Both the police and the people are furious with each other
The lynching of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Mohammad Ayub Pandith, in Jamia Majid area of Srinagar, brings to the fore the growing anger against the police in Kashmir. Years of excessive use of force by the police has turned the people, especially the youth, against them. Till now, mob lynching was unheard of in the Valley but this incident proves that people can go to any extent.
This year 16 – the highest since 1988 when militancy began – policemen were killed by militants. This is the latest in targeting policemen who have been at the forefront of fighting militancy and stone-pelting mobs. Families of most local militants accuse police of excesses against them and hold them the primary reason behind the youth joining militants.
Pandith was killed when a group of youngsters, who became suspicious of his activities at the main entrance of Jamia Masjid on the night of Shab-e-Qadr - the most auspicious night for Muslims - intercepted him. The police, however, said he was doing access control when the mob targeted him. The lynching led to an outrage. Even Hurriyat Conference’s Mirwaiz Umar Farooq strongly condemned it. “The incident that happened in Nowhatta outside the Jamia Masjid is the 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 said. He held the State responsible for the brutalisation. “The violence that the State has wreaked on us is largely responsible for this kind of brutalisation, as the police are being used against the people in the most brutal ways which leads to strong reactions,” he added.
The lynching of the DSP came a week after militants ambushed the station house officer of Acchabal Police Station in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, killing him along with five other cops. The ambush was carried out at village Thajwara in Achabal Anantnag by nearly 10-15 militants. They surrounded the police and opened fire from all directions, killing SHO Feroz Ahmed Dar, a resident of Dogripora area in Awantipora in Pulwama district, and five of his men.
And prior to it, in May, five policemen and two guards from a private company were killed in a militant attack in Shopian district of South Kashmir when they were returning from delivering the Jammu and Kashmir Bank cash.
Wary of the situation, the police in April this year had issued an advisory asking its field personnel, particularly those from South Kashmir, to avoid visiting home for the next few months. The alert came after militants broke into the houses of policemen in South Kashmir and forced few of them to announce ‘dissociation’ from the force on the public-address system of local mosques. Family members were asked to convey the ‘quit-job’ warning to the policemen. A police officer’s house was ransacked thrice this year in Kulgam district and he was asked to quit the job or face consequences.
“There have been [a] few incidents in the Valley when militants, anti-national and anti-social elements have tried to cause damage to life and property of police personnel,” read the advisory issued by the police. “In view of these unfortunate incidents, police personnel, particularly from South Kashmir, are advised to exercise extreme caution while visiting their homes. They should preferably avoid visiting their homes for the next few months as their personal security is of paramount importance.”
The growing attacks sent alarm bells ringing among police top brass, prompting the Director General of Police, S.P. Vaid, to issue a warning to militants that their families could be harmed too if they tried to target those of the policemen. “Militants should realise they too have families,” said Vaid. “This is between the police and terrorists, and families should not be brought into this conflict. If the police start doing this (threatening), what will happen to their (militant) families?”
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