Gangs or no gangs: A police claim that has caused confusion

Pirzada Shakir

A police statement earlier this week that a young man, who was killed in daytime shooting, was shot dead by a rival gang shocked the residents of Srinagar.

The police’s claim based on what it said a preliminary investigation and issued hours after the shooting in Srinagar’s old city revealed the sudden existence of armed gangs.

However, hours later, the police backtracked from its claim about gangs and described the killing as a “terror-related incident”,  a reference that the man was shot dead by militants.

In between, a poster had appeared on social media sites in which The Resistance Front, a militant group believed to be a shadow unit of Lashkar-e-Toiba, claimed responsibility and said “the guy targetted is a member of notorious 16 Gujjar Gang.”

The police’s initial claim of gang war in Srinagar, meanwhile, had already gone viral and published widely in all major news outlets.

Five days after the claim was made, several police officials told The Kashmir Walla that there was no evidence that gangs exist in Srinagar and said the nomenclature was limited to social media usage.

Mehraan Ali, the man who was shot and whose killing sparked the debate of gang war, was the de facto head of 16 Chattabal Gujjars.

The group included friends and musclemen who projected themselves as a gang on social media by uploading videos in which they fashioned themselves as gang members, partied a lot and drove vehicles in caravans.

A senior police officer in Srinagar told The Kashmir Walla that there were “no gangs operating” in the city. “These are some 5 to 10 friends in Chattabal area who have formed a group, are in bodybuilding, go to Pahalgam for a tour, enjoy and people termed them as gang. This is not a gang,” the officer said.

“Gangs are those who are involved in theft, extortion and they are not involved in such cases,” he said.(The Kashmir wala)

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