In the third attack on Kashmiri leaders outside the state in two months, supporters of right-wing Hindutva organsations assaulted moderate Hurriyat leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Bilal Lone in Chandigarh on Thursday.
The Mirwaiz and Lone were attacked when attending a seminar on "Kashmir Problems in Reference to Indo-Pak Relations", organised by the Internationalist Democratic Party of Jammu and Kashmir.
When the Mirwaiz was taking a question from a media person, a section of the audience suddenly charged at the dais where Lone was also seated with the Mirwaiz. Some of the attackers manhandled the two leaders. An eyewitness said the Mirwaiz was punched in the face and fell down from his chair. The police said it had taken at least 10 people into custody.
The two previous attacks were carried out on hard-line Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on October 21 in New Delhi and chairman of the Democratic Freedom Party Shabir Ahmed Shah on November 4 in Jammu.
Thursday's incident immediately sparked flaring of tempers in the Valley, with all the major parties condemning it and a section of the youth getting into clashes with the security forces in Srinagar.
Commenting on the incident in Jammu, Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, however, said, "It is a reaction to their (the separatists') politics and policies. And it is bound to happen. I don't condone it. I believe it is a battle of ideas and ideologies."
But People's Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti said in Srinagar: "The right to express ones views is a fundamental right and any attempt to curb it through illegal and strong-arm methods was fascist and undemocratic."
Meanwhile in Srinagar, clashes broke out in the downtown area after the news broke. Shopkeepers downed their shutters in different areas of the old city, considered to be the bastion of the Mirwaiz.
Also, Srinagar-based Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti also condemned the attack, demanding that the role of the Chandigarh administration be probed.