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.
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.
The family members of murdered Jammu and Kashmir police officer Mohammed Ayub Pandith has alleged lapses in his security, which led to his lynching by an angry mob on Thursday evening outside the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar.
Deputy superintendent of police Mohammed Ayub Pandith was working in the security wing of the Jammu and Kashmir police.
‘’Another police officer sacrificed his life in line of duty. DySP Mohammed Ayub Pandith of Security attacked and beaten to death by a mob at Nowhatta last night,” the police said in a statement.
Director general of police SP Vaid told sources that the officer was checking the access control in the area following a congregation.
“When he came out after checking access control in the area, he was surrounded by some miscreants who started manhandling him and asking for his identification. Initial investigation revealed that there was an altercation and the officer fired to get away from the mob. He was, however, overpowered and killed near Bata Chowk in Nowhatta area,” Vaid said.
Bata Chowk is in the vicinity of Jama Masjid where thousands of people had gathered for night-long congregational prayers at the mosque in the old city late on Thursday evening. Eyewitnesses said three people were injured in the firing.
Reports said Pandith’s security guards ran away after they found the mob too large to be handled. The policeman was allegedly stripped before killing him. Locals also destroyed police pickets in the area later.
Pandith, who belonged to Nowpora area, had been at the mosque post for quite some time and many locals who regularly visited knew him. Policemen posted in the security wing of the Jammu and Kashmir police do not wear a uniform as a matter of service regulation.
Deputy Superintendent Mohammed Ayub Pandith’s colleagues wept bitterly on Friday morning as they paid tribute to him at a wreath ceremony held at Srinagar’s police lines before the funeral. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who attended the ceremony, said, “There can’t be a more shameful incident than this where a cop who is trying to perform his duty is killed.”
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.
DSP Pandith, the police said, may have opened fire as a last resort in self-defence. Three people who were injured were all shot in the legs, which showed that even under attack the officer was conscious not to shoot to kill, they said. The DSP’s service revolver is missing.
Since the officer was not in uniform, he was identified only hours later when his family called his mobile phone. It is unclear if he was accompanied by any other policemen. His juniors are being questioned on where they were when DSP Pandith was attacked.
According to reports, killing of Muhammad Ayub Pandith might have been well contemplated. Reports indicate that there was a crowd which had planned the act and they executed what they carried out.
Mob’s action was not extempore and the frenzy wasn’t momentary, but seems pre-planned which deliberately wanted to raise the level of frenzy during Shahadat Ali which happens today, said reports.
Muslims across Kashmir were observing Shab-e-Qadr (the night of power) with night-long prayers and supplications being made inside the mosques and shrines of the valley at the time of the incident.
Authorities have already announced restrictions on movement of people in areas falling under the jurisdiction of seven police stations of the city as a precautionary measure.
The restrictions were announced to maintain law and order as separatists had called for protests after Friday prayers against killing of a civilian in forces’ action on protesters in Kakapora area of Pulwama district yesterday.
Curfew-like restrictions have been imposed in seven police station in Srinagar following the congregations of the last Friday of the holy month of Ramzan. Muslims observe fasts from dusk to dawn during the month.
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.