The Charisma of Burhan Wani

Heroes live in our hearts

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in its entirety by both

It was the evening of third day of  Eid-ul-Fitir Last year, the beautiful evening was about to end and like every other part of Kashmir in my village Nazneenpora Shopian apart from playing water game with one another crackers burst, happy children, folk songs being played and the environ bidding farwell to Eid celebrations was on in traditional way.

As everyone was busy in enjoying the happiness a friend of mine got a call from his friend who was living somewhere in Islamadad (Annantnag), as soon he cut the phone he said, “All of you listen, stop playing, Burhan is no more”. At first like everyone else I thought the rumor mill of Kashmir has been activated and it’s false news as is famously said rumors travel in Kashmir faster than pellets and bullets. But the next movement I too got some calls from friends from central, north and south Kashmir, everyone telling me the same news. “Burhan is no more.” After a little time I rushed towards my home and switched on the TV, as soon as the news came from the trusted news agencies and journalists I received some pictures of dead Burhan via whatsaap and like me everyone else was receiving the same thus Burhan Muzaffar Wami, who kept the security forces on tenterhooks for six long years, was finally ‘martyred’ by the Indian forces on 8 July along with two accomplices.

Mosques began to vibrate with the slogans of freedom and eulogised Burhan with songs. Social networking sphere of Kashmir poured with tributes for Burhan and a panicky government decided to ban internet, till 11:59 in the night internet functioned and as soon as clock touched 12 it was gone.

After the slogans there was a call from our main masjid for general people and the call was, “Dear youngsters, elders if you wish to participate in the funereal of mujahid Burhan then please reach near masjid within half an hour, we have arranged some vehicles”. Like every other Kashmiri, I too wished to participate in the funereal but could not afford to leave home at that time, I was bound to be the protector of my parents as my younger brother was not at home.

At 8:30 am a friend of mine came to my home and said we should go, a little cousin of mine, aged 11, a lone son of my uncle said to his parents, “If you will not allow me then I will go for suicide”, we both somehow got the permission of our parents and made our way towards Tral. As soon as we reached Sangam near the national highway I saw hundreds of cars and bikes, trucks and tippers with thousands of people chanting pro Burhan and pro freedom slogans, who where stopped by CRPF and JKP persons and stone-pelting was going on. Finally they decided to give us away in order to participate in the historic funereal. We first reached Noorpora Trail where one of Burhan’s associates was killed and here what we saw was what we witnessed in every funereal of every militant. Thousands of people – men, women, young and old, chanting pro freedom slogans. As we prayed at the funereal we left towards Burhan’s native town at the foot of the Pirpanjal range to catch the last glimpse of the “hero” of Kashmir but it took us two hours to cover the distance of 10 kms.

Finally at 12pm we reached Tral and what we saw Kashmir’s talest leader Sheikh Muhammed Abdullah, in addition to hundreds of thousands of people, crying, chanting the slogans of “Aazadi” and “Burhan”. Even the Ex CM of J&K Omar Abdullah said there were more than 300,000 people who participated in the funereal while as observers we believe that if not for the curfew, history would have witnessed the world’s biggest funereal.

Though Burhan’s body vanished in mounds of earth, which mourners jostled to pour into his grave, the sea of people declined to recede for hours. Finally at around 3pm, the mortal remains of the hero were laid to rest while dozens of masked and unmasked militants gave him a gun salute, participated in the funereal; something typical of the early 1990s when militancy was at its peak in the valley.

The bloodbath that began after the day of his funeral has so far claimed at least 200 lives, around 10,000 injured, while hundreds have lost their eyesight by pellets and the war is on.

Since then a year has passed, but not only the politicians but the high ranks of police are in dilemma what to do and what not to. In his first press conference after Burhan’s killing SM Shai said, “The situation is not like 2010”. Yes he was correct it is not like 2010 but much more dangerous. The security forces at that time believe that Burhan’s killing was a big achievement. The then senior superintendent of police, Baramulla, Imtiyaz Hussain, who enjoys the title of “Khakee Fidayeen” and has been on the forefront of counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir for over a decade, claimed that Burhan never attacked the security forces. Imitiyaz’s Facebook post triggered a massive debate which went viral despite the suspension of mobile internet in the valley.

“The truth is, despite all his virtual bravado, despite being a poster boy, he could not carry out a single action against security forces. His life was glamorised by media power, and his death celebrated in the same way by people who just stand on sidelines, and cheer gleefully… Let the truth be told, his life was a waste, one more man sacrificed for a futile cause, he is not the first, he won’t be the last.”

Yes, I agree with his statement that “He was not the first, he won’t be the last.” But Burhan’s death has put Kashmir on the edge, even the youngest pellet-injured boy, Asif of Khanbabal, who was on the death bed at that time in SMHS hospital has said, “To take revenge I will pick-up an AK-47.”

Meanwhile Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in its entirety by both. Since 1989, militant groups have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with neighbouring Pakistan. More than one hundred thousand people have been killed in the armed rebellion and subsequent lndian crackdown.

Though incidents of violence have largely been suppressed by Indian forces, public opposition to Indian rule remains widespread in the mostly Muslim territory and is now mainly expressed through street protests.

In Kashmir it’s a typical tale. A militant killed…a legend born as his mourners, including me, say Burhan will always live in our hearts