His grave has become a la shrine now. He is a legend, to every Kashmiri now on.
By Rouf Dar
When was the last time Kashmir reached a flashpoint? When was the last time entire Kashmir came to a halt on the martyrdom of an active militant? When was the last time when unprecedented violence was perpetrated following the killing of a popular militant? Never!
This is uncommon in contemporary Kashmir. This is something unexpected by the Indian state and its agencies. But that is how the politics of resistance is shaping up in Kashmir with more youth taking recourse to the gun and common masses completely behind them, in total defiance of the state’s writ.
Burhan Wani was an ordinary youth. He had no Terminator powers. He performed no Herculean tasks. He had no Midas touch. He was no Harry Potter either. He was a teenage Kashmiri’s hero, an idol, an icon for youngsters who adore the likes of Che Guevara and Omar Mukhtar, who feel the pain on every injustice committed anywhere in the world they come to know of. They prefer action over silence, hold a life of freedom dearer and more valuable than a life of slavery.
Burhan is credited with the resurrection of a fading armed movement for political rights of Kashmiri people. Prior to this new wave of militancy, people hardly cared. Nobody knew who headed various armed outfits. People had almost buried the façade of armed militancy in the annals of resistance history.
Burhan leased a new life into armed resistance against oppression and denial of rights. Burhan connected with his peers and youth in general by very intelligent use of the social media. His frequent appearances on internet turned him into an instant fascination. Glorification of armed rebels became a habit, anew. His messages sent shocks through the spine of intelligence agencies. They were unable to digest the unfazed visibility of militants on accessible platforms.
Then there were the legends associated with Burhan which shall be narrated to generations of Kashmiris. With the rise of Burhan, a refreshed interest in armed militancy has aroused. Public support and affection for fighters has qualitatively increased. The title of “commander” and its succession will be followed again, keenly, by the people. Burhan’s association with Hizbul Mujahideen will keep throwing up a new “poster boy” each time, to keep the flame burning. Burhan chose a life for himself which, according to his father, has an average expectancy of 6 or 7 years. Death is a constant in Kashmir. Responses vary. There was a Mufti Sayeed whose funeral went unnoticed, speaking honestly. There was also the noted counterinsurgent Altaf, gunned down recently, whose grave is guarded by cops for the fear of people desecrating it. Even Sheikh Abdullah’s resting place is under topnotch security. Then there is Burhan. The funeral of the HM commander was offered several times. People, in unquantifiable droves, thronged from far off places to have a last glimpse and pay tributes. His grave has become a la shrine now. He is a legend, to every Kashmiri now on.
In a way Burhan revitalised the sagged morale of 1990s when militants held sway in Kashmir, but with a dose of sharp and well articulated politics accompanying it. They had their own poster boys, legends, who are remembered till date. The likes of HAJY group had a presence which galvanised the whole valley. That was a time when youth in large numbers made frequent trips across the dividing line to get trained and armed and then fight the war against India. Militancy was an indigenous, common phenomenon that militated every area of the valley. They even ran parallel administration though at a minor scale. With a comparatively lesser militarization than now, militants scarcely needed hiding places. They were always in public. They were the public.
With the brutal crushing of militancy in the succeeding years of late 1990s the number of active militants started to dwindle. People began to fear their association with any militant. The relatives of a militant would go into a hiding, unlike Muzaffar Wani who openly gave press statements. If there was an encounter in a house, it would be brought down to pieces, the head of the family would be taken into custody under the draconian POTA and rarely would he return alive. The period also saw numerous killings civilians who were used as shields in encounters and fell to cross-firings or “collateral damage” to use the official jargon.
The rise of Palestinian style stone pelting form of resistance in Kashmir turned more people, especially youth, away from the gun. This was not to be. The crush-mechanism disillusioned youth again and as an obvious consequence, armed militancy resurrected once again. In these circumstances, Burhan took center-stage and in a fantastic strategic move, he and his comrades started making regular appearances on social media. Militants now became more visible than the actual presence of them in 1990s. A kid surfing the internet on his smartphone to a professor teaching in a college, everyone knew Burhan and his men. This turned him into an instant point of interest and people eagerly kept waiting for his new photo or video releases.
In the forests of Tral, Burhan found a safe haven though he roamed around districts with unexpected ease as had been reported by newspapers. These stories, whether verified or not, have become a part of the legend for future generations. Burhan was not a dreaded militant who believed in shedding blood. His videos had messages laden with compassion. Though the police remain in direct combat with the militants, Burhan referred to them as his “own brethren” and tried making them understand the politics and meaning of their actions. He even vowed never to harm any of the pilgrims who visit Amarnath cave shrine every year at a huge cost to the fragile Himalayan environment. He won hearts and minds with his calm demeanor and a parting salute.
Their lesser numbers made the militants more recognizable as heroes.
Regionalism took a backstage and Burhan’s group shot to fame in North as much as in South of the valley and beyond. A generation that grew up in turbulent times and have overcome the fear of the security state, the relationship made, and makes, itself apparent when people throng encounter sites to help the trapped militants flee.
Crossfiring is thing of the past. Forces are caught in a dilemma as they have to face bullets from one end and stones from the other. A stringent bond has emerged between militants and the people that defines new-age militancy in Kashmir. In case of a killing, masses crowd out at funerals, climb up trees, capture the moments as the whole world watches the passion and determination of the youth of Kashmir.
The aftermath of Burhan’s martyrdom is a result of the love that people had for him. The shrines for the Kashmiri struggle for political rights that places that Trehgam or Doabgah have become for the people, Muzaffar Wani’s home in Tral is another addition to them. The latter had a huge rush of visitors for weeks after Burhan was martyred. Even walls of the compound got floored. Muzaffar Wani himself is a proud father. He is being congratulated, invited by people everywhere and showered with affection and respect. He must be a really proud father.
Burhan’s death does not signal the end of Burhan. It only means that there will be hundreds of youth emulating him and his path till the very end of this war. The State cannot shackle the imagination Burhan fired up. As children are being named after him, the legacy of Burhan will be written in gold in the history of resistance in Kashmir. He will stay alive forever, and ever.