Shoe-thrower hailed as 'hero'

2010-08-16 11:29

Srinagar - A Muslim policeman who flung a shoe at Indian Kashmir's chief minister Omar Abdullah was hailed as a hero on Monday, with thousands of people descending on his home village to congratulate his family.

Every major Indian newspaper ran front pages photos of Abdul Ahad Jan's shoe sailing over Abdullah's head, as the minister spoke at an Indian independence day event on Sunday in Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar.

The improvised missile failed to find its target and Jan, who had chanted "We want freedom" and waved a black flag - a symbol of Kashmiri separatism - was quickly overpowered by bodyguards.

The incident was captured live on television and prompted several thousand people to descend on Jan's home village of Ajas, about 40km north of Srinagar.

Witnesses said women showered flowers on Jan's wife, Bega Jan, and kissed and hugged her, while others beat drums outside her home and the crowd chanted "Long live Ahad Jan".

"What he has done is unbelievable. He has done us proud. It was the manifestation of the anger that every Kashmiri harbours," said Merhaj-u-Din, a contractor and part of the crowd at Ajas.

The celebrations, which had a distinctly anti-India complexion, began on Sunday and went on through the night and into Monday. The last two months have witnessed the worst violence in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley in more than two years.

Stone-throwing protesters opposed to Indian rule have clashed with police on a near daily basis in Srinagar and other towns. Nearly 60 protesters and bystanders have been killed, most of them young men or teenagers shot dead by police.

Chief minister Abdullah heads the National Conference, the main pro-India party in Kashmir.