Burhan Wani’s killing: He was a commander of freedom fighters’ group, Hizbul Mujahideen in Indian Kashmir. He wielded massive popularity in the local populace through social media presence and helped in conveying a more youth-oriented image of militancy in Kashmir, recruiting numerous adherents to the cause.
Indian forces, after a pronged hunt, killed him on July 8, 2016, in military combat, sparking massive protests across the valley. To quell protests, Kashmir was placed under 53 consecutive days of curfew, lifted on 31 August 2016 (Though post-special-status-abrogation clampdown exceeds six months until Feb 2020). Over 96 protesters were shot dead, and over 15,000 civilians injured.
Burhan’s story tells how a pacifist Kashmiri is turned into a freedom fighter (`militant’ in Indian terminology). Burhan was born in Dadsara village of Tral area of Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir to Muzaffar Ahmad Wani, principal of a government higher secondary school and Maimoona Muzaffar, a postgraduate of science who taught Quran in her village.
Burhan planned to be a doctor and had obtained more than 90% marks in his Class Eight examination. But, he left his home on 16 October 2010, ten days before his secondary exam and enrolled for the `militant’ cause at about the age of 15, joining Hizbul Mujahideen.
He harboured no anti-Indian sentiment. But, a minor incident disillusioned him. Security forces brutally thrashed him, his brother Khalid and a companion, when they refused to buy a pack of cigarettes for forces.
Being an assiduous student, Burhan found social-media a passionate tool to give vent to his pent-up anger against Indian forces. In his native language, he portrayed persecution of the Kashmiri by Indian forces. Soon he became a legend. His message about India being incompatible with Islam attracted the youth. He exhorted them to unfurl the flag of Islam on Delhi’s Red Fort. To reduce his influence, Indian forces circulated the canard that he had been killed
In 2013. This canard further boosted his image when people came to know that he was still alive.
Kashmiris were further alienated when the Indian army killed Burhan’s brother, Khalid, a pacifist with no `militant’ record, in cold blood on 13 April 2015.
No-one believed the Indian version that Khalid sympathised with `militants’. He was shot while he, accompanied by his three friends, was going to Burhan to get them enrolled with freedom fighters. Khalid’s family rebutted army version. They claimed that Khalid was abducted and killed in army custody. His dead body had no signs of gun-shots, marks of physical torture. Khalid’s companions ran away to avoid being abducted by the army in a cordon. They were rescued from army drag-net by local police. The escapees later narrated gory account of Khalid being picked up by the army and visibly manhandled and tortured.
Burhan happened to be ultimately killed by Indian army on 8 July 8, 2016, along with two other freedom fighters, later identified as Sartaj Ahmad Sheikh and Pervaiz Ahmad Lashkari.
Over 200000 Kashmir mourners attended Burhan’s funeral, despite restrictions on people, on 9 July. The funeral prayers were also performed in absentia in all major towns of Kashmir. His body wrapped in Pakistan’s flag was buried next to that of his brother Khalid in Tral. `Militants’ were also present at his funeral and offered him a three-volley salute. But, the army did not dare touch them.
The news of Burhan’s martyrdom spread like wildfire. Violent protests and shutdown entailed until February 2017. Still, the anniversary is observed by Kashmiris with great fervour. Curfew is clamped and phone/Internet and train services are suspended. The national highway is shut down.
No investigation into Burhani’s death: Protesters demanded an investigation into Burhan’s death in `encounter’ as also of his brother Khalid in `custody’. India turned a deaf ear to the demand.
Reaction: Peoples Democratic Party leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig alleged that the standard operating procedure had not been followed during the `encounter’ involving Burhan and his companions. Baig demanded that a commission be appointed to probe Burhan’s’ killing.
A day after his death, former Chief Minister of state Omar Abdullah said that his killing had made him an icon of the disaffected section of the Kashmiri society. He warned that dead Burhan would be deadlier after his death. More and more Kashmiris will join the `militancy’.
On 12 July, Pakistan’s then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a statement expressed “shock” over the killing of Burhan Wani. Sharif called Wani a “martyr”. During his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 21, Sharif described Burhan Wani as a “young leader” who had emerged as a symbol of the latest “Kashmiri Intifada”. During meeting with UN officials, Pakistan’s then Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi raised the killing of Wani describing it as an “assassination of a Kashmiri youth leader”.
In July 2017, the English daily Pakistan Today praised Wani and compared his death to the death of Che Guevara. On Pakistan’s Independence Day in August 2017, Wani was featured on a special train named Azadi Train which was organised by Pakistan Railways in memory of country’s national heroes.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized media alleging it was portraying the “slain” Wani as a “hero”.
As an eye-wash and tacit admission of killing innocent Khalid, Burhan’s brother, the state government gave his family exgratia compensation of Rs. 400,000in December 2016 Legacy
Suppression of freedoms: Through a host of draconian measures, India has gagged digital and voice protests in disputed Kashmir. It barred local and foreign journalists from visiting Kashmir. Indian forces fire pellets (called `bird shots’) with pump-action shot-guns against unarmed protesters or stone-throwers, even women, and children five to eight years’ old.
Indian forces fire pellets (called `bird shots’) with pump-action shot-guns against unarmed protesters or stone-throwers, even women, and children five to eight years’ old. A New York Time report portrays a gruesome picture (“An Epidemic of ‘Dead Eyes’ in Kashmir as India Uses Pellet Guns on Protesters”, New York Times, August 28, 2016`) It says` the patients have mutilated retinas, severed optic nerves, irises seeping out like puddles of ink’. Doctors call them `dead eyes’. A similar report in the Washington Post (December 12, 2017) is no less poignant. Human rights violations in disputed Kashmir have been well documented in several international reports. Now even India’s services chief has confessed blinding protesters. Irked by international-media censures, Bipin Rawat, India’s ex-army chief, now Chief of Defence Services says, ` Most of the eye injuries are caused because those pelting stones bend to the ground to pick up stones and because pellet guns are fired at the legs they get to hit them in the eyes (Indian Express, January 17, 2020). Indian opposition took him to task for explaining how Kashmiris were being “radicalized”. They advised him to desist from dabbling in politics. Asaduddin Owaisi asked him, `Who’ll deradicalise lynchers and their political masters? `Yogi (UP chief minister] and “Pakistan jao” Meerut SP?
Fake encounters: The news of Davinder Singh’s arrest brought solace to besieged eight million people of Kashmir whose memories are alive with the past injustices of the Macchil, Chattisinghpora, Pathribal and Barakpora massacres. Davinder Singh’s initial confession instantly evoked memories of the Parliament House attack in 2001, which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of an all-out war.
Attempts to whitewash Davinder Singh’s crimes by the system only made Kashmiris certain that justice was far from their reach. Afzal Guru’s trial and subsequent hanging have become a benchmark of India’s justice system for ordinary Kashmiris.