Kashmir: Lynching of DySP Ayub Pandith symbolises a torn, brutalised society
The details about the Kashmir’s first ever lynching are still sketchy. According to the conversations doing the rounds about the incident, the Deputy Superintendent of Police Ayub Pandith had allegedly come out of the Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar at around 12 pm to make a call, when a group of youth are said to have become suspicious about his movements.
He was in civilian clothes and reportedly had been clicking pictures of the worshipers. The youth are said to have confronted him and accused him of identifying stone-pelters for the police. They started hitting him. Feeling a threat to his life, Pandith is alleged to have whipped out his pistol and fired at his attackers. The bullets hit the legs of the three youth. This further enraged the mob which stripped him naked and started hitting him with stones. Pandith’s security guards, also in civvies, are said to have fled from the spot, finding the mob too large and violent to handle.
And while the lynching was going on, the people inside the mosque, oblivious of the incident, were busy in the mandatory nightlong prayers on the occasion of the Lailatul Qadr, the holiest night in the Muslim calendar observed ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Pandith’s body was lying on the ground for more than an hour before it was evacuated by the police and identified. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who went to the mosque past midnight to deliver his sermon also claims to have been unaware of the incident. Mirwaiz later condemned the incident.
“Deeply disturbed & condemn the brutal act at Nowhatta.Mob violence & public lynching is outside the parameters of our values & religion,”.Mirwaiz later tweeted. “We cannot allow state brutality to snatch our humanity & values”.
Police has so far arrested two persons for being involved in the lynching. The police also claims to have a video which will help identify more people responsible for the atrocity.
However, the lynching has generated some cautious outrage in Kashmir, despite the fact that daily violence has benumbed people.
On social media, people disapproved of the incident but many have do so while putting it in the context of the prevailing crisis in Kashmir.
Some people juxtaposed the picture of the lynched officer alongside that of the charred bodies of the three militants killed in an encounter in South Kashmir. Some rationalised the lynching as a case of mistaken identity with people suspecting the officer to be an intelligence agent as he was in his civvies and carrying a pistol.
“The lynching is disturbing and it cannot be justified. We cannot compete or become like our oppressor. They cannot be our teachers,” tweeted the activist Mohammad Faysal. He, however, added: “The deceased person was armed and in plainclothes. He was not part of the Mirwaiz's security detail as is being reported”.
Prominent Kashmiri writer Mirza Waheed wrote: “Awful, awful news coming from Kashmir where a policeman has been lynched to death. This is utterly reprehensible”. However at the same time Waheed slammed the media outrage about the incident: “If your first response to the reprehensible lynching in Kashmir is to categorise Kashmiris as a barbaric people, you've got major issues.
Similarly, there were heated exchanges in WhatsApp groups, even though the drift of the conversation was against the lynching.
For Kashmir watchers, the lynching has come as a symbolic representation of the crisis in the Valley where the daily spectacle of the extreme violence has brutalised society and turned it violent.
“Look at the suspicion, distrust and hate that has now become the daily lived experience of the people. The state has perpetrated the disproportionate violence in response to smaller provocations. The state discourse has become hostile, unsympathetic and indifferent to the humanitarian tragedy in Kashmir,” says the columnist Naseer Ahmad. “Now society is aping the state”.
And this conflict between the state and the society has put J&K Police in an unenviable situation. “We are seen as part of the society and also against the society,” said a police officer not wishing to be named. “So, we become the targets of much of the hate directed against the state”.
In this year alone, J&K police has lost 16 personnel to the ongoing violence, making them the majority of the 29 security personnel killed so far.
The other major target of the public anger are the mainstream politicians who are popularly called as “pro-India” leaders. And when they take a position on a politically charged violent incident, they are booed and heckled on social media.
Former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah became the target of such social media fury after he tweeted that the DySP’s death was a tragedy and “the manner of his death a travesty”.
“May the people who lynched DySP Pandith burn in hell for their sins,” the second part of his tweet read.
“Ameen and those too who kept this bloody conflict alive (Abdullahs and Mufti khandan),” posted Mudassir Wani in response. Wani was among the very few Kashmiris who chose to reply to Omar on Twitter.
However, some of the responses on Facebook, were far more virulent. In a strongly worded Facebook post, Hilal Mir wrote:
“To Omar Abdullah: May those also burn in hell who rewarded the killers of 120 people in 2010 with Rs 5000 each. May those also burn in hell who disempowered an oppressed people. May those also burn in hell who promised people autonomy and watched when the barbaric ikhwanis were unleashed on them (one Ikhwani was an MLC of your party, Mr Abdullah). May those also burn in hell who never took the side of their people after feeding them the diet of plebiscite and autonomy. May those burn in hell who surrendered everything for the chair. May those burn in hell who, on the one hand, raised a hell about 'Kashmir being turned into a garrison' and, at the same time, called for bombing Pakistan”.