Srinagar : A policeman on Sunday hurled a shoe towards the dais where Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was taking salute after unfurling the national flag at the Independence Day function here.
The Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police, who was in civilian clothes, was whisked away by security personnel immediately after he lobbed a brown shoe towards the dais.
Abdul Ahad Jan, posted at Kulgam, stood up and shouted "we want freedom" while hurling the shoe from the VIP enclosure, where he was sitting, police said, adding that the shoe did hit the Chief Minister.
The ASI, who was sitting with leaders from National Conference, also hurled a black flag towards the Chief Minister.
Referring to the incident in his speech, Abdullah said, "It is the best way to protest. It is better to raise slogans and hurl shoes but avoid stone pelting."
Stone pelting mobs have been targeting security personnel in Kashmir Valley, leaving hundreds of them injured.
Khoda said that Jan, a resident of Ajas in district Bandipora, was involved in a criminal case which had been registered against him in police station Parimpora here. "He was arrested in that case on May 21 this year. On May 22 he was placed under suspension. Since then, he has been under suspension," the DGP said, adding that he was later granted bail in that case.
Khoda said police were looking into various angles and "the inquiry will reveal what was behind it".
Jan is being questioned, a police spokesman said.
In his speech, Omar asked separatists to refrain from violence during the holy month of Ramzan. He asked them to take advantage of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement that he was ready to consider autonomy if there was a consensus.
At the same time, Omar said the "trust deficit" between the Centre and people of the state can be bridged by "restoring autonomy".
"This is a historic opportunity for us (PM's announcement regarding granting of autonomy) and we must take advantage of it. I appeal to separatist leaders to come to the table for talks and play their role in solving the Kashmir issue," he said.
During a meeting with an all-party delegation from Jammu and Kashmir, Singh had last week said he was ready to consider autonomy for the state if there was consensus among all political parties.
The Chief Minister also made a passionate appeal to the youth and separatists to stop the "cycle of violence".
"This cycle of violence may please be stopped. Today is the fourth day of holy month of Ramzan. I am not a Muslim scholar but a Muslim. The month of Ramzan teaches us to pray and maintain brotherhood. Let us not use force during this month," he said.
He asked the separatists to follow the foot steps of his late grandfather Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who was in jail for 23 years but did not put the people to difficulties. "Let us come to the table and discuss autonomy, self rule," he said.
He said the Prime Minister is ready for talks on all issues, but appealed to the Centre not to forget the promises after normalcy is restored in the state. Abdullah asked separatists leaders not to "use this holy month" for violence.
The chief minister said violence and hartals are not the medicine for curing the illness. "For the last 20 years, Kashmiris have observed hartals for five years, traders could not do business for five years, children could not go to schools," he said.
"It takes two hands to clap. I am prepared to ask police and security forces not to use force if you stop stone pelting. I do not want you to indulge in stone pelting which is replied by fire and teargas shelling," he said.
"Please stop stone pelting and attacking police stations, railway stations and other public property," he said.
Omar announced that 50,000 youth will be engaged by the government within the next few months to improve the public distribution system.
"While Prime Minister has constituted the C Rangarajan committee to address the employment problem in Jammu and Kashmir, on the occasion of the holy days of Ramadan, I announce that the state government will engage 50,000 youth in the government within the next few months to improve the public delivery system in public services."
Congress strongly condemned the shoe-throwing incident and said "divisive forces" in the Valley could be behind it.
The party, which felt throwing footwear has become a "fashion" nowadays, said the incident should be probed and the guilty must be punished.
"I think the whole incident should be condemned in the strongest possible words. I think it has become a fashion to hurl shoes on anyone without thinking about the consequences. This incident is completely uncalled for and whoever has done it must be punished," senior Congress leader Rajiv Shukla said.
"It looks as if they (the divisive forces) have got this connections within the security officials also. So I think the entire matter should be probed and guilty must be found."
Union Minister Farooq Abdullah, father of the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, said the policeman, who threw the shoe, must have been angry as action was taken against him by the government.
"The policeman is angry because he was dismissed from the job. So how does it matter. One mad man does something, does it mean everybody is mad," he said when asked about the incident.