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Indian Police Open Fire on Protesters in Kashmir

In Indian Kashmir, at least four people were injured when security forces opened fire to disperse demonstrators protesting the deaths of two young women allegedly raped and killed by Indian security forces.      

Despite barricades put up by police, thousands of angry protesters poured into the streets of Shopian, a town on the outskirts of the Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar on Monday.

Police used tear gas and fired live rounds to quell the demonstration, injuring several people. Police said the protesters had turned violent and pelted security forces with stones.

Monday's protest was held a day after forensic tests confirmed that a 17-year-old girl and her 22-year-old sister-in-law, whose bodies were found floating in a stream on May 30, had been raped. The cause of the death of the two women, who were residents of Shopian, is still being investigated.

Daily street protests have gripped the Kashmir valley since their deaths, with residents alleging that the women were raped and killed by Indian soldiers. One person has died and at least a hundred have been wounded in clashes with the police in the last week.

The valley has been virtually shut down, with a senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani calling for a general strike, and police imposing restrictions to stop the protests. Schools, businesses and offices are closed in the capital Srinagar. Several separatist leaders are under house arrest.

Abdul Ghani Bhatt, a prominent separatist leader of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, said resentment and anger runs deep against security forces among Kashmiris.

"This is the most heinous violation of human rights….and you can see people coming out and raising slogans against excesses being perpetrated at state level by the security forces. Therefore the anger is in my opinion deepening, deepening immeasurably beyond length," he said.

An investigation ordered last week by the state government failed to quell public anger, especially after the state's Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, said that the initial findings point in a direction that does not suggest "rape or murder."

Home Minister P. Chidambaram will be visiting Kashmir on Thursday, probably in a bid to address the wave of public anger.  

Human rights groups have long accused Indian security forces of human rights violations against Kashmiris as they battle a Muslim separatist insurgency which erupted in 1989.

Violence has dipped in recent years, but tens of thousands of troops still guard the restive Kashmir valley - India's only Muslim-majority region. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both.

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