Burhan Wani, 22, killed along with 2 militants in Kokernag; Protests, clashes erupt across the Valley; govt imposes curfew in vast areas of Srinagar, Pulwama; Resistance camp calls for 3-day mourning, strike
By A Aalim Ahmad
Srinagar/Anantnag: One of the most popular militant commanders, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, was killed in south Kashmir’s Kokernag pocket on Friday evening along with his two local colleagues.
Thousands of people poured onto streets in south Kashmir and old parts of Srinagar soon after pictures of Wani’s body began circulating through the internet.
Hurriyat Conference (G) Chairman Syed Ali Geelani called for a shutdown for three days and asked people to take part in funeral prayers of the slain commander and his colleagues on Saturday.
There was no word from the officials on how Burhan and his associates were killed except the announcement that General Officer Commanding of Awantipora-based Victor Force would brief the media on Saturday morning.
Burhan was the Divisional Commander of Hizbul Mujahideen and the most popular face of the militancy in the internet era in the region. The technology-savvy youngster was popular among Kashmiri youth since his videos and pictures went viral on social networking sites. Pictures and videos featuring him and his handsome associates, donning army fatigues, became a major cause for resurgence of militancy in Kashmir. However, this year, the police and government forces killed Burhan’s several colleagues.
Two other militants killed with Burhan have been identified as Masoom Ahmad Shah, a resident of Srigufwara village of Bijbehara and Sartaj Ahmad Sheikh, a resident of Pirtakiya, Kokernag. Sources said the trio was tracked down to the house of one Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh at Bamdoora village in Larkipora pocket of Kokernag. The house-owner is said to be the maternal uncle of Sartaj Ahmad.
Sources said sleuths of anti-insurgency wing of Kashmir police had arrived from Srinagar on the secret operation and had taken help of 19 Rashtriya Rifles to zero in on the house. Even as police maintain that an encounter took place that also injured one police personnel but local sources said that there was no gun-battle.
Burhan plunged into militancy in 2010 at the age of 15 when he was humiliated by the personnel of SOG, police’s infamous counterinsurgency arm. He was asked to fetch cigarettes and beaten up. He picked up arms and made his base in a dense forest in Tral neighborhood. His elder brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani was killed by government forces in the same Buchoo-Kamla forests, on April 13 2015 where he had gone to meet him. This was the first fake encounter during Mufti Sayeed led PDP-BJP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir. The officials insisted that Khalid had links with militants and died in a cross-fire.
Burhan shot into prominence after his videos were circulated on social networking sites in 2014 and 2015. The authorities had to book at least five youngsters in south Kashmir’s Awantipora police station to curb the circulation of these videos and pictures.
During past four months, several of Burhan’s colleagues who featured in his videos were traced down and killed in south Kashmir region. One of his colleagues, Tariq Pandit whom he mentioned in his last vide released on June 7, was mysteriously arrested in Pulwama.
The central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel deployed in various pockets of Srinagar city began jubilations after the news about Burhan Wani’s death went viral. Locals from Chanapora and Natipora localities told Kashmir Reader on phone that CRPF personnel began bursting crackers when Burhan Wani’s death was announced through media outlets.
Burhan’s killing is the first major jolt to militancy after the deadly June 25 attack on CRPF convoy in Pampore that left eight troopers of the force dead and 22 wounded. “The CRPF’s jubilation is perhaps in the context of Pampore attack. They feel that the Indian forces have taken revenge of Kashmiri militants,” Nazir Ahmad, a Natipora resident said.
Thousands of people poured onto streets in south Kashmir shortly after news about Burhan Muzaffar Wani’s death began spreading like wild fire. Youngsters came out on motorbikes, cabs and cars while chanting anti-India slogans in Tral area and began marching towards Burhan’s residence at Shariefabad.
“Burhan’s father is calm and composed as if he has been expecting this news to come. Hundreds of people are swarming around him,” Mudassir Ahmad, a local resident who was among the first to reach Burhan’s residence told Kashmir Reader.
“Burhan is our hero. The sun of Azaadi dawned from Tral and spread his message for liberation in the entire Jammu and Kashmir. We are proud to be his neighbours,” Ahmad said.
The public address system in the local mosques began playing azaadi songs and youngsters shouted slogans. Announcements were made asking people to march towards Tral town to participate in the funeral of the slain commander.
The protesters also hit streets at Redwani, Lal Chowk (Anatnag), Awantipora and Pulwama towns. Hundreds of youngsters attempted to go to Kokernag to receive the body of Burhan Wani. The chaos ruled the streets and traffic jams hampered the people’s movement.
The youngsters also staged protests in many parts of Srinagar city. Funeral prayers in absentia were offered at Nowhatta while clashes erupted at Hyderpora, Barzulla, Tengpora, Nowgam and other areas.
Pro-freedom protests erupted in Sopore and many other parts of north Kashmir.
The district administration in Srinagar late on Friday evening announced to impose curfew in jurisdiction of six police stations in view of the shutdown called by pro-freedom groups. Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Dr Farooq Ahmad Lone said that restrictions will be imposed in parts of the city that fall under jurisdictions of six police stations, including Rainawari, Nowhatta, MR Gunj, Khanyar, Safakadal and Maisuma.
The authorities also imposed curfew in Burhan’s native district Pulwama. Deputy Commissioner Pulwama Munirul Islam said that curfew has been imposed in the entire district that includes volatile towns of Tral, Pampore, Pulwama and Rajpora.
The government forces have also placed several pro-freedom leaders under house arrest. Besides continuous house imprisonment of Chairman Hurriyat (G) Syed Ali Geelani and Hurriyat Secretary General Shabir Ahmad Shah, the government forces placed Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, Ayaz Akbar, Peer Saifullah, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Raja Mehraj-ud-din, Mohammad Ashraf Laya and other leaders under house arrest. The JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik was taken into custody late on Friday night.
Burhan’s last video message
On June 7, a fragile looking Burhan Wani released a 6-minute 17-second video after a long hiatus. This proved to be his last video in which he vowed to carry the movement forward. He offered gratitude to people for their support and issued warning to police.
The video had been shot in a closed room with lean-looking Wani clad in a in a white T-Shirt sitting on a chair and covering his legs with a printed bedcover. Two automatic rifles were on his sides.
“In our last video we had warned police and asked them to stay away from anti-freedom movement activities, but they didn’t pay any heed. Policemen are forcing us to attack them and now we will not warn them anymore. I ask them not to harass youth, not to create Naka’s and stay inside the camps,” Burhan Wani said in his late video.
“Policemen are part of Kashmir nation but they don’t understand the policy of India that seeks pleasure every time a militant or a local policeman gets killed here,” Burhan said.
Refuting the claims of a BSF officer, Burhan said that militants have no plan and will never attack pilgrims who arrive in Kashmir for Amarnath Yatra. “They are pilgrims and we will not attack them.”
Burhan however claimed that militants will target Sainik colony and separate Pandit townships. “If Sainik colony or separate colonies on Israel pattern for Hindu’s are created in Kashmir we will target them. Pandits can come here and live in their respective places,” Burhan said.
Confirming that one of his aides Tariq Pandit was arrested by Army, Burhan says that Tariq got some of the militant sympathizers arrested but according to him “it won’t affect the organization.”
Burhan also warned media on calling Kashmiri militants as terrorists. “This land is ours. Kashmir is ours. We are not terrorists. The Indian army personnel are terrorists,” he said. He said that it is for the first time the outfit is warning the media.
(With inputs from Shabir Ahmad)