Srinagar: A suspended Jammu and Kashmir head constable Sunday hurled a shoe at Omar Abdullah during the Independence Day function here but an unfazed chief minister remarked it was better to throw shoes than stones.
Abdullah, who was taking salute from contingents of marching security personnel at the Bakshi Stadium in the heart of Srinagar, did not stir when Abdul Ahad Jan threw the brown shoe from behind. It landed on the grassy ground in Abdullah's front, without grazing anyone.
Later, in a clear reference to unending stone attacks on security forces in the Kashmir Valley, Abdullah said light-heartedly that it was better to throw shoes instead of stones as this would not hurt anybody.
"This is a better way of showing protest," Abdullah said in Urdu.
But the incident rattled the chief minister's security personnel, who quickly pounced on Jan and dragged him away. The man, in civilian dress, was arrested and later branded mentally unsound.
"Abdul Ahad Jan is a suspended head constable belonging to (south Kashmir's) Kulgam district who already has a criminal case pending against him," a police officer said.
Police said Jan was also involved in a case of claiming fake ex-gratia compensation from the government.
But no one explained how a man suspended from the police force could sneak into the highly-secured stadium.
Jan, who had been seated in the VIP enclosure, tried to wave a black flag when he was taken away.
The shoe incident marred the otherwise peaceful Independence Day celebrations in Srinagar and across the state where militants usually tend to target official Indian functions.
However, a separatist-called shutdown again paralyzed life across the Muslim-majority valley, hub of a separatist campaign that has left thousands dead since 1989.
Authorities had initially described the shoe attacker as an assistant sub-inspector of police.
The main parade continued despite the flutter in the VIP gallery.
Contingents of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security Force (BSF) marched past the podium as the chief minister took salute.
In his address, Abdullah expressed grief over the deaths of over 55 civilians killed in street protests since June 11 in the Kashmir Valley. Almost all of them have been shot dead by security forces following incidents of violence.
"My heart bleeds, and in their hour of grief I am with the bereaved families," the National Conference leader said.
He also expressed grief over the loss of lives in the recent cloudburst in Leh and said the government would take every step to rehabilitate the affected families and restore the infrastructure.
Referring to the entire state, he admitted that no economic or employment packages can heal deep wounds.
Abdullah said economic development was an essential component of the well-being of the state and its people.
He announced that 50,000 youths would be employed by the government in public services within the next few months.
He also appealed to separatist leaders to come for talks and play their role in solving the Kashmir issue.
India and Pakistan dispute Jammu and Kashmir's ownership and hold parts of the state. India accuses Pakistan of arming and financing the separatist drive. Islamabad says it only gives diplomatic and moral support.
The chief minister has faced sharp criticism over his handling of the unrest in the valley that has broken out since June 11.
Independence Day functions were also held at Ganderbal, Badgam, Pulwama, Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian, Kupwara and Baramulla towns and they passed off peacefully, informed sources said.