Sat, May 06, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Strike over sex scandal paralyzes Indian Kashmir

AFP , SRINAGAR, INDIA

A day-long strike to force the government to reveal the names of people caught up in a sex scandal paralyzed Indian Kashmir yesterday.

Police last month unearthed a prostitution racket allegedly involving more than 40 young women servicing politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in the Muslim-majority state.

The state government asked the federal Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) to investigate and police have already made several arrests.

Yesterday's strike was called separately by the Traders and Manufacturers Association and the region's leading women separatist group, Dukhtaran-e-Milat or Daughters of Faith.

The strike closed most shops, businesses, schools and banks in the summer capital Srinagar, witnesses said.

Police and paramilitary forces were deployed in strength to prevent violence.

"The strike is to register our protest against the people involved in the shameful acts and also to ask the government to expose the culprits," a traders' statement said in Srinagar.

Dukhtaran, which has been running an anti-vice campaign in Kashmir, has been very vocal in demanding the names of the people involved.

The CBI probe failed to placate its chief Aasiya Andrabi who has threatened to go to court if the names are not revealed.

"The government, by ordering a CBI inquiry into the scandal, is only buying time," Andrabi said in a statement.

Andrabi and seven followers were arrested last year for raiding restaurants in Srinagar and harassing couples. After her release she vowed to continue her campaign.

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