22-year-old Burhan Wani, a commander of Kashmir’s largest rebel/terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed with two other militants in an encounter with the army in Anantnag district of Jammu & Kashmir on Friday evening. Burhan became a poster boy of valley’s militancy by becoming one of the first militants from Kashmir to reveal his face and directly criticising the Indian Army through his social media posts and YouTube videos. There was a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head and his death is now being seen as “the biggest ever success” by security agencies.
Wani was constantly tracked by the army and they had information that Wani was planning to come down from the Tral forest area to celebrate Eid. In Kokernag, the security forces cornered Wani and his two associates and the two parties exchanged several rounds of gunfire. The security force bombed the house where they holed up, which killed three of them.
Who was Burhan Wani?
Burhan was born in an affluent Kashmiri family. His father is headmaster at a local school and mother is post-graduate. Burhan used to be a class topper in school and an avid follower of cricket. According to The Greater Kashmir, in the summer of 2010, Burhan (then 15 years old) along with his brother and a friend were on a red-and-white Yamaha FZ bike when a group of cops from Special Operations Group (SOG) of J&K police stopped them and asked them to buy cigarettes for them, a friend of Burhan—who was part of the bike ride—told Greater Kashmir.
“It was our routine to go up and down on the streets of Tral. Khalid (Burhan’s brother) loved his bike like anything. Khalid went to get cigarettes for the SOG men. When he returned and we started to leave, the policemen and the paramilitary forces pounced on us. Khalid fell unconscious while Burhan and I escaped. They damaged the bike. At a distance from the policemen, Burhan shouted: ‘I will avenge this beating’.” According to the same report, six months later, Wani fled his home and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen.
With time he grew popular and rose up the ranks of Hizbul Mujahideen. It is said that he has recruited at least 100 people from Kashmir to Hizbul Mujahideen. He was highly active on social media and tried to reach out to the youth in Kashmir.
The situation in Kashmir post Burhan’s killing
Even after four days, hostility prevails in the valley.Curfew remains in force in many parts, the authorities are bracing for more violence. The death toll in clashes between protesters and security forces has reached 30 lives and more than 1300 persons, including over 115 security force personnel, have been injured in clashes. Pellet guns that are being used to control protests have left hundreds of young Kashmiris blind.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has urged a group of Imams in the valley to keep their calm. PM Modi has also urged people of Kashmir to maintain calm,. He chaired a high-level meeting today to take action to bring down the protest in Kashmir. U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon calls on all parties to exercise “maximum restraint” to avoid further violence in Kashmir and hopes that all concerns would be addressed through peaceful means.
Why are people mourning for him?
The news of Wani’s death triggered protests across the Valley. Hundreds of people assembled in Tral, Wani’s hometown, on Friday evening to participate in his funeral prayers. Several others performed funeral in absentia in south, central and north Kashmir. Burhan was seen as a rebellion by the fellow Kashmiris. He was one of the young corp of Kashmiri militants who shared the same inspiration as many Kashmiris — separation from India and withdrawal of armed forces from the valley. He was an inspiration for many as he revealed his motive very clearly and disclosed that he came from a well-off family to join the Mujahideen. Burhan’s brother Khalid Wani was killed by the army, when he went to meet Burhan. Since then, avenging his brother’s death had become a primary motive in Burhan’s life.
Kashmir, after Wani’s death
The State government, speculating more violence in retaliation to Wani’s death, has imposed curfews in Srinagar, Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian, Sopore, Kupwara and Kulgam. Internet services have been temporarily restricted in the valley and other top-rank separatists leaders have been placed under house arrest.