The new-age militancy wave received a serious blow on Friday last, July 8, when the government forces shot dead its 22-year-old poster boy, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, in a brief gunfight in South Kashmir.
Wani, fighting for last six years, had become face of this new movement that helped to strengthen anti-India sentiment.
At his home in Tral – 40 kilometres from Srinagar, people from every corner of Kashmir started pouring in when his body arrived around 2.30 in the morning. The visitors from various South Kashmir areas, including from Srinagar and North also, would walk in human chains to get a last glimpse of their hero.
The high intensity of reaction to Wani’s killing has answers to where Kashmir stands today and what is coming ahead. The news of his killing spread like wildfire bringing people out on the streets to protest and stone throwing clashes with government forces.
Five people have been killed and dozens injured during the clashes in various parts of Kashmir. The Jammu-Srinagar National Highway remains dotted with barricades put up by protestors with negligible vehicle movement and annual Amarnath Yatra stands suspended.
A "hero" for Kashmiris
The root for this mass mourning and heroic response to Wani’s loss is in the post-2010 years of Kashmir. During 2010 mass protests, more than 120 civilians were shot dead by government forces under National Conference-Congress government led by Omar Abdullah. Wani also joined militants in 2010 when he was only 15.
For the young generation, Wani’s role as a militant is significant and heroic for reasons that connect him strongly with the youth. After the 2008 and 2010 mass protests, it was proven that the anti-India politics in Kashmir had moved from the older generation that was active or witnesses militancy in the 1990s, to the new generation that is disaffected now.
|Wani’s role as a militant is significant and heroic for reasons that connect him strongly with the youth.|
Children who were not even in their teens in 2008-2010 are now angry, politically disenchanted youth.
The anger among these youth has been brewing and they found a ready hero in Wani. The heroism was worth it as Wani pushed the envelope by using new tech-savvy methods of recruitment, promotion and message delivery.
He used social media, knowing it directly focuses on and reaches out to the youth. His latest video messages for people have gone viral online and have been downloaded on smartphones.
The height of his aura was seen in his funeral procession on Saturday where hundreds of thousands of people offered dozens of funeral prayers in the overcrowded ground.
People came walking or in trucks, cabs, cars, lorries and tractors from other villages and districts. Every house in Tral – Wani’s native town, was offering free drinks and food to visitors as far as ten kilometers from his home.
Mosques were reverberating with call for freedom, praises to Wani and asking people to offer food and shelter.
More inspiration in death
As a commander of Hizbul Mujahideen outfit, Wani inspired dozens of youth to join him over the years and his killing is likely to have a similar impact.
The reason for new-age militancy has mainly been the pending dispute of Kashmir but accelerated by the continuous torture and civilian killings. Wani’s death will cause an immediate void in the resistance movement and its aura that could eventually lead to it being filled by dozens like him.
“How many Burhan’s will you kill, there are lakhs of Burhans,” was one of the slogans during the funeral.
A policeman on duty of guarding the National Highway said, “It is sad thing that he has been killed. There will be many more like him now but it should continue as it is Kashmir’s pride.”
This comes from part of the state machinery that has been installed to crush the resistance sentiments. In Wani’s village, people say that they have never seen so many people coming out for a militant.
Even though the government believes that Wani’s group has been cut into nothing but reports of many new recruits continue. In South Kashmir, new-age militancy has been popular mainly because Wani was successful to inspire others.
People’s support has also increased for this militancy, which is seen as a major threat, as was upheld by the funeral processions.
Wani’s fellow militants made the rounds among the general public, with masked faces. Around five active militants attended the procession but had to leave the spot due to huge public presence. Cheering youth followed the militants while women shouted prayers for their safety.
Older people who have seen the militancy of 1990s see this as a reemergence of past. With Wani’s loss, mass mourning by Kashmiris and expression of popular support to these young militants, Kashmir could be heading to a widely braced new-age militancy.