Murder halts brutal reign of burqa-clad morality police in Kashmir

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The Independent Online

Clad in all-enveloping burqas, the Dukhtaran-e-Millat, or Daughters of the Nation, have sought to impose their version of Islam on the city of Srinagar. They have closed restaurants where they found unmarried couples together, smashed alcohol bottles and ordered Internet cafes to remove individual computer booths in case unmarried couples snatch a moment of intimacy.

But now the religious caped crusaders have run into a bit of bother of their own with the real police. The group's leader, Asiya Andrabi, and six other members have been arrested on charges that include attempted murder, after a vicious attack on a woman in a restaurant.

The activists forced their way into the restaurant and attacked the woman with a curtain rod, Senior Superintendent of Police Muneer Khan told the Indian Express.

The over-zealous vigilantes had attacked a woman who was innocent of any wrongdoing even by their standards. The victim was sitting with a man - but he happened to be her husband.

Ms Andrabi is a well-known separatist leader who has previously spent a year in an Indian jail and whose husband is presently in jail, accused of militancy.

The Dukhtaran-e-Millat came to prominence in the 1990s when they launched a campaign to force Kashmiri women to wear burqas, spraying paint on those who did not.

Although the campaign achieved short-lived success, in the longer term it has been a resounding failure - burqas are a rare sight in liberal Kashmir.

Ms Andrabi, who has in the past voiced praise for Osama bin Laden, has sought to link her campaign to the Kashmir conflict. "Indians are fighting on several fronts in Kashmir and the moral degradation in our Muslim society is part of their plan," she claimed before her arrest. "We decided to counter this."