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Sunday, 12 August, 2001, 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
Patrols against Kashmir acid attacks
Veiled schoolgirls leave college in Srinagar
More women are now covering up
India has stepped up police patrols in Indian-administered Kashmir to prevent acid attacks on women who do not follow the Islamic dress code.

Dozens of armed women officers are also guarding girls schools and colleges in the capital, Srinagar, where two women who were not wearing veils were sprayed with acid earlier in the week.

A group called Lashkar-e-Jabbar, believed to be a hardline faction among Kashmir's many militant groups, has claimed responsibility, but other militant organisations have condemned the use of force against women.

Women in Srinagar
The attacks have sparked a debate on freedom of choice
Shopkeepers in Srinagar have said sales of black silk used to make a veil or long robe have increased since the attacks.

A senior official in India's Border Security Force, R. P Singh, said they were joining the local police to stop the acid attacks.

" I have asked my boys to apprehend elements spraying acid on women, " he said.


The acid attacks have spread panic among the region, especially in Srinagar where more women have taken to covering their heads.

"Earlier we were vulnerable to grenade attacks and crossfire on the streets, but now we are vulnerable to acid attacks. What kind of life is this?" 21-year-old student Shumail Lone told Reuters news agency.

An apparent hardline group called Lashkar-e-Jabbar took responsibility for the attacks, saying they were part of a campaign to impose an Islamic dress code on women.

But the attacks have been condemned by other militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, who were quoted in Srinagar newspapers as denying any involvement.


"There is no room for such acts in Islam. Acid throwing on women is extremely deplorable," Lashkar-e-Toiba spokesman Abu Osama was reported as saying.

The acid attacks has sparked fear among women in Kashmir and opened a debate on freedom of choice.

Veiled women
Most women don't wear the full veil
"The veil should be a woman's choice, not her compulsion," Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, head of the Kashmiri political-religious group, Jamaat-e-Islami, told AFP news agency.

But the campaign has seemingly worried many.

Sales of black silk for veils and long dresses have risen recently.

"Over the past two weeks the demand for veil silk has increased," one shopkeeper said.

Most Muslim women in Kashmir are not fully veiled, although some groups in the past have tried to persuade women to observe a stricter Islamic dress code.

See also:

10 Aug 01 | South Asia
Kashmir women face acid attacks
08 Sep 00 | South Asia
Kashmir beauty salon shooting
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