri Pandits who had fled the Valley at the peak of militancy 20 years ago, condemned the incident and said that a law and order issue had been spun into controversy with separatists ranting “about Azadi (freedom) and removing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA) from the valley”, instead of delivering justice to the victims’ family.

“Unequivocally we condemn the state government’s handling of this entire episode. What was ideally a law an order problem has now spun into a huge controversy… the chief minister should also have resigned for the way he led Kashmir to one more crisis,” a statement released by the group here said.

Bodies of 17-year-old Asiya and 22-year-old Nilofer were recovered from a shallow stream in Shopian, 50 km from Srinagar, May 30. The locals and the family members of the victims alleged that they were abducted, raped and killed by security personnel following which massive protests erupted in the valley — a forensic report June 9 confirmed severe physical assault and rape as the cause of death.

The state government had earlier ruled out foul play in the death of the women but Chief Minister Omar Abdullah later said he had been misled by the district administration. The state government also transferred Shopian’s police chief. The state police has also constituted a three-member special investigation team to probe the killing.

One person was killed and over 130 people were injured in the protests. The valley also observed a continuous shutdown for eight days and normalcy returned only Tuesday.

The members noted that Nilofer’s husband, Shakeel Ahmed has said time and again that he only wants “justice”.

“The separatists were quick to latch on to the issue. The calls for justice soon got lost in the din of cries for Azadi and removal for AFSPA,” said Aditya Raj Kaul, a youth activist who has previously initiated mass protests and campaigns for justice in the Priyadarshini Mattoo and Jessica Lal cases.

“In this hour of grief we are with the family of the victims. May God give them power to overcome this grief. Although we are in exile, yet we mourn alongside the family of the victims,” said the group’s founder member Rashneek Kher.

“The need of the hour is that the chief minister personally meets the family and apologises for his errant comments and asks the commission to submit a report in a time bound manner and then acts fast to punish the culprits of this sick crime,” Kaul said.

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