Srinagar, June 23 (IANS): A mob lynched a senior police officer in this summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, triggering outrage and forcing Chief Minister Mehmooba Mufti to dub the crime a "murder of trust".
The battered body of Deputy Superintendent Mohammad Ayub Pandit was recovered on Friday morning outside the Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta area of the Old City, the very spot where he was set upon by a killer mob the night before.
When hundreds were busy in prayers during the holiest night of the Muslim calendar called 'Shab-e-Qadr' at the city's largest mosque, a group of miscreants attacked Pandit who was not in uniform.
"The officer was on frisking duty at Jamia Masjid. He was carrying out his duties when he was attacked," an informed source told IANS.
The outnumbered officer tried to free himself and fired in self-defence, injuring three of the attackers. But he was overpowered and lynched.
One report said he had been stripped before he was murdered. He had been outside the mosque for some time and many locals who regularly visited the shrine knew him.
On Friday, the Chief Minister laid a wreath on the body of Pandit at the district police lines here. She then said: "The murder of this officer is actually a murder of trust.
"He had allowed his security guards to go home so that they could observe 'Shab-e-Qadr' at their own mosques.
"He went to perform his duty to protect people whose goodwill he trusted and it is this trust which has been murdered.
"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."
Senior ministers Naeem Akhtar, Altaf Bukhari and Haq Khan were also present at the Police Lines besides senior civil, police and paramilitary officers.
The slain officer belonged to Khanyar area in Srinagar's Old City. Khanyar is adjacent to the Jamia Masjid where he was killed.
Pandit was posted in the security wing of the police and deployed for frisking visitors to the mosque to ensure nobody entered it with weapons. As part of rules, policemen posted in the security wing do not wear uniform.
The death of the officer, who was not deployed in anti-militancy or intelligence gathering, has shocked the Jammu and Kashmir Police.
A grim Director General of Police S.P. Vaid told reporters: "An officer being lynched by the very people he had gone to protect proves we have reached a stage where very little difference is left between humanity and barbarism."
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 have 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. Large gatherings are expected in various mosques in the Kashmir Valley on Friday.