The politically explosive case is emblematic of the mistrust between Kashmiris, many of whom want independence, and the Indian government.
SHOPIAN, Kashmir — The case had all the hallmarks of a grisly and politically explosive crime, and it plunged the volatile Kashmir Valley into months of violent protests and political turmoil. Two young women were found dead in May in a stream flanked by military and police camps, and doctors who performed autopsies said that they had been raped and murdered.
But evidence from a new and more complete pair of autopsies and three months of intensive investigation by India’s top police agency have added surprising power to arguments that the women did in fact drown, as the Kashmiri authorities initially announced, in a normally placid stream swollen dangerously with glacial runoff.
The initial charges of rape and murder fueled rage at the hundreds of thousands of security forces whom India deploys here in what many Kashmiris see as an occupation. Four members of the Kashmiri police force, which works closely with the Indian authorities, were arrested.
Ratn Sanjay, who led the Central Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into the deaths, said that when his team began its work in September at the request of the state government, the assumption was that the women had been raped and murdered. But that eroded rapidly as investigators discovered discrepancies between several autopsy reports prepared the day the women’s bodies were found, including mislabeled tissue.
The doctors who did the initial autopsies lied about their findings, Mr. Sanjay said, when they claimed that they had found evidence of rape and assault. One doctor faked slides she said were vaginal smears from the women’s bodies that showed the presence of sperm. But DNA analysis proved that the slides were not from the dead women, and investigators said the doctor, Nighat Shaheen, had acknowledged faking them.
In a telephone interview, Dr. Nighat denied any wrongdoing or admission of wrongdoing. Other doctors named in the investigators’ report either could not be reached or declined to comment.
“It is all lies,” Dr. Nighat said of the accusations. “They had to cook the case to get the outcome they wanted, and they have done it.”
The case, with its dramatic twists and turns, is emblematic of the deep mistrust between Kashmiris, many of whom want independence, and the Indian government, which has more than half a million security officers in Kashmir to guard it from insurgents from within and from its rival for the territory, neighboring Pakistan.
“Much of what has happened in Kashmir has a kind of Rashomon quality,” said Amitabh Mattoo, a professor of international relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University and a Kashmiri. “Every event has many layers and interpretations depending on the perspective. For the average Kashmiri, Shopian is symbolic of the complete distrust of the Indian state.”