Indian-held Kashmir Grim up north(1)

14 جولائی 2009
OUTSIDE Shakeel Ahmed Ahangar’s house in Shopian, an apple-growing hub in the Kashmir valley, mourners gather. Spying a foreign journalist, they yell “Azadi!” (“Freedom!”). The battle-cry of Kashmiri separatists makes an incongruous lament for Mr Ahmed’s pregnant wife and teenage sister, who were raped and murdered on May 29th. Yet it is the inevitable one. Six decades after India secured the richest portion of Kashmir, its Muslim inhabitants miss no chance to tell it to leave.
Month-long protests over the crimes in Shopian stress the truth of this. The local police have been widely blamed for the crimes—and certainly they tried to cover them up. The women went missing while walking home from the family orchard. Their battered corpses turned up the next day, semi-clothed, on a riverbank that Mr Ahmed and his relatives had combed shortly before. Nonetheless, the police said the women had drowned in the knee-deep river. They fired tear-gas at a crowd that disputed this. After Omar Abdullah, chief minister of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, initially endorsed this lie, mass outrage was assured. The protesters areas liable to cry “Azadi!” as “Hang the culprits!”—though the police accused of these crimes, unlike the 600,000-odd Indian army and paramilitary troops in Kashmir, are almost all Kashmiris.
Mr Abdullah swiftly recanted and set up a commission of inquiry into the killings. Its interim report on June 21st confirmed that the women had been raped and murdered, and found that four senior police officers and a laboratory worker had tampered with the evidence. They have been suspended, and the commission’s final report is due within days. But protests will continue. On June 20th, the main opposition People’s Democratic Party launched a fresh round against the army’s draconian powers in Kashmir.
Taking aim at DehliSome in Delhi find this disorientating. The insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir had recently gone quiet. Last year it still claimed 541 lives. But this was the lowest toll since early in the two-decade-long insurgency. Reduced Pakistani support for the militants is one reason for this, but war-weariness among Kashmiris is another. They may never love Indian rule, but some Indian officials think they are learning to live with it. As further evidence, officials cite the recent general and state elections in Kashmir. Both were unexpectedly peaceful and well-supported.
(Courtesy The Economist)