Violent protests in Kashmir over death of women, probe ordered (Lead)

June 1st, 2009 - 7:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, June 1 (IANS) Angry mobs in the Jammu and Kashmir capital Monday pelted stones at police to protest the alleged rape and killing of two women in Shopian district last week. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has ordered a judicial probe into the deaths of the women.
The state government has also ordered immediate transfer of the district magistrate of Shopian M.R. Thakur in the wake of the Valley-wide protests.

The deaths of the two women, Nilofar Jan, 22, and her niece, Asiya Jan, 17, have caused a Valley-wide outrage. The women were found dead in a stream near Shopian town Saturday after they had gone to collect fodder from the fields. Their relatives and locals have alleged that the two were raped and later murdered.

Addressing the media here, Omar Abdullah said: “I will rather lose my chair, but not my credibility. The government has ordered a judicial probe into the suspicious deaths of two women in Shopian last week.

“Justice (retired) Muzaffar Jan will carry out the probe and give his report within one month. The government will not spare anyone if found involved in the unfortunate incident,” the chief minister said.

He also said that the district magistrate of Shopian had failed in the discharge of his duties and was being shifted.

M.R. Thakur has been replaced by A.M. Khanday, district magistrate Ganderbal.

The administration has ordered a post-mortem on the bodies to ascertain the charges.

“We are waiting the findings from the forensic lab to ascertain any foul play in the deaths of the two women,” Masaud Samoon, Kashmir divisional commissioner, told the media here.

Despite official assurances of stringent punishment to the guilty if the rape allegations are proved right, mobs resorted to widespread violence in summer capital Srinagar and south Kashmir Shopian districts.

Over two dozen incidents of stone pelting by irate mobs throughout the city brought life to a grinding halt here today even as the police and paramilitary forces used restrained force to quell the protests.

In Shopian town an angry mob chased a police party that took refuge in a house, which was extensively damaged by the mob before additional re-enforcements were rushed there to rescue the police party.

Mobs in Shopian also damaged the house of the local legislator even as another mob tried to torch the tourist huts at the Aharbal health resort, 10 km ahead of Shopian town.

Timely action by the police prevented the arsonists from destroying the tourist huts at Aharbal.

Daylong pitched battles were fought by the protesters and the police in old city areas of Nowhatta, Bohri Kadal, Rajouri Kadal, Safa Kadal, Naid Kadal and the uptown areas of Bemina, Hyderpora by-pass, Rambagh, Dalgate and Brain.

Angry youth defied strict curfew like restrictions in the old city areas to indulge in violence against the security forces.

Meanwhile, the senior hardline separatist leader, Syed Ali Geelani who had called for Monday’s protest shutdown has renewed his strike call for the next two days and asked the women to carry out peaceful protests against what he claimed “blatant outrage against Kashmiri women by the Indian security forces”.

All the senior separatist leaders including Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Muhammad Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah have been placed under house arrest by the authorities to prevent their participation in the protests.

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