A high-ranking police officer was beaten to death in Kashmir by an angry mob that witnesses say had taken him for a spy or assassin. At least two suspects have been arrested.
The victim, Mohammed Ayub Pandith, the deputy superintendent for the security wing of the Jammu and Kashmir state police, had gone to a mosque in Srinagar, the Jamia Masjid, on Thursday for prayers on Shab-e-Qadr, a night on the Muslim calendar when the Quran is believed to have been revealed to Muhammad. Accounts about what transpired vary. Shesh Paul Vaid, the top Indian police officer in the region, said that Officer Pandith, who had been in civilian clothes, had gone to the mosque “to ensure the protection of people offering prayers there.”
Having sent his security detail home, Officer Pandith began to feel threatened when worshipers at the mosque singled him out and began closing in, Mr. Vaid said. At a certain point, Officer Pandith pulled out his revolver “and in self-defense he fired a couple of rounds” into the crowd, he added.
Witnesses described a different sequence of events. One said a group of people had spotted Officer Pandith moving around the mosque with at least one other man, and said one of them was taking photographs.
Witnesses said the officer was then disarmed, stripped naked and paraded around the area before being beaten to death with stones.
Another witness, Adnan Bhat, a journalist, said that only a few people had tried to come to Officer Pandith’s defence, and that they had been quickly turned aside. Almost everyone else in the crowd just looked on, he said, “as if this were normal.”
“They lynched him,” Mr. Bhat said. “People stood and watched. People were eating chicken, some shops were open. There were thousands of people watching. And if anyone says otherwise, they are lying.”
The chief minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, who has faced criticism for her handling of recent tensions, condemned the killing at a ceremony for Officer Pandith on Friday morning.
“The killing is actually a murder of trust,” she said. “Jammu and Kashmir police have been showing restraint because they are dealing with their own people. This is a very inhuman attack.”