Srinagar: Srinagar, June 23 (IANS) A mob stripped and lynched a senior police officer in the grand mosque of Srinagar, triggering widespread outrage. Hundreds attended the funeral of 57-year-old Deputy Superintendent of Police Muhammad Ayub Pandit even as two persons were arrested.
"All those involved in the officer's murder will be brought to justice," said DGP S.P. Vaid, adding that a third person has been identified and a manhunt has been launched to trace him.
Pandit was deployed at Srinagar's largest mosque, the Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta area of Srinagar's old city.
He was deployed on frisking (access control) duty at the mosque to ensure that nobody enters the holy place with weapons to harm Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and other devotees inside.
Mirwaiz Umer leads the Friday prayers at the mosque and on all other holy occasions.
What has shocked people about his killing is that he was killed during the holiest night of the Islamic calendar -- 'Shab-e-Qadr'.
Pandit was reportedly clicking pictures of the crowd outside the grand mosque to which some people objected. Surrounded by an irate mob, the officer fired from his service revolver to free himself, injuring three persons.
However, the mob overpowered him, stripped him and beat him to death.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who attended the wreath laying ceremony at the district police lines, condemned the brutal killing. "He had allowed all his personal security guards to go home and observe the Shab-e-Qadr at their native mosques.
"He performed his duties trusting the goodwill of the people whose lives he was protecting. His murder is actually a murder of trust," she said.
"Jammu and Kashmir Police is one of the finest police forces in the country. They exercise maximum restraint while dealing with the law and order situation. I fear what will happen if this police force loses its patience," she said.
Senior ministers Naeem Akhtar, Altaf Bukhari and Haq Khan were also present at the Police Lines besides senior civil, police and paramilitary officers.
Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh termed the killing "highly condemnable". "It is murder and police would take strongest action against those who were involved."
DGP Vaid said the lynching of the officer had proved that "very little difference is now left in Kashmir between humanity and barbarism".
Former state Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah condemed the killing, saying "His death is a tragedy and the manner of his death a travesty. May the people who lynched DySP Pandith burn in hell for their sins."
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq described the murder of the officer as "a brutal act which is outside the parameters of humanity and religion".
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said the lynching marked a "new low" in Jammu and Kashmir and it was "heartbreaking" to see the state "being pushed back several decades" due to the failure of the BJP-PDP government.
The killing has invited more condemnation, including on social media, as the officer was not deployed on any anti-militancy, intelligence gathering or even maintenance of law and order duties when the mob lynched him.
Pandit belonged to Nawpora area in Srinagar city where he was buried in his ancestral graveyard. He is survived by his wife, a daughter and son.
His daughter who is pursuing MBBS in Bangladesh had returned home two days ago to celebrate Eid with her parents.
After the killing, Friday prayers were not allowed at the Jamia Masjid and the mosque was shut -- for the first time since the Dogra rule ended in the Valley.
A police statement issued here on Friday said: "The martyred police officer was laid to rest at his native place. Hundreds of people, including police officers, friends and relatives attended the the funeral prayers."
A week earlier, six policemen including a Station House Officer (SHO), Feroz Ahmad Dar, were killed by militants in Anantnag district.
In an unrelated development, authorities imposed restrictions in some areas of Srinagar on Friday after separatists announced post prayer protests in the Kashmir Valley.
The curbs under Section 144 preventing the gathering of five or more people at any place were imposed in areas falling under the jurisdiction of Khanyar, Nowhatta, M.R. Gunj, Safakadal and Maisuma police stations, a police officer said.
The separatists called for protests after the Friday prayers against the killing of a civilian, Touseef Ahmad Wani, in Pulwama district in firing by security forces on Thursday.
Wani was killed when a mob attacked the Kakapora police post on Thursday after three Lashkar-e-Taiba militants were killed in the area by the security forces.
June 23 is the last Friday of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.