Killing of cop in Kashmir triggers mass mourning, sets social media on fire

 CCTV footage shows probationary sub-inspector Meer Arshad in uniform but unarmed, walking his way to the police station at Khanyar in downtown Srinagar in the afternoon on Sunday.

An unidentified terrorist following him closely takes out his pistol and pumps bullets into the officer's skull from behind in point blank range. He is seen collapsing and being evacuated by two civilians. Minutes later, Meer is declared dead at a hospital.

The CCTV footage, followed by heart-wrenching scenes of mourning by the officer's family members, went viral in the social media, invoking condemnation to the killing from many quarters. According to the officials, Meer, a recruit of the 2019 batch, was returning to his office from a hospital after delivering a detainee for the Covid test. The news of his assassination in broad daylight - third incident of this kind in Srinagar this year - sent shockwaves across the valley.

By the time Meer's body reached his home at Kalmoona, in Kupwara district, for the last rites, thousands of people had converged on the village. A pall of gloom descended on swathes of the populations on either side of the road from Handwara and Kupwara to Kalmoona, through the township of Magam.

A multitude of the wailing men, women and children received the young officer's mortal remains while crying and beating chests in mourning and interred the same in the community graveyard late in the night. The village mosque's Imam, while addressing the gathering, described the 28-year-old Meer as a "budding flower who had not harmed anyone". He prayed for the slain officer's peace.

"I want to know for what fault it was that my young son was shot dead. What wrong had he done in just two years of his service in the Police?" Meer's traumatised father, Mohammad Ashraf, was heard shouting hysterically. Meer had got a job in the Jammu and Kashmir Police after his post-graduation in botany. Ashraf wanted the killers of his son to be brought to justice.

The separatist camp and its sympathisers in different institutions decided to sit calm, even as some people in the social media raised questions over violation of the Covid SOPs at the mourners' gathering. However, condemnations to the killing and condolences for the bereaved family poured in from almost all the mainstream political parties and a large number of the Netizens.

Meer was killed in one kilometre of the spot where Deputy Superintendent of Police Ayyub Pandith was lynched to death by a frenzied mob, near Jamia Masjid, in deep downtown Srinagar, on 22 June 2017. There were fewer condemnations to Pandith's killing as few people called on the family at Khanyar. It was the time when the sworn ISIS supporters had set up a base in that area and nobody would dare to protest the death of anyone attacked or killed by anti-Indian youths or militants.

The valley has silently gone through a sea change in the last four years - more so after the dismissal of Mehbooba Mufti's government in June 2018 and abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. While all protests, stone pelting and clashes with the Police and security forces during counterinsurgency operations or after killing of militants have died down, the Kashmiris have begun to muster courage to protest the killings of the Police personnel. Around 70,000 Kashmiris work in the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

Meer is the fourth victim of the unconventional attack on the Policemen in Kashmir in the current year. All the three incidents have been captured live by CCTV cameras.

In recent times, the Kashmiris saw for the first time a gun-wielding terrorist killing two unarmed Policemen at Baghat Barzulla Chowk in uptown Srinagar on 19 February 2021. Constables Mohammad Yousuf of Zirhama Kupwara and Suhail Ahmad of Logripora Aishmuqam, Anantnag, were waiting for tea at a wayside restaurant when they were attacked from behind. Both the unarmed personnel died on the spot. The CCTV camera grabbed graphics of the gunman walking over the bustling road with his AK-56 rifle in hand and killing the two Policemen in cold blood. There was widespread mourning in the residential areas of both the slain constables.

The shootout at Baghat, in close vicinity of a Police Station, came in two days of the assassination of Akash Mehra at Krishna Dhaba, a popular eatery for tourists, close to the headquarters of the United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). Protesting youths in Srinagar came out with candle light marches. A guerrilla group operating under the banner of TRF claimed responsibility for many of such assassinations including that of Mehra and the Policemen. Senior Police officers claim TRF to be a front for the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.

The second attack of the new pattern was executed on Inspector Parvez Ahmad Dar in his neighbourhood of Nowgam, on the outskirts of Srinagar, on 22 June 2021. Dar, who was posted in Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, was in civvies and heading for a local mosque to perform his evening prayers. The CCTV footage shows two pistol-wielding terrorists following him and opening fire from behind. Targeted with accuracy, Inspector Dar died on the spot.

The third Bollywood-type assassination yesterday also occurred in the summer capital of Srinagar, at Khanyar, on 12 September 2021.

Notwithstanding some equivocal condemnations from the politicians, all protected by J&K Police, the common Kashmiris began openly mourning and condemning such killings in 2020. Hundreds of the wailing residents gathered at Maloora, on Srinagar outskirts, and mourned the death of Constable Ashfaq of IRP 20 battalion who was among the two Policemen shot dead by militants at Nowgam, on 14 August 2020.

On 17 August 2020, a large number of people assembled at a village in Pattan to mourn the death of Special Police Officer Muzaffar Ali, the only bread earner of the family and a brother of six sisters, killed in an encounter. Similar scenes of mass mourning were witnessed over the death of Constable Altaf at Eidgah in Srinagar who got killed while resisting a militant attack on a BJP leader at Nunnar, Ganderbal, on 6 October 2020. One militant also got killed in retaliation from the BJP leader's PSO.

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