Kashmiri women not murdered, India says

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The Independent Online

Two Kashmiri women whose deaths sparked anti-Indian protests were not raped or murdered, Indian investigators concluded yesterday.

The Central Bureau of Investigation told the High Court in Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir that the women drowned in a canal.

The deaths of Neelofar Jan, 22, and her sister-in-law Asiya Jan, 17, in May ignited violent demonstrations by Kashmiris in the Himalayan region, where militant groups have fought Indian forces for independence or a union with Pakistan since 1989. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the uprising and subsequent Indian crackdown.

The women disappeared as they walked home from their family's apple orchard in the town of Shopian, 35 miles south of Srinagar. Officials at first said the women drowned because their bodies had been found half a mile apart along a stream, but police later said the two had been raped and killed. The remains were exhumed by the CBI in September in a fresh attempt to determine what happened. In its report to the High Court, the bureau accused 13 people, including six doctors, five lawyers and two civilians, of fabricating a false case. It said the doctors gave false reports of post-mortem examinations and sent slides for DNA analysis that had been tampered with.

However, the investigating agency absolved four police officers who were arrested on charges of destroying evidence, saying the allegations against them were not substantiated.

But campaigners and the women's families claimed the CBI had hushed up the case to protect the guilty.

Abdul Rashid Dalal, the president of Majlis-e-Mashawarat, a local group demanding justice for the victims, rejected the findings, saying: "We have lost faith in all Indian institutions, including the CBI, for delivery of justice in the rape and murder of the two women. Justice for the victims cannot be expected from a system that perpetrates the crime."