J&K Cop Lynched: What We Know So Far and The Unanswered Questions
Deputy SP Mohammad Ayub Pandith was lynched right outside a mosque in Srinagar just days before Eid.
The 48 hours following the lynching of J&K Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mohammad Ayub Pandith, have raised more theories than facts about the events that led to the brutal lynching of the 57-year-old father of two.
Here’s what we know so far and the questions that remain to be answered.
What we know about Mohammad Ayub Pandith is that he was a 57-year-old J&K police officer assigned to the Security unit. He was lynched to death outside the Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta, Srinagar on 22 June at around 11 pm.
He was a resident of Nowpora and is survived by his wife and two children – a 28-year-old son and a 22-year-old daughter. His daughter is pursuing her MBBS in Bangladesh, and was home to celebrate Eid with her family.
Why Was He Targeted?
What we know is that he was on frisking duty outside the Jamia Masjid mosque. He was, at the time of the incident, in his civilian clothes as is mandated regulation for officers posted in the J&K police security department.
What we don’t know is what provoked the attack on him. ToI reports that a huge mob gathered outside the mosque, raising slogans hailing Pakistan and al-Qaeda operative Zakir Musa.
According to eyewitnesses quoted in the report, Pandith began recording the sloganeering on his mobile phone, which irked the mob enough to gherao him.
Rising Kashmir too claims that he was clicking photographs of the mob that was raising pro-freedom slogans outside the mosque.
The second version of events reported by Rising Kashmir is that Pandith was performing duty alongside his team inside the mosque, when some people moved outside and began raising ‘anti-national’ slogans. Speaking to the newspaper, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Security, Dilbagh Singh said:
The senior officer was at Jamia Masjid for safety and security of the people. He went to find out what was going on and was captured then by the mob. He was beaten to death without any apparent reason, unfortunately.
The third version of events reported by India Today suggest that Pandith went to the mosque to offer prayers, when some people spotted the gun on him and got angry. However, the same report offers a contradictory angle which says that Pandith was involved in surveillance activities inside the mosque.
Was He Attacked For His Surname?
What we know is that Mohammad Ayub Pandith was Muslim by faith.
What we don’t know is if the mob attacked him because of his surname. According to a news report on Daily Excelsior, the mob attacked him as they believed his surname was ‘Pandit’, a surname carried by both Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims.
Was Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Present at the Time?
What we know is that Mirwaiz is a regular at the mosque and was scheduled to deliver a sermon at 12. Mirwaiz claims that he arrived after the incident.
“The media is reporting falsely that when the incident happened, I was present inside the mosque. I reached the mosque at 12.15 am, while the incident had happened before that.”
Also, eyewitnesses who The Quint has spoken to confirm that he was not inside the mosque at the time of the incident.
What Was the Protest For?
What we know is that there was a protest being held outside the mosque at the time of the incident. The ToI reports that the protesters were sloganeering against Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and for Zakir Musa.
What we don’t know is who had organised this protest and what group they belonged to. That they were raising pro-Zakir Musa slogans raises suspicion that militant separatist elements could’ve been part of the protest.
Who Is Zakir Musa?
What we know is that Zakir Musa is an ex-Hizbul Mujahideen commander, aged in his twenties. A former engineering student, he quit his education to return to his ancestral home in Pulwama and joined the militant group.
He is believed to have been deeply influenced by jihadi preaching, and rose quickly through the ranks in the organisation.
What we don’t know is whether he was present in the area at the time, whether he instigated the attack on the cop, and whether his supporters organised the attack.
Was the Attack Premeditated?
What we know is that heckling, and attacks on cops and other men in uniform is not unheard of in Kashmir. Recently, Ummer Fayaz, a 22-year-old Lieutenant, was kidnapped from Kulgam, where he was attending his cousin’s wedding. His mutilated body was found riddled with bullets the next day in Shopian, around 30 kms away from his village.
But what we also know is that many a time, locals step in to rescue the men in uniform.
What we don’t know in this case is whether the attack was premeditated. The India Today report quotes Army sources speculating that the attack could have been a pre-planned affair as Pandith was a local and a police officer.
Did Anyone Attempt to Save the Cop?
What we know from the eyewitnesses who spoke to The Quint is that some people did try and save the Deputy Superintendent Mohammad Ayub Pandith.
A freelance journalist told The Quint that he saw a group of young men making an effort to try and surround the victim, in an apparent attempt to save him.
Another 24-year-old freelance journalist who was present at the time, says a man with blood-soaked hands passed him by and told him that he tried to save the man, but couldn’t.
Where Were the Other Cops On Duty With Pandith?
What we know is that there were other cops on duty with Pandith. According to Rising Kashmir, although there were forces deployed inside the mosque, they did not immediately come Pandith’s rescue. The same report also states sources saying that the personnel fled the spot upon seeing the mob.
Another report in India Today states that Pandith’s guards, who were expected to be with him, told investigators that the DySP had relieved them of duty, saying that it was an important day and that they should be with their families. This theory is being probed as guards are not expected to leave officers unaccompanied.
What we don’t know is the number of policemen who were on duty along with Pandith. Yet to be ascertained is who called for reinforcements.
Who Fired the Gunshots?
We know that Pandith was carrying a pistol. Speaking to Rising Kashmir, Director General Police Shesh Paul Vaid confirmed this and reiterated the officer’s right to use it.
The DSP was carrying a pistol and he had the right to self-defence.
Further, all major newspapers, including ToI and Live Mint, have reported that Pandith fired the shots injuring three people, which further angered the murderous mob.
What we don’t know for a fact is whether it was he who fired his own gun. The police are yet to corroborate this. Also, eyewitness accounts to The Quint say he was already unconscious, probably dead, when the shots were fired.
Where Is the Gun Now?
As mentioned earlier, we know that Pandith was in possession of a gun at the time of the incident. Whether or not he fired the shots is still unclear.
What we don’t know is whether the authorities recovered the weapon, or if it was taken away in the chaos that followed the lynching.
Identification of the Body
We know that Pandith was carrying an identification card while on duty.
We don’t know who identified the body. According to Greater Kashmir, the police could not identify the officer till his son called his cellphone on Friday morning.
Another report in Daily Excelsior claims that Pandith’s elder brother Farooq Ahmad Pandith got a call from an officer around midnight, inquiring if Pandith had reached home.
He was not at home and his phone was also switched off. We then received a call from SP, saying he has been seriously wounded and is at the Police Control Room. He was actually dead.
Arrests Made So Far
What we know is that so far five men have been arrested in connection to Pandith’s death. Speaking to PTI, DGP SP Vaid said:
We have identified 12 persons in connection with the case and five of them have been arrested.SP Vaid, DGP
What we don’t know is if they were part of a premeditated conspiracy or part of a larger organisation.
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