Srinagar: Sajad Khaliq Bhat, the Superintendent of Police for Srinagar (North zone), was transferred following the death of Deputy SP Muhammed Ayoub Pandith in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pandith was stripped naked and killed when he opened fire on a group of people outside Jamia Masjid Srinagar during the intervening night of June 22 and 23.
Muslims across Kashmir were observing Shab-e-Qadr (night long prayers during holy Ramzan).
Three persons were injured but the angry group of people attacked the cop who lost his life. The incident happened around 12 in the night when the cop was reportedly clicking pictures of the faithful who were attending the Shab.
Describing the incident as “murder of trust”, the Chief Minister warned the populace of Kashmir “not to test the patience of J&K Police”.
“How long will police show restraint,” she asked referring to the militant ambush on a police gypsy in which six cops were killed on June 16 in Achabal area of Anantnag district.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the head priest of the historic Jamia Masjid situated in old Srinagar city’s Nowhatta area, condemned the incident, saying it was “outside the parameters of our values and religion”. However, he added that “the state barbarity cannot devoid Kashmiris of humanity and values”.
The 57-year-old police officer opened fire from his pistol when the arguments with the group of people turned ugly.
Hailing from nearby Nawpora area, Pandith was beaten up so badly that he could not be identified for quite some time. His body was driven to Police Control Room Srinagar where wreath laying ceremony was held on June 23 morning led by Chief Minister herself.
He was posted with the Security division of J&K police.
When the incident happened, J&K police had earlier denied that any of their cops was missing. Pandith was reportedly accompanied by another cop who managed to flee from the spot.
He is survived by wife, a daughter and a son. His daughter is doing MBBS in Bangladesh and is currently home for Eid. His son has completed Bachelors degree but is staying home because of some health related issues.
“The DSP was posted at the access control of the mosque to prevent miscreants from vitiating the atmosphere so that people could offer prayers in peace. But a few among those, for the security of whom he had been deployed there, lynched him,” Director General of Police S P Vaid said terming the incident as “very unfortunate”.
Quoting preliminary investigation, the police chief said, “mob attacked the DSP when he was coming out of the mosque after checking the access control.”
“When the DSP was coming out after checking the access control of the mosque, some miscreants caught hold of him while raising slogans and started beating him up,” he said.
Vaid said that two persons have been arrested so far and a third has been identified.
“All of them (involved in the lynching) will face the law,” the DGP told reporters on the sidelines of the wreath-laying ceremony for the slain officer at district police lines here.
He said an investigation into the case is on.
Asked whether the slain officer was there for the security of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of moderate Hurriyat Conference, the DGP said, “Mirwaiz does come there. It was a sacred occasion yesterday and thousands of people were expected at the mosque and security was made for them.”
Defending the firing by the officer in which three persons were injured, Vaid said, “The DSP was carrying a pistol and he had the right to self-defence.”
The Chief Minister said the Jammu and Kashmir Police was one of the best police forces in India and was “showing maximum restraint in dealing with law and order situation”.
“There can be nothing more shameful than this… It is a murder of trust,” Mehbooba told reporters after attending the wreath-laying ceremony for the slain officer.
“I want to say that J-K police is one of the best police forces in the country. They are brave but are showing maximum restraint because they feel that they are dealing with their own people. But for how long? The day their patience wanes, then, I believe, things will be difficult,” she said.
“I appeal to the people that there is still time and we should understand. The police force is our own force, they are our children and such a treatment is shameful,” she added.
“An SHO along with five cops was killed some days back and now this DSP… I appeal to the people that this is a shameful incident. Those who protect you, show patience while dealing with you…But if you behave like this with them, then if they lose their patience, then God forbid, such a time will come when people have to flee after seeing a (police) gypsy on the road,” she said.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tweeted, “Deeply disturbed and condemn the brutal act at Nowhatta.”
In another tweet, he added, “Mob violence & public lynching is outside the parameters of our values and religion. We cannot allow state brutality to snatch our humanity and values.”
Later, in a statement, he said, “The incident that happened in Nowhatta outside the historic Jamia Masjid which has always been a centre of spiritual and moral upliftment, is most unfortunate.
I am deeply disturbed by this brutal act. Mob violence and public lynching is outside the parameters of our values and religion.”
He went on to add, “it is very important and imperative for us that we do not allow our social fabric to be brutalised and keep our basic values intact.”
Former chief minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah, while condemning the killing, said, “May the people who lynched DSP Pandith burn in hell for their sins.”
Expressing shock and anguish over the dastardly killing, Omar in a statement said, “the killing was the height of barbarism and should be condemned unequivocally.”
“I’m personally anguished and devastated by this tragedy. That this happened on the most auspicious night and outside Jamia Masjid is shocking.
Such heinous elements are the enemies of Kashmiriyat and humanity and should be given the sternest possible sentence as per law of the land. We are all duty-bound to stand with the family of the martyred police officer and also the Police Department in this hour of mourning and grief,” he said.
He announced a donation of Rs 10 lakh to the police welfare fund on behalf of the party and also a donation of one-month’s salary as MLA to the fund as a contribution to support families of such brave martyrs.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi termed the killing as “horrific” and said, “it marked a new low in the state.”
“The brutal lynching of Deputy SP Md Ayub Pandith marks a new low. Pained beyond words at the horrific incident,” tweeted Gandhi, who is on vacations in Italy.
“Heartbreaking to see J&K being pushed back several decades because of the complete failure of the PDP/BJP government,” he tweeted.