Burhan Wani: The Death Of The Poster Boy – OpEd

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Burhan Wani — the face of young, revived and local militancy in the Kashmir Valley — was killed last week by forces that resulted in an unforeseen law and order problem for the state apparatus and violent social unrest throughout Kashmir resulting in some thirty-five plus civilian killings and hundreds of injured, wiht the toll still increasing.

Burhan Wani, who was just 22 years old, was called the face of a new and young militancy in the Kashmir Valley. This young chap even had surpassed Dr Shah Faisal –- the IAS topper of 2010 in fan fallowing who was then the inspiration for many Kashmiri youth. But Burhan was much famous now, and much more popular especially in the southern belt of Kashmir purely due to his use of technology and wide popular support in the region.

Security apparatus used to call this tech-savvy militant, the poster boy of young militancy in Kashmir as he lured young locals to militancy in the valley. It was also believed that Burhan recruited youngsters and was the inspiration of many youth in Kashmir, therefore posing a serious threat to security apparatus. The threat of local militancy still continues even after his death, as believed some Kashmir analysts and local politicians.

While I was in the valley forstudy on the annual holy Amarnath pilgrimage, I got stranded in the valley 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 Burhan’s death.

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

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

Undoubtedly Burhan’s killing is the huge unrest after 2008 and 2010. How it led to such a violent turn? Is it again a case of crisis mishandling? Or is it the lack of following SOPs by security apparatus that resulted in so many civilians’ deaths, even the time will tell because previous unrests are yet to be probed properly and nothing has come out and hardly anybody persecuted for civilian killings so far? Was killing Burhan a mistake or not a pre-diagnosed/mature and well thought out strategy that proved much expensive? Could he have been captured alive to avoid the crisis or was it really so impossible? Why so mass anger and why so much of growing popular support to militancy in the valley even today? Is movement or anger against the nation growing? Why 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 multifold due to bad governance or is it again 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 feels interested for peace building on the ground and feel 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 with 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 doing such a perception management in the valley? Analysts only call it only Islamic radicalisation but i think it is beyond that.

“The 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 leads to such anger time and again, crisis mishandling, use of much 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?,” said 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 a 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. Killings a routine these days still peoples sympathy seems increasing and violence slowly is becoming a part of culture.

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

As a social analyst and being 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 enough public sensitive and killings are still not replaced 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 HR abuse of the past? Who will value peoples’ lives and who will stop this killing spree? 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.

Yesterday only 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 it boils time and again. For a perpetual peace building in Kashmir, State primarily needs to engage with those who know and understand Kashmir well from a strategy and security perspective, State need the consultation with those who understand Kashmir well from its economic perspective and those who know the society of Kashmir well.

The death of the poster boy after all does not mean the end of the violent story and it has already affected the fragile normalcy of the valley.

Dr. Adfer Shah

Dr. Adfer Shah

Dr. Adfer Shah, (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based Sociologist and columnist at various reputed international and national media groups. Being an academic he has more than fifty publications besides hundreds of conceptual articles to his credit. He has been writing on South Asia's socio-political realities at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs and Associate Editor for South Asia since 2014. His first book on Kashmir-Yearning for Peace (ISSN: 978-3-659-55971-6) was published in Germany in December 2016.Reach him at [email protected]

One thought on “Burhan Wani: The Death Of The Poster Boy – OpEd

  • July 17, 2016 at 8:36 am
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    All the well educated people of the valley who want that millitants like Burhan wani be arrested instead of being hunted down myst form HUMAN RIGHTS SQUADS and go after these militants

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