There was no armed back up to access control point at Jamia Masjid; no contact between DySP Ayub and head of Mirwaiz Umar’s security detail
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR: With attachment and replacement of the additional SP (North) Sajjad Khaliq Bhat late on Friday night, a slew of communication breaches and violation of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), that led to lynching of Deputy SP Mohammad Ayub Pandit by a violent mob a day before, have surfaced at Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar.
During the course of an investigation that is still underway, STATE TIMES came across serious breaches of SOPs and security lapses leading to DySP Pandit’s cold-blooded murder by a bunch of goons outside Jamia Masjid at 00:50 hours on Shab-e-Qadr on Friday.
Police have constituted a Special Investigating Team (SIT) and claimed to have arrested three of the accused, besides getting identified eight others who allegedly attacked the DySP but a detailed statement on the chain of the events has not been issued.
Both, Additional DGP Security, Dilbagh Singh and SSP Security, Maqsood-uz-Zaman, revealed to this newspaper that DySP Pandit had been deputed for special duty of frisking of the incoming devotees at Jamia Masjid along 10 more personnel from the Security Wing. Two access control points with hand metal detectors had been set up at two entry points of the mosque. One of these points was manned and controlled by female personnel. As per an order issued by SSP Security, DySP Pandit, who worked as Deputy Commandant with 3rd battalion of the Armed Police at Zewan, had been specially recalled and appointed as head of the security bandobust at Jamia Masjid.
SSP Security had, in fact, deputed three different teams under command of three Dy SPs for frisking of the incoming devotees on Shab-e-Qadr at Hazratbal, Jamia Masjid and a shrine-mosque at Sayeed Sahab Sonwar.
According to a circular issued by J&K Police Headquarters, all frisking points at all installation have to be essentially provided with back up support of Armed Police as the Security Wing staff do not necessarily carry weapons. It is now clear that the pistol used in self-defence by Ayub Pandit was his personal licensed weapon being a gazetted officer. This correspondent discovered that absolutely no Armed Police back up had been put in place at Jamia Masjid. The order mentioned that Dy SP Pandit would remain in constant liaison with Dy SP Faheem Ali, who heads a huge security detail provided to cleric separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq by the State Government.
“The idea, as per a routine of several years, was to maintain close coordination between the Security Wing officers to ensure safety of Mirwaiz as well as the Jamia Masjid including thousands of the devotees who gather there for nightlong congregational prayers on Shab-e-Qadr”, said an official.
A middle-rung officer revealed that putting in place this kind of a special security arrangement at Hazratbal, Jamia Masjid and Sonwar, on Shab-e-Qadr, Jumatul Vida, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha and Shab-e- Meraj has been a routine for the last over 5 years. Sometimes similar deployment is provided to many other shrines, mosques and Imambaras.
It is still under investigation whether the District Police was careless in providing the back-up armed support or the slain Dy SP made compromises with the SOP. As of now, investigators have learned that there was “no liaison” between Dy SP Pandit and Dy SP Faheem who escorted Mirwaiz to the mosque and back home with a number of PSOs and escort personnel.
More surprisingly, Dy SP Pandit’s body lay on the road for 90 minutes after his death and nobody from the nearby Police Station reached the spot to pick it up even after the whole Valley learned through social media that someone unidentified had been lynched to death by a mob.
Editor of a local newspaper told STATE TIMES that he heard about six gunshots when he was at Saraf Kadal on way toward Jamia Masjid at 00:50 hours. By the time, he reached the spot, Pandit had been brutally done to death. An official, quoting a resident of Mirza Kamil Sahab neighbourhood, whose surname is also Pandit, said that batons, iron rods and wooden planks were used to kill the officer. According to this eyewitness, some of the assailants were seen biting the officer’s arms and limbs like dogs as he stood stripped and fallen on the ground.
All of Pandit’s belongings, including his I-card, pistol and cellphone are still missing.
ADGP Security Dilbagh Singh said: “Initially we heard that Ayub was caught while he was taking pictures and videos of the crowd shouting slogans for Azadi and the terrorist Zakir Musa. Later, we came to know that these were all rumours. He had not taken any pictures or videos.
That was in fact neither his mandate nor his habit. We have learned that he had moved some steps beyond his frisking point towards the road. Suddenly some ruffians pounced upon him.
He took out his pistol and fired some shots in self-defence. Clearly, he did not target anybody to kill. But unfortunately, a large crowd overpowered him and lynched him to death in cold blood”.
According to some devotees and Police officials, some 200 to 300 youths came out of the mosque immediately after completing 8 Rakats of Taraveeh and rest of the multitude was still performing the prayers and waiting for Mirwaiz. This crowd kept shouting pro-Azadi and pro-Zakir slogans for over two hours. Men of the same crowd attacked and killed the Dy SP as most of the devotees inside the mosque had no idea of someone having been killed outside.
“This has come as the biggest challenge for us. We are committed to identify each and every person involved in this heinous crime and bring them to justice in a manner so that nobody in future would dare to attack a Police official in this way. It is reassuring that a number of residents and eyewitnesses are cooperating with us”, said an officer associated with the investigation.
Ayub Pandit’s cousin and prominent lawyer Mohammad Abdullah Pandit, who lives in neighbourhood of the slain officer, said that nobody in the family had any inkling of his gruesome killing. He said that Ayub had never fired a single shot or received bribe during his 27-year-long service in Police. “It was because of this, that he was often given insignificant postings. I can swear by Allah that he never received or extorted even Rs 5 from anybody”.
Abdullah said that it was around 5.00 AM when SSP Security Maqsood-uz-Zaman revealed to him by telephone that his cousin had been lynched to death. “We two brothers and our sons assembled at a hotel to think how to perform the last rites. We didn’t reveal it to our women for next two hours.
His daughter, who is doing MBBS in Bangladesh, had reached home two days back to celebrate Eid with her parents and family. She is continuously in trauma. She is booked for Dhaka on 2nd of July. We don’t know how to send her back”, Pandit, who has served as Vice President of High Court Bar Association several times, said.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper