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Police search for lawmaker wanted on charge of sexually assaulting doctor in Indian Kashmir

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SRINAGAR, India - Police were searching Sunday for a lawmaker from Indian-controlled Kashmir who is wanted on charges of sexually assaulting a female doctor in the Himalayan territory, officials said.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Rajiv Gupta issued an arrest warrant for Shabir Ahmad Khan on Saturday based on a police complaint filed by the doctor last week.

Khan had resigned as Kashmir's junior health minister on Friday, but failed to appear when summoned by police investigating the case.

Officials speaking on customary condition of anonymity said a police team was sent Sunday to arrest Khan in the neighbouring region of Jammu, where he was believed to be evading arrest.

The case has shocked many people in Kashmir, a mostly Muslim territory divided into an Indian-administered region and a Pakistani-held portion. Both countries have claimed the mountain territory in its entirety, though anti-India sentiment runs deep throughout.

"This is unacceptable," pro-India politician Mehbooba Mufti told reporters Friday. "At the same time, we must appreciate the lady doctor who had the courage to file the complaint."

In 2009, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah attempted to resign as the highest elected official in Indian Kashmir after an opposition leader accused him of being on a list of politicians alleged to have taken advantage of trafficked women and underage girls. His resignation was rejected, and Indian investigators cleared his name.

However, the sex trafficking scandal, which first broke with the 2006 discovery of pornographic videos from the region, has remained in newspaper headlines alongside a long-running rebellion and counterinsurgency by Indian forces.

Across India, demands for better security for women have mounted since the fatal gang rape of a young woman on a New Delhi bus in December 2012. Women's rights activists say women and their families are feeling more confident in coming forward with police complaints, though long-standing social stigmas against abuse victims still keep many of them quiet.

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Follow Aijaz Hussain on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hussain_aijaz

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