Police said though the chief minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayyid, escaped unhurt, at least six residents were injured in Wednesday’s attack, which took place in Anantnag town, about 55km south of the state capital Srinagar.
An official accompanying Mufti Sayyid shrugged off the incident, telling Aljazeera.net from Anantnag that “the chief minister is safe and undeterred and will soon return”.
Kashmir’s chief minister was in Anantnag to file his nomination papers for contesting by-elections to the state assembly from Pahalgam, the seat which has been lying vacant since his daughter and chief of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Mahbuba Mufti, was elected to Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament, earlier this year.
Mufti Sayyid has been heading a coalition government of secular pro-Indian political parties since October 2002, when his PDP won most of the assembly seats in the predominantly Muslim province of Kashmir.
Border towns have seen a large
Its other major partner – the Congress – performed well in this election, mainly in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region of the state.
Mufti Sayyid himself did not contest the election then. But under Indian law, the chief minister or any member of the council of ministers has to become a member of either house of the bicameral legislature within six months in order to stay in office.
Alhough Mufti Sayyid did get elected to the upper house of the legislature within the stipulated period he is seeking election to the state assembly from a constituency considered as the safest for him by Kashmiri political observers.
Hundreds of his party supporters, ministers and officials who witnessed the chief minister filing his nomination papers on Wednesday, raised slogans praising him, said an aide.
“We could also hear some explosions but they failed to disrupt the proceedings. No one seemed to be deterred,” the aide said.
Police officials on duty said the explosion caused commotion outside the district magistrate’s office where the chief minister was filing the papers.
“People ran for cover,” said one of them. He confirmed that six residents were injured and had to be moved to a nearby hospital.
One of the rifle grenades fired from a distance hit the roof of the building housing the area police chief’s office, and the two others fell close to a bus terminal.
The area had been evacuated for security reasons prior to the arrival of Mufti Sayyid.
The district magistrate’s office is also located close to the bus terminal.
Area cordoned off
“Kashmir is bleeding and this should not go unnoticed. The international community must hold India accountable, by letting it pay the price for its wrongdoings”
Sayyid Ali Shah Jilani,
After the incident, additional security personnel were called to the area. “We are trying to nab the culprits,” an officer who requested anonymity said.
So far, none of the separatist groups opposing Indian rule in Kashmir have claimed responsibility for the act.
In the 16-year-old conflict more than 40,000 people have died in Indian-administered-Kashmir although local rights groups put the toll at twice that figure.
Meanwhile, Kashmir’s prominent separatist leader Sayyid Ali Shah Jilani has urged the international community, particularly the United Nations, to stall an Indian attempt to become a permanent member of the Security Council until India is held accountable.
Indian forces are facing a surge
“India does not deserve it. It is inflicting terrible atrocities on the people of Kashmir and has violated the UN Charter and also numerous relevant Security Council resolutions calling for a plebiscite to be held in the disputed region,” he asserted.
The Kashmiri leader heads the Hurriyat Conference, an amalgam of Kashmiri separatist parties.
Jilani said in Srinagar that New Delhi had been hoodwinking the world by projecting a false image of the situation on the ground in Kashmir.
“Kashmir is bleeding and this should not go unnoticed. The international community must hold India accountable, by letting it pay the price for its wrongdoings,” Jilani said.
Kashmir has seen a surge in violence blamed on separatists opposing Indian rule over the disputed province.