Police Officer Beaten To Death By Mob Of Over 200 Outside Srinagar Mosque
Family members wailed in grief this morning as police officer Mohammed Ayub Pandith’s body reached his home in Srinagar’s Nowpora, a short distance from the old city’s Jamia Masjid. He was killed brutally by a mob of more than 200 late last night outside the mosque, around the same time that hundreds of people had gathered inside for congregational prayers.
Hundreds gathered for funeral prayers near the officer’s home. “I have brought him up like a son, do people who go to a mosque to kill people like this? He was not an informer, then why was he killed?” said the officer’s sister, sobbing.
Many of his colleagues too wept at a wreath ceremony at the city’s police lines attended not just by top police and administrative officials but political leaders, including Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who said angrily that the people who the officer was protecting had betrayed him.
The Chief Minister said DSP Pandith, who was on security duty outside the mosque, was a local and so had asked his personal security guards to go home and break their fasts. He was thus alone when he was attacked by a murderous mob of between 200 and 300 people.
“There can’t be a more shameful incident than this. This was his own area, so he told his security officers to go home for Shab-e-Qadr (the night of power). What can be bigger evidence of his faith (in the people),” Ms Mufti said.
The Jammu and Kashmir police were one of the country’s best and performed their duty with valour, exercising restraint, the Chief Minister said, but warned, “They are showing maximum restraint because they think they are dealing with their own people, but for how long this will continue… It will be difficult if they lose patience.”
A senior policemen said the officer, surrounded by the mob, appeared to have pulled out his service revolver in self defence as a last resort, but even as he stared death in the face he took care to shoot only at his attackers’ legs, injuring three.
A grim Director General of Police SP Vaid told reporters, “An officer being lynched by the very people he had gone to protect proves we have reached a stage where very little difference is left between humanity and barbarism.”
Another police officer said three attackers have been identified and two of them have been arrested.
A week ago, six policemen including a Station House Officer (SHO), Feroz Ahmad Dar, were killed by terrorists in Anantnag district.
Did colleagues desert officer in distress?
According to police officials investigating the case, the DSP was not provided any cover by any of the personnel when he was overpowered by a mob and beaten to death.
“The officer was with the 12 people from the security wing who were on duty at the mosque. It was a security team deployed for security duty. He (DSP) just went out to see when the people went out of mosque raising slogans probably to receive Moulvi Umer Farooq. He went out to see what led to this kind of commotion. We are investigating that why people became suspicious and why they suddenly attacked him and killed him. Rest of things is part of the investigation and police is on the job to probe the incident,” said Singh.
“It is unfortunate however that the people for whose security he was deployed turned out to be his killers,” the ADGP said. “There was also the deployment of armed police inside the mosque for the security and the entire matter is under investigation.”
According to police officials investigating the matter, there was no immediate reaction from the other personnel who were deployed on duty to rescue the DSP. A police official said that the situation got tense at the Jamia Masjid late last night after the people raised pro-freedom and anti-India slogans and the DSP went out and fired few rounds. At least three people are reported to be injured, which infuriated the mob who beat him to death. A police official said that it was a major security lapse as the two policemen who were part of the security duty fled from the place when he was being beaten by the people.
A police official said that there was no immediate reaction either from the armed deployment which is inside the mosque or any of the police personnel deployed from the security wing of the police.
“We are investigating that whether two personnel from our wing deserted the officer. One of the versions is that the police personnel who were part of police officers escort had left him near the mosque in the evening after he had told them that he can walk back home after the duty. He had told them that there were other personnel who would assist him in duty at the mosque. The officer had also returned the official vehicle and had informed the personnel that he can walk down to home after duty,” said Singh.
Police officials, however, said that the security personnel deployed on duty had not taken enough measures to ensure that there was no scuffle with the DSP. “The armed guard remains deployed at the mosque who are however not being touched by the people,” said a police official. He, however, said that “any sort of suspicious movement” evokes a strong reaction from people. “If the people fear that it is a police raid to arrest local youth then they react and lodge protests,” said a police official. The Nowhatta area where the Jamia mosque is located remains the epicenter of protests.
A police official said that nearly three months back while Hurriyat (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, was delivering a Friday sermon at the mosque, a local boy from Kupwara, who is posted with a central paramilitary force had been taking the video of his sermon. As people grew suspicious they tried to thrash him but were dissuaded by Mirwaiz Umer from doing so. The separatist leader has condemned the today’s incident. “Mirwaiz’s security personnel also remain present at the mosque premises, but none harms them,” said a police official.