Srinagar, Nov. 2: Terror made a statement as Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took over the reins of Jammu and Kashmir today with bullets, bloodspill and a bid on his life ushering him on to the battlefield.
Militants struck both before and after the swearing-in, targeting Mufti’s Nowgam residence with grenades in the morning and gunning down a Congressman and four policemen later in the afternoon.
The rifle grenades were lobbed around 10.15 am just hours before the People’s Democratic Party boss was to take over as chief minister, dislodging the Abdullahs after 27 years. One exploded in the backyard, causing splinter wounds to daughter Mehbooba’s personal security officer. The other went off in mid-air, a few metres from the residence.
Mufti was at home at the time of the attack but escaped unhurt. Head constable Mohammed Yakub was hospitalised.
A little-known militant outfit, Al-Nasireen, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Militants fired on a senior Congress leader near the Batmallo bus stand while he was on his way to a relative’s house in Bemina after the swearing-in. Mohammad Sikandar Khan died in hospital as did two of his bodyguards.
As militancy marked its presence, Mufti — dressed in an off-white achkan — arrived at the Sheri Kashmir International Conference Centre, accompanied by his wife and Mehbooba. His youngest daughter Rubaiya, who had been abducted by militants in December 1989, also put in a surprise appearance.
“It is a historic day… We have challenges ahead and we have realisation but we have to work jointly. I pray to God that I come up to the expectations of the people,” Mufti said after he was sworn in along with an eight-member Cabinet.
Coalition partner and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi flew in for the function. Mangat Ram Sharma, Congress leader from Jammu, was anointed deputy chief minister.
“Our efforts will be to ensure a stable government in the state,”Sonia said.
Asked if the Congress would get its due share of berths in the ministry, she said: “Today’s was a small swearing-in function and we have no worries about the issue. We have discussed this in our preliminary talks.”
She cleared misgivings that Mufti’s government would be soft on militants. “How can the government compromise on security' The feeling is not correct and we are all responsible people. There should be no concern on this,” she said.
Among those who were sworn in as Cabinet ministers were Muzaffar Hussein Beigh and Ghulam Hassan Mir, both of the PDP. Mula Ram of the Congress also got a Cabinet berth.
Harsh Dev Singh became the first Panther’s Party legislator to get a berth in the Jammu and Kashmir ministry.