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Kashmir officers suspended in handling of murder investigation

  • Story Highlights
  • Authorities said two Muslim women drowned in a village stream
  • Locals claimed Indian security forces had raped and murdered them
  • Police chief, deputy, two junior police officers, forensics scientist suspended
  • Case triggered public outrage that shut down the town of Shopian
By Mukhtar Ahmad
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SRINAGAR, Indian-Administered Kashmir (CNN) -- Indian authorities have suspended four police officers and an official of the forensic science laboratory for destroying evidence and "dereliction of duty" in the alleged rape and killing of two Muslim women.

The case triggered unprecedented public outrage across Indian-administered Kashmir, crippling life in the region and shutting down the southern town of Shopian, where the crime happened.

The local government issued orders of suspension Monday evening after a retired high court judge, who serves as the one-member judicial commission, submitted his interim report to the government on Sunday.

Those suspended include a district police chief, his deputy, two junior police officers and a scientist of the forensics lab.

After the bodies of 17-year old Asiya Jan and her 22-year old pregnant sister-in-law Neelofar Jan were found May 30, authorities initially said the two had drowned in a village stream. But locals alleged that Indian security forces had raped and murdered them.

The public outcry across the Himalayan state, with many people saying the evidence made clear the two had been raped and killed, forced the administration to register it as a case of rape and murder.

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani launched a Kashmir-wide fight for "identification of the culprits and their punishment," which led to his being initially placed under house arrest and subsequently arrested formally along with other separatist leaders.

There were protests and lockdowns for ten days earlier this month. One person was killed and scores of others wounded in clashes between protesters and Indian security forces.

Shopian, 37 miles (60 km) from the capital, Srinagar, has remained shut for more than three weeks, with people in the town demanding the arrest of those involved in the crime.

In his interim report, retired Justice Muzaffar Jan held the south Kashmir Shopian district administration guilty of "destroying vital evidence and not preserving the scene of crime, interfering with post-mortem report and dereliction of duty."

Local media quoted the report as saying, "Because of the negligence of the authorities, civil administration, doctors and police involved in the handling of the incident, vital evidence which could have easily helped in nabbing the culprits was destroyed and lost."

An inquiry commission is set to conclude its findings by the end of this month and submit its final report thereafter.

A three-member special investigation team of senior police officers is also conducting an investigation. Police sources told CNN the team is making headway in the case.

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