Page last updated at 14:08 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 15:08 UK

Deaths provoke Kashmir protests

By Altaf Hussain
BBC News, Srinagar

Kashmiri Muslim women wail during a funeral procession at Shopian, some 40 miles (60 kilometers) south of Srinagar, India, Saturday, May 30, 2009
The killings have shocked residents across the valley

Violent protests are continuing across Indian-administered Kashmir, following the deaths of two women who many believe were raped by Indian troops.

The bodies of the two women were recovered on Saturday morning after they went missing on Friday.

A general strike called by separatist groups in response to the deaths of the women brought life in the Kashmir valley to a standstill.

The government has ordered a judicial probe into the deaths.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said an inquiry had become necessary because of the people's lack of faith in police investigations.

"Initial findings do not suggest either rape or murder. But there is a need to establish beyond doubt so that people are satisfied as far as possible.

"Most of the valley is shut down. People want truth and they want it from a credible source," he said.

A retired high court judge, Justice Muzaffar Jan, has been given one month to complete the inquiry.

Action demanded

The incident has sent shockwaves throughout the Kashmir valley in recent days. The separatist call for a strike was met with an overwhelming response as shops closed and traffic was suspended.

Daily demonstrations have paralysed the town of Shopian, where the women were from, as local residents demanded action from security forces.

The authorities have also imposed an undeclared curfew in the southern district of Shopian and police and paramilitaries have been deployed across the area.

The two women, who were sisters-in-law, went missing on the way home from their orchard on Friday. Their bodies were found the next morning, one in a canal and one on open ground about 1km (0.6 mile) away.

The results of the post-mortem report have not yet been made public.

On Saturday thousands of people marched in procession to the main square in Shopian town where they ransacked the local hospital in which the post-mortem had been performed.

The demonstrators allege that the women were gang-raped and subsequently killed by Indian security forces.

Local police reject the allegations saying that the women appeared to have drowned in a stream, the Associated Press news agency says.

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