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Death of Hizbul poster boy Burhan Wani brings Kashmir to boil. Twitter torn

Populaly known as the 'Robin Hood of Tral', this social media savvy 21-year-old was killed in an encounter in Anantnag on the night of July 8.

 |  6-minute read |   09-07-2016
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Burhan Wani, the 21-year-old Facebook-savvy poster boy of Kashmir militancy and a commander of the pro-Pakistan outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, has died. He was killed in an encounter in the Anantnag region of South Kashmir, after a combing operation by Rashtriya Rifles and the Indian Army jawans. 

Burhan, who was from Tral in South Kashmir, was only 15 when he left home to take up arms against the Indian state. He had become a legendary figure in Kashmir, with his social media posts and videos becoming a conduit for Kashmir agitation and a vent for many a pent up grievance against the armed forces in the Valley.

Cutting a dashing figure in army fatigue and holding automatic weapons like AK-47s, Wani quickly became the face of local militancy and came to be known as the "Robinhood of Tral".  

Escaping the police and armed forces for over a couple of years, Wani had been an evasive figure, until he was tracked down and "neutralised". Images of Wani's mutilated corpse have been doing the rounds on social media, with a section of virulent trolls have even scapegoated a few journalists for merely reporting Wani's death in a sane, matter-of-fact manner, without the overdrive of hypernationalism surrounding the encounter. 

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Protests have erupted in South Kashmir as Wani's funeral procession attracted a huge crowd and left a trail of waling Kashmiris, all too heartbroken at losing yet another of their sons to a futile battle against the Indian state. There's a growing disenchantment with the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir, especially among the Muslim local population, which felt cheated of its political and ideological promises with the PDP joining hands with the BJP in the recent Assembly elections.

Burhan Wani's story goes like this: he came to pick up the gun after being needlessly harassed by some members of the armed forces and the police, while his brother Khalid Wani, who too was ragged earlier, was eventually killed after being tortured, in possibly a fake encounter. 

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Burhan Wani brought a huge dose of "glamour" to locally-bred militancy and disaffection. With each Facebook post, he would taunt the Indian state and the Army, and openly ask fellow Kashmiri youth to take up arms as it was the "Islamic" thing to do. Scholars and observers say that Wani betrayed a certain religious justification for a doomed battle, with a death wish almost, because the militancy that he took up and inspired didn't have a wider political clarity, just a raging war against the monolithic Indian state and its armed forces. 

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Hizbul Mujahideen's pro-Pakistan stance is well documented, and this was exploited by some in the Pakistani media, who compared Wani to Bhagat Singh waging a war against the occupying British Raj.

Such comparisons and Wani's dropdead good looks had turned him into a folk hero, but a nightmare for the Indian State, which launched a disproportionately large operation to nab and eliminate him. However, as many reports already observe, Wani was a commander without much of an army of his own, because the loose band of boys that he supposedly supervised were being killed off one after another.

With the relatively low turnout of homegrown militants at present, about 140 in all, with almost 70-80 from South Kashmir, it is believed that Wani's death may just lead to an explosive situation of young men leaving homes and joining extremists in droves. Already, unrest and curfew-like situation have followed in the wake of Wani's death, and the Valley is as tense as it can be.

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Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has expressed a cautionary note on the death of Burhan Wani.

It is clear from Abdullah's tweets that the Valley has come to an emotional boil, and is likely to remain that way for days to come. Twitter too has been divided over Wani's death, with the media split between calm reportage and hysterical chestbeating over the 21-year-old's elimination.  

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