Kashmir Bleeds Again
On 8 July, 2016, even as the rest of the country was getting ready for a leisurely weekend, Indian security forces in the state of Jammu and Kashmir embarked on yet another arduous operation against militant and anti-national forces. The war against militancy now seems like an unending conflict in the Kashmir valley and this operation too, like many others, may not have drawn a mention in the national news. Except for the fact that one of the three militants killed in Bumdoora village of Kokernag (Anantnag) was Burhan Wani. One of the other militants who died in the same encounter was identified as Sartaj Ahmed Sheikh.
According to the Indian security forces, Wani’s death was not a conscious call. The operation was a routine one and only later, one of the dead militants was identified as Wani. The killing of Wani is however, a huge “bonus”, they said.
In Kashmir, one is always at a loss to predict which killing will be blown out of proportion and when a young man, who should have embarked on an industrious career path instead of taking up arms and becoming a budding terrorist, will be turned into an “iconic martyr”, a champion of militancy. In this case, separatists quickly stepped in and politicized Wani’s death. Thousands of young men attended the funeral and staged a mass protest over Wani’s death. The police and security forces in the valley were targeted. Over 30 people have been killed and hundreds injured in these clashes – the worst in recent years. Kashmir is once again in the grip of a dark and gloomy curfew.
Who was Burhan Wani?
There are many different, often conflicting, descriptions that you may read about Burhan Muzaffar Wani. Some may call him a class topper while others describe him as a misguided young man; for his friends he was certainly a passionate Indian cricket fan, while those who have seen his pictures/videos on Facebook/YouTube may call him a militant. The one description that keeps resonating, though, is that of a 21-year-old terrorist from Kashmir who owes his allegiance to Hizbul Mujahideen.
Born on 19 September, 1994, in the Tral province of Kashmir to Muzaffar Ahmad Wani, head master of a government school in the vicinity, Burhan’s childhood was pretty much nondescript. But at the age of 15, Wani took up arms and joined the Hizbul militants who routinely wreck the feeble calm in Kashmir. His alleged trigger was a scuffle in which his brother was beaten up by Indian security personnel “without reason”.
Hizbul Poster Boy
Wani’s youth, his tech-savvy approach, and his love of Social Media made it easy for him to connect with the younger lot in Kashmir. But had he used his popularity to lead them to a higher purpose, Wani may have been a hero. Instead he chose to be a fledgling terrorist. Wani chose to become a poster boy for Hizbul recruiters in the valley. His love of having his photograph taken with various guns and for posting these across platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp may have made him popular, but they also served to recruit at least 20 other young men from South Kashmir into the militant outfit. Wani was very active on all Social Media platforms and, unlike many before him, did not conceal his identity. His posts and videos spoke of alleged Indian oppression and injustice and very often incited violence. Now Wani is dead but has still managed to leave a legacy of violence and bloodshed in our country.
Prior to 8 July, 2016, Wani was not newsworthy. The media houses in the country failed the young man even a mention despite there being a reward of INR 1 lakh for information of his whereabouts. And now, with the young man with a gun dead in the valley, the legend of Wani is the talk of the media. In 2015, Wani’s brother, Khalid Muzaffar Wani, was killed when he was taking three friends to meet Burhan and to be recruited by the Hizbul. But media tales have turned Khalid into an innocent man tortured for being Burhan Wani’s brother. One media house reports the clashes of the past few days demanding that the state of Jammu and Kashmir be normalized. It speaks of the presence of 1 Indian soldier to 15 residents in the state. These news reports, however, fail to account for the number of Pakistani troops in Kashmir and for covert cross border militants and miscreants in the state. “Normalcy” is retaining troops in any and every threatened state of our country. Including Jammu and Kashmir. And eulogizing a young terrorist by calling him a “Hizbul commander” is both according the militant outfit undue regard and deifying a killer.
Not only have journalists and media houses played games over the death of Wani, public personalities such as Kavita Krishnan have gone on to call the operation “extra judicial killing”. An attempt to normalize, if not glorify terrorists, and seek justification of security personnel are certainly not in the best interests of the country.
Even as Kashmir starts to resemble a boiling cauldron, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Shrif expressed grief at Wani’s death and condemned the killing of the terrorist recruiter by Indian security forces. A statement from Pakistan PM’s Office read, “The Prime Minister of Pakistan has expressed his deep shock at the killing of Kashmiri leader Burhan Wani and many other civilians by the Indian military and paramilitary forces.” The references to Wani as a Kashmiri leader and his accomplices as civilians would have been downright laughable had it not been in the context of the violence in J & K. We might even go as far as calling such an endorsement outrageous, given the nature of violence, bloodshed, and grief caused by Pakistan-sponsored proxy war in the state.
The Foreign Ministry of India was quick to react and said, “Pakistan is advised to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbours.” The statement also pointed to the Pakistan PM’s statement as proof of the country’s attachment to terrorism.
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