29 Jan 2007 13:54:43 GMT,Source: Reuters
SRINAGAR, India, Jan 29 (Reuters) – Two policemen in Indian Kashmir have been arrested for staging a mock gun battle and killing a local carpenter whom they falsely claimed was a Pakistani militant, authorities said on Monday.
Police said the two men were arrested on the outskirts of Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, where they are suspected of staging the fake battle and killing Abdul Rehman Padder, a 35-year-old father of five children.
"The two policemen are the prime suspects for killing Padder," said a police source. "According to initial investigations these two policemen said at the time of the killing, he (Padder) was a Pakistani militant."
A government statement said police had launched an investigation into the disappearance of Padder, who went missing on Dec. 8.
Witnesses and police said about 500 protesters marched in Padder's native village in Kokernag area, 75 km (50 miles) south of Srinagar, shouting "punish the killers".
Kashmir's Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad condemned Padder's killing in the state's lower house of parliament on Monday.
"Any person responsible for such actions will be severely dealt with and punished accordingly," said Azad, adding that four more cases of missing people have been handed over to police for further investigation.
The incident comes days after hundreds of people in Srinagar protested against the killing of a labourer in what they said was a fake gun battle by security forces on Jan. 25.
The army said the dead man was a member of the region's frontline rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen. But his relatives said he was innocent and had been missing for a week before his death.
The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), an independent group representing the parents of missing people in Kashmir, say 8,000 to 10,000 people have disappeared since 1989, after being arrested by security forces.
Authorities deny the allegations and say their investigations have revealed that most of the missing people have crossed the heavily militarised Line of Control which separates India and Pakistan into Pakistani Kashmir for arms training.
A separatist revolt in Kashmir against Indian rule has killed more than 40,000 people since it began in 1989, according to officials. Human rights groups put the toll at around 60,000 dead or missing.
Elsewhere, two Indian soldiers were killed on Monday in a gun battle with separatist militants in Doda district, around 300 km (190 miles) south of Srinagar, police said. (Additional reporting by Ashok Pahalwan in Jammu)