The Poster Boy of Militancy In Kashmir


Burhan Muzaffar Wani -the face of young, revived and local militancy in Kashmir valley- was killed on 8 July by forces which resulted in an unforeseen law and order problem for the State apparatus and violent social unrest throughout Kashmir valley resulting in some thirty seven civilian killings and hundreds of injured -the toll still mounting. The boy of just 22 years of age; was called the face of new and young militancy in Kashmir valley and became quite famous due to his use of social media. This young chap even had taken over Dr Shah Faisal –the IAS topper of 2010 in fan following who was then the inspiration of many Kashmiri youth. But Burhan Wani was much more popular especially in the southern belt of Kashmir purely due to his use of technology.

Security apparatus used to call this tech-savvy militant, the “poster boy of young militancy in Kashmir,” as he was considered an attraction to lure young locals to militancy in the valley. It was also believed that Burhan recruits youngsters and is the inspiration of many youths in Kashmir, thereby posing a serious threat to the security apparatus. The threat of increase in local militancy still continues even after his death; as believed by some Kashmir analysts and local politicians.

While I had gone to valley for a study on the annual holy Amarnath pilgrimage, I got stranded there due to the death of this poster boy. Being a local I stayed at my home and interacted with friends and acquaintances around on the situation that prevailed aftermath his killing.

“If twenty more civilians die, Kashmir issue will reach some solution”, says an elderly man. Such thinking reflects that there is a section of society in Kashmir who thinks only violence can solve their issues and more the killings of civilians, more will be the impact. People perceive so because they have been witnessing only violence since the onset of the armed conflict in 1989.

I am thirty three years old who has witnessed 2008 unrest and then 2010 unrest and all the other such big and small incidents since 1990s, but this time the situation is different and more dangerous. The valley is burning”, says a friend. Why is it different: because of the rampant killing spree by forces or repeated crisis mishandling or failure of crowd control management?

Undoubtedly Burhan’s killing fallout is the huge unrest in itself after 2008 and 2010. How it led to such a violent turn (even the establishment couldn’t guess in time)? Is it again a case of crisis mishandling or is it the lack of following SOPs by security apparatus. Why this incident resulted in so many civilian deaths, even the time will not tell because previous unrests are yet to be probed properly and nothing has come out so far and masses maintain that hardly anybody has been persecuted for civilian killings till date.

Was killing Burhan a mistake or not a pre-diagnosed/mature strategy that proved much expensive? Could he have been captured alive to avoid the crisis or was it really so impossible? Why so much anger and why so much of growing popular support to militancy in the Valley even today? Is the movement or anger against the Nation growing? Why do Kashmiris support militancy and why so much of mass participation and sloganeering on militants’ funerals? Are such acts the sings of the mass alienation that has increased multi-fold due to bad governance or is it the sentiment of secession from India that never dies down? Where will it lead us to and where will it end? Nobody knows. Why nobody knows, because nobody even the state government knows the methods of peace building on the ground but feels the pain only when it reaches the optimum? Are Kashmiri youth really so much alienated that even death is not a big deal now? Perhaps yes. There are endless questions and with alarming question marks at their end. But till date there are no answers.

A local told me that there is a sentiment which can never die down in the valley. Even there are brothers who want their sisters to marry a boy who is nothing but ‘Tehreek Pasand’ (Movement sympathiser).What has actually shaped such a mentality and mass perception, is a question to ponder over. Who is creating such a perception in the Valley? Analysts only call it Islamic radicalisation but I think it is beyond that.

“It’s shocking to see is the stone versus bullet again and the same civilian causalities. Does it mean people have lost the fear of death and prefer honour and dignity,” says a businessman. The question that still remains is the success of stone pelting as a practice among youth and who are lead to such anger time and again, crisis mishandling, use of force or what? Why hasn’t been stone pelting curbed so far? Who has failed and who will take responsibility for such a mess, time and again?

“Even rifles are snatched and to the worst police personnel are kidnapped by protesters. The situation has crossed all limits. People hate local police even a cop was pushed in Jhelum along with his vehicle resulting in his death. It cannot be worst than this. Has police failed local aspirations or is facing the wrath of past mistakes?” says a young chap.

“The police feels caught between the devil and the deep sea, masses hate them and bosses push them against us”, says an old man.

“The new wave of anger against the system is on its full flair”, says another young man.

“The future of Kashmir may whatever be, but this uprising (he calls it Ragdo-3) is the severe one and may turn decisive, says a history student”. Will the State learn some lessons out of such repeated violence? I think not.

Burhans’s death led to many more deaths. For his death is treated as a major setback to militancy in Kashmir and big success for forces. But the question as much debated in media now is that whether the new recruitment will increase or decrease due to this killing. If the poster boy got killed who will recruit now? Some say, the dead Burhan will recruit, for emotion and inspiration may motivate the youth now. Sloganeering is everywhere, some raise pro-freedom slogans, some eulogise Pakistan, while some attach religion to the Kashmir’s political issue. Killing is a routine these days. People’s sympathy seems to be increasing and violence slowly is becoming a part of the culture.

“State has power and absolute power this time which is being used against us, we are still not afraid”, preaches a sloganeer during a protest.

As a social analyst and as an insider, one can see a different turn now. People especially well-educated feel such killings are a mistake on the part of security forces as far as the bloody fallouts are concerned. State is not public sensitive, and killings are still not punished with arrests. Should forces prefer arrests to encounters?

The situation in the valley is obviously tense and everyone is sacred. People don’t necessarily fear security forces but fellow people, for everyone has turned a rebel and violence against each other is almost legitimised. I myself had to rush to airport for the national capital at 2 am in the night just because of people’s protests during the day and stone pelting on the roads.

Despite the appeals of maintaining peace by PM Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the CM Mehbooba, peace is yet to return to the already peace fragile valley. Will only peace appeals do when so much needs to be done on the ground, remains a big question. Who will stop this routine bloodshed in the Valley? Who will speak to angry youth and build peace in the Valley? Who has the capacity to bridge the hateful gap between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh? Who will restore peace and justice by delivering on human rights  abuse of the past? Who will value peoples’ lives and who will stop this killing spree? The Centre has to ponder over it and think of a credible administration in Kashmir. Healing-touch theory should be practised on the ground and I am sure PM Modi is capable of that.

Recently the Hizb (PoK based militant outfit) appointed a new commander, after Burhan’s killing, to continue what was being done. What does it indicate? Simply that this is not the end of the show. So, making peace has fewer stakeholders than those producing more and more violence. We need permanent peace building strategy for Kashmir. Not just some statements of sorrow when the Valley boils time and again. For a perpetual peace building in Kashmir, the State primarily needs to engage with those who know and understand Kashmir well from a strategy and security perspective. The State needs to consult with those who understand Kashmir well from its economic perspective and those who know the Kashmiri society.

The death of the poster boy after all does not mean the end of the violent story. It has already affected the fragile normalcy of the Valley. The need of the hour is to address the issue politically for long lasting peace in the region.