ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Burhan Wani and Beyond

India's Denial, Kashmir's Defiance

The anger of the Kashmiri people in the face of the Indian establishment's endeavour to smother their legitimate political aspirations is understandable. Since 2008, attempts by civilians to organise themselves peacefully against their oppression or even for their day-to-day needs, including water, electricity and jobs, have been met with brute force, even murders. Post 2010, Kashmir has moved in circles from periods of unrest to calm and then back to unrest. Burhan Wani's death was just a small spark that was needed to break the pretence of normalcy thrust on its people. The government should realise that the stone pelters on the streets are neither Pakistanis nor paid agents. Kashmir, today, needs an open-minded political intervention that is unconditional.

This article was earlier posted in the Web Exclusives section of the EPW website.

Kashmir Valley is under siege, turned into a prison inside out since 8 July when unrest erupted after the death of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani. A local from Tral, Wani was laid to rest amidst a huge gathering of anywhere between an estimated one to three lakh people attending his funeral and giving him a hero’s farewell. While Burhan Wani was being buried amidst the eerie calm and conspicuous absence of security men and police on the streets of this obscure town of Tral, the rest of the valley was tearing into chaos—protestors pouring out into the streets, some marching peacefully, while others went on a rampage, attacking police stations and security camps with stones or whatever they could lay their hands on. The security personnel and police were quick in jumping to the occasion with lethal weapons and vengeance as if a war had been waged—no distinction made between peaceful protestors and the ones with stones in hand. The tone of this war was set in the first three days with 30 civilians shot dead during street protests. Ever since, the number has risen to 46 (as on 21 July) and over 2,200 have been injured with severe bullet or pellet injuries—a vast chunk of them physically impaired, and more than 130 blinded partially or fully.

How does this vicious cycle of violence and death, triggered by the death of Burhan Wani (who joined the ranks of militants six years ago), make its trajectory in Kashmir? What is it that made him so significant and powerful for the masses? Was he such a threat to security that it had become so crucial to kill him? Were the government and its security apparatus aware of the repercussions his death would evoke? There are media ­reports to suggest that the pros and cons were being weighed by security agencies and the opinion remained divided. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) parliamentarian Muzaffar Baig has also thrown his weight behind the argument, maintaining that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had not endorsed the killing. Such reports, if true, are a shocking indictment of the security grid and of the patronising political and official hierarchy, showing that the possibility of militants being killed or arrested depends on the whims of some, not on the need of the situation. This reveals the ugly nature of militarisation with the impunity to kill people, militants or civilians, in custody. Burhan Wani may have similarly been shot dead in, what is proudly being claimed by some army officers, a three to four minute encounter? The details may have made no difference to the present situation.

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