//Kashmir protest over troops' alleged abuse of girl

Kashmir protest over troops' alleged abuse of girl

27 May 2006, source: Reuters

SRINAGAR, India, May 27 (Reuters) – Hundreds of people demonstrated in Kashmir on Saturday against the alleged molesting of a teenage girl by Indian soldiers, witnesses said.

The protest came two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired peace talks in Kashmir and vowed "zero tolerance" of misconduct and human rights abuses by troops in the region, racked by a 16-year-old Muslim separatist revolt.

A Reuters photographer said more than 500 angry protesters had blocked highway traffic in the Singhpora area, about 20 km (12 miles) north of Srinagar, Indian Kashmir's summer capital.

"Down with security forces," the protesters, some of them young women wearing headscarves, shouted.

Indian army officials denied the molestation charge.

"This is a baseless allegation concocted by the people," said army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel V.K. Batra.

Police said they would investigate.

"We have received a complaint from locals and the police is investigating," said Abdul Rashi, a police official. He did not give further details of the alleged incident.

Indian authorities deny any systematic violation of human rights in Kashmir. They say all reports are investigated and that they punish those found guilty.

More than 45,000 people have been killed since the revolt broke out in 1989 in Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in mainly Hindu India.