Burhan Wani's death spells a dark time for militancy in Kashmir
His death is bound to inspire many local youths to join the ranks of militants to fulfil his 'unaccomplished mission'.
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Twenty two-year-old Burhan Muzaffar Wani, poster boy of Kashmir's renewed indigenous militancy since 2010, is no more.
He was killed in a joint operation by Jammu & Kashmir Police and Indian Army's 19 Rashtriya Rifles in south Kashmir's Kokernag area in Anantnag district, some 75kms from Srinagar.
For government forces, especially the J&K Police, his death in an "encounter" is a "huge success" and also "sigh of relief", but that's only half the story.
The other part of the story, far more important than the other, is that Burhan's death is by no means end of indigenous militancy in Kashmir.
His death is bound to inspire many local youths to join the ranks of militants to fulfil his "unaccomplished mission" in the near future because there is a strong feeling and aspiration to end the political status quo in Kashmir.
A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. Anyone who has seen pictures of Burhan's funeral prayers in his hometown Tral in south Kashmir will agree that it is not about Burhan alone.
It is about a political aspiration which has been criminalised by the powers that be.
A very senior police officer told this writer that about 100,000 people had gathered at Eidgah in Tral to participate in Burhan's funeral. Thousands of women and children were part of the gathering. A Sikh youth could be seen shouting slogans of "Azaadi" while mourning Burhan's death.
Eyewitnesses put the number of mourners at around 200,000 while some say the figure is even higher.
Why were these people attending a funeral of a militant commander who had embraced the armed resistance in 2010 at the age of 16?About 100,000 people had gathered at Eidgah in Tral to participate in Burhan's funeral. (AP)
Why this unprecedented outpouring of emotion? What were the protesters saying? Why so much anger against India and the local police?
The slogans were about "Kashmir's azaadi". Also, angry slogans against the police were heard.
"Police ka jo yaar hai / gaddar hai, gaddar hai (friends of police are traitors)," shouted angry protesters.
Hailing Burhan's "sacrifice for Kashmiri nation", the mourners were calling him a "martyr"! People of Kashmir have made emotional investment in shape of their loved ones who have been killed by the government forces since the eruption of armed uprising in 1989.
No economic doles or packages will solve Kashmir problem. No weapons can kill aspirations of the people who are shouting "Azaadi" at top of their lungs.
Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, was bang on target when he sent out a tweet that Burhan will recruit more youths from his grave. The junior Abdullah described him as an "icon" for Kashmir's disaffected youth.
Alas Burhan isn't the 1st to pick up the gun & won't be the last. @JKNC_ has always maintained that a political problem needs pol. solution— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) July 8, 2016
Another matter that even the current chief minister Mehbooba Mufti would have probably said the same thing if she were in the opposition.
I reiterate that it is not about Burhan alone. It is also about the government's brutal response to protest demonstrations and how it deals with the mourners.
At least eight civilians have been killed in government forces action in various parts of south Kashmir which include Bijbehara, Anantnag, Dooru, Ashmuqam, Kulgam, etc.
About 100 people are injured, some of them with serious bullet injuries and currently battling for their life at Srinagar's SMHS Hospital.
Why this brutal response? Why didn't the police and paramilitary troopers allow protesters to give vent to their anger and aspiration?
When more than 100,000 people could remain peaceful in Tral why did the government forces use unbridled powers to quell the protesters?
Probably, this brutal government has two reasons.
One, it shows that the police, Army and paramilitary soldiers enjoy impunity while operating in Kashmir and, therefore, feel they are accountable to none. There is no dignity attached to a life of a Kashmiri.
Two, they want to suppress the political sentiment visible on the ground by using force.
The question that must be asked is that does this solve the problem for the government? And the answer is a clear NO.
The problem with the government is that it even refuses to acknowledge that there is a political problem called Kashmir which can only be resolved politically, not through denial or by the use of force.
On the flip side, it is all very convenient for the police to say and claim that "Burhan's momentary fame" is the end of the story. But, it is not.
According to top police officers, Burhan's death was "wastage of a youth and young life".
Burhan, Kashmir's popular tech-savvy militant commander, had inspired many a youth to militancy as romanticism. Young protesters would often carry Burhan's posters and placards with his messages and pictures on Fridays outside Srinagar's historic Jama Masjid. His pictures with other gun-wielding Kashmiri youths and video messages would go viral in no time.
Even on his funeral a group of militants, according to the eyewitnesses, offered him a three-volley salute which is a reminder about popularity of local militants in the masses.
The government must shed its Ostrich-like attitude now and start a genuine dialogue with the public representatives of Kashmir to find a meaningful solution to the political Kashmir problem.
Or else, Kashmir will receive more body bags to add to the list of its "martyrs" while the government too will have its share of "martyr soldiers". Neither can endlessly afford this continued bloodshed.