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Kashmir: Rape and murder cases touch off anti-India anger

Residents suspect the involvement of widely resented security forces. But protests may not derail the relative peace of recent years.

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A Kashmiri demonstrator shouts "we want freedom" next to a placard with the pictures of the two women allegedly raped and murdered by Indian security forces, during a protest in Shopian, near Srinagar Wednesday. Thousands of people participated in the march to protest the May 29th incident, according to officials.

Fayaz Kabli/REUTERS

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"Azadi!" – freedom! – yell the angry young men gathered in the road running through Shopian, an orchard-fringed village in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Protests like this have spread across the state since the recent rape and murder of two young women here – and suspected involvement of security forces.

But as the shouts of youths here suggest, the demonstrations have become about more than justice for two murdered women. They have tapped into the continuing desire for freedom from Indian rule here in the country's only Muslim-majority state.

Government response angers locals

Immediately after the bodies of two young Muslim women, Nilofer Shakeel and Asiya Jan, were found here on May 30, locals suspected the involvement of security forces from nearby bases.

Anger rippled through the state when, only days after the incident, the state's chief minister, Omar Abdullah, said medical tests indicated the women had been neither raped nor murdered. Later forensic tests showed that they had, and Mr. Abdullah ordered a high level judicial inquiry into the crimes.

But by then the murders had triggered statewide protests. At least two people were killed and hundreds wounded. In Shopian this week, the protests continue.

This week, authorities said they would follow the recommendations of an interim report from the inquiry and suspend four police officers for destroying evidence and "dereliction of duty." The final report is due at the end of the month.

In Shopian, people say they will continue to protest until the culprits are locked up. "So far, the authorities have done nothing to help us at all," says Shakeel Ahmed, Ms. Shakeel's wretched-looking husband as he sits at home. Nearby, village children have gathered to play with the couple's toddler.

Desire for independence persists

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