DSP Ayub Pandith lynched in Srinagar: Incident marks dramatic escalation of violence against J&K police

The lynching of a senior police officer by an irate mob outside the Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta area of Srinagar on Thursday has added to the existing turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir.

There are different versions floating around about the incident, but what is certain at the moment is that this lynching marks a dramatic escalation in recent violence against police personnel in the Valley. The incident comes on the heels of a sustained targeting of policemen over the last few days. In this holy month of Ramadan, eight Jammu and Kashmir Police personnel have lost their lives in various acts of violence.

 DSP Ayub Pandith lynched in Srinagar: Incident marks dramatic escalation of violence against J&K police

File image of Jammu and Kashmir DSP Ayub Pandith. Image procured by Sameer Yasir

Recently, a station house officer in South Kashmir’s Achabal, Feroz Dar, was killed along with five other policemen in a deadly attack by militants on 16 June. While his family and relatives were mourning his death, many parts of Kashmir were resonating with the bursting of crackers coupled with high-pitched slogans of "jivey jivey Pakistan", marking India's ignominious defeat against its neighbour in the Champions Trophy final on 18 June.

Tariq Ahmad, a resident of Anantnag told Firstpost, "The celebrations were such that it seemed as if Kashmir had got freedom." The next day, youths in the Valley pelted stones at security forces at various places – including the Khanabal-Pahalgam road, that leads to the holy shrine of Amarnath.

These two contrasting incidents demonstrate Kashmir's stark reality today. Three weeks before the first death anniversary of charismatic Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and a week before the Amarnath Yatra begins, anti-India sentiments in the Valley remain at an all-time high, with a strange combination of pro-Azaadi and pan-Islamic ideological underpinnings.

The violence – lynching of the DSP; the Achabal attack; the killing of Lt Umer Fayaz in Shopian on 10 May; the killing of five policemen along with two bank guards in Kulgam on 28 May; the targeting of mainstream political activists – has shaken the security establishment.

"Most of the people, who have an inclination towards the freedom struggle, support the killing of political workers of mainstream parties and the policemen, who play a role in counter-insurgency operations... a portion of the population is of the opinion that the people getting killed on both sides are Kashmiris, so militants should look for tactics other than killing," Rouf Ahmad, a resident of South Kashmir, told Firstpost.

Many locals approached by Firstpost believe that the violence against policemen is a result of the "ruthless force used by the police to suppress the peaceful voice of common masses, which has reduced the image of the forces before society". Naseer Ahmad, a local from Anantnag, said, "Many believe that the killing of policemen at the hands if militants is a result of the torture and other inhuman treatment meted out by them to the militants and their families... so, people justify it on these grounds."

These sentiments are also reflected on social media where, though outrage was seen over the DPS’s lynching, Achabal attack and Lt Fayaz's killing, quite a significant portion of Kashmiris blame India for the violence meted out against them. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, who teaches law at the Central University of Kashmir said, "Nobody should perceive that a policeman getting killed in conflict is because of division in society.

They get killed only because of their constraints towards their duty." These killings have also led many in the security establishment to call for revenge.

Many have compared the current security situation in the Valley with that during the 1990s, when an outbreak of armed insurgency had pulled many locals into a vortex of violence – forcing them to cross the border into Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to receive arms training.

Some within the security establishment have also lamented the lack of support from the political establishment in the state, while others worry that this might be the beginning of a civil war which has the potential to not only make the Kashmir conflict gory but even more protracted.

Whatever the description of the current security situation in the region, it is true that the Kashmir conflict – which has persisted for decades – is now staring at a descend into chaos as the binary categorisation of 'tourism or terrorism' determines the response of New Delhi.

Updated Date: Jun 23, 2017 17:20:25 IST