“In October 2010, Burhan Wani, then sixteen years old, was on a motorcycle, with his brother Khalid Wani, and a friend. They were out on a bike ride, through Tral, the area that they had grown up in, as teenage boys do, anywhere. They were stopped at a Special Operations Group Picket of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and ordered to get cigarettes for the troopers. Khalid went and got the cigarettes, Burhan and the friend waited. After the transaction, for no apparent reason, the troopers pounced on the boys, beat them up severely, damaged the bike, which had been Khalid’s pride and joy. Khalid lost consciousness. But perhaps it was Burhan who suffered the greatest injury, and that injury, an invisible one, was what any self respecting young person with a sense of dignity might feel when beaten for no reason other than the fact that he is there to be beaten.”
Described as a budding cricketer and a topper of his class, Burhan Wani fled his home and joined militancy group, Hizbul Mujahideen, already joined by his cousins. He rapidly rose in ranks and used to urge the Kashmiri youth to become a part of the militancy group using social media. He was the first militant to openly show his face and through his photos and videos he used to taunt the otherwise tight surveillance area of the valley. He became the indigenous hero, a face, a force to be reckoned with.
On Friday, July 8 2016, Burhani Wani, aged 21, was killed in a joint encounter by police and Indian Army at Kokernag, South Kashmir. Thousands of people turned up for his funeral, which later turned into a violent protest. Kashmir since has had multiple bursts of violent demonstrations and is under curfew. Considering his broad spectrum of social media following, it was initially decided to capture him alive, but then things took a different turn. A counter-insurgency officer told, “For how long and to what extent can the state accommodate lawlessness. Wani and his gang were, after all, armed terrorists.” The spate of terror attacks in the last two months, especially the one on the CRPF convoy that killed eight, change the line of thinking within the security establishment. “At some point the state had to send out a tough message against this fresh wave of militancy that is attracting young educated boys from well off families,” the officer said.
In an interview with media, Burhan Wani’s father Muzaffar Wani once said “Now I am waiting for the body of Burhan. The average life of a militant is only seven years, and he has lived six. So I know his moment will come”. This holds true for every person who has picked up a gun against the India in Kashmir. Burhan was not a specific case. But what is astonishing is the rise in the number of educated local youth who are picking up gun. While security personnel claim that the reason behind such an increase is difficulty which Pakistan is facing to infiltrate militants across the border due to increased surveillance from Indian side; the argument might not be entirely convincing.
One would ask why Pakistan needs to send its own men to do the job when Kashmiris are ready to do it by themselves? Today many Kashmiri youth in the valley are identifying themselves with Burhan. If you ask a common Kashmiri, they see India as an aggressor and the one who reneged on the promise of plebiscite made by Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru in his historic speech from Lal Chowk in Srinagar in 1948. Since then a lot of water has flowed under the bridge connecting the two parts of Srinagar city across river Jhelum. The global dynamics have changed. USA which once openly supported Pakistan on Kashmir issue is now a close partner of India. The UN has time and again refused to intervene in the Kashmir issue despite having a resolution for plebiscite. At one point of time it was being thought that normalcy has returned to Kashmir but the thought disappeared quite soon. Ask a common Kashmiri for their views towards India, and you will get to know the hatred they carry in their hearts. For the present generation born after 1990, the face of India has been its army and paramilitary and the alleged human rights violations they have carried out. Imagine how a family would feel when their members are killed in fake encounters.
Lord Krishna says in Bhagwat Gita, “The world is in general equilibrium. Change in one parameter effects change in all variables”. This quote aptly explains the situation in Kashmir and how every actor has created a mess of a situation with his actions. It explains who can be held responsible for the dance of death in the valley. The people who gave him a gun, the people who praised him while he was alive, the people who used him for their motives and the people who killed him. All of them have been responsible for the murder of a young chap, the murder of countless youth who have died in last two decades. And last but not the least Burhan himself was responsible for his own death. Imagine if every person starts picking up a gun for unjustified acts done by others what would this world turn into?
The separatists who claim to be leaders of Kashmiri movement but engage in backdoor politics and promote agenda of Pakistan for petty gains are responsible. The separatists who hand over gun in the hands of the youth while their own children enjoy in foreign countries are responsible. The soldier who misuses his power and unnecessarily abuses the rights of a common man giving birth to contempt and hatred in his heart is responsible. Pakistan, who has used a common Kashmiri for its own proxy war in India is responsible. The terrorist groups across LOC who have exploited religious sentiments are responsible. India which has failed to bring Kashmiri youth into mainstream and denied them to live a dignified life is responsible. The army which is hell bent against revoking AFSPA and giving alternate strategies a chance is responsible. The politicians who vow to remove Article 370 with zero sincerity towards peace in Kashmir are responsible. People in India who put zero efforts to understand Kashmir issue and don’t hold their politicians as accountable for treating fellow Kashmiri citizens with dignity are responsible. And equally responsible is a common Kashmiri.
When Sheikh Abdullah signed famous Indira-Sheikh Accord in 1974 by which he accepted Kashmir as integral part of India, he was welcomed with garlands in Kashmir. It is said that around 3 lac men and women lined up to see him and showered all kinds of praises on him and in next 10 years same people hurled choicest abuses on the Sheikh. The failure of common Kashmiri to understand how Pakistan diverted fanatics from Afghan war to Kashmir for its own gains makes them responsible. After all there were no abuses by army before militancy started in 1990s. People who spread propaganda on UN resolution are responsible. Ask any Kashmiri and he would talk about UN plebiscite and India’s betrayal. But ask him if he has read that document for even once? And you can figure out the answer on your own. They blame India for not carrying out its promise but the promise as stated in United Nations starts with demilitarization of Pakistan occupied Kashmir which no one talks about. The soldiers have committed excesses in some cases but haven’t militants done the same? Didn’t terrorists indulge in kidnapping, extortion and forced marriages in the valley? The sheer hypocrisy is also exposed when Hartal calls are given against army actions but when terrorists kill innocents everyone turns a blind eye.
It’s time we all realize that we have blood on our hands. Peace needs to be given a sincere chance. Everyone must realize that peace which comes from the barrel of a gun is the one which haunts the graveyards and none of us for sure want that.