Recognizing the importance of young people UN designated 12 August 2010 to 11 August 2011 as the International Year of Youth. However in Kashmir more than hundred young people were killed by Indian forces during the period. And as per reports it was 2010 which proved to be a turning point in the life of Burhan Muzaffar Wani. Over the years, Burhan, the 21 year old rebel from Tral, has become the Robin Hood of Kashmir, the new face of armed rebellion, and the poster boy of present generation in Kashmir.
The way Robin Hood had become an outlaw, and fought the brutal, cruel and greedy King John of England, Burhan Wani shares a somewhat similar story. As per reports Burhans story began on a summer evening in 2010, when he, his brother Khalid and a friend were riding a motorbike in Tral (South Kashmir) and were stopped by so called security forces, ordered to get cigarettes for them, and in return beaten and humiliated for no reason.
Burhan like Robin Hood did not want to live the life of a slave, facing humiliation, oppression and suffocation in his own land. Thus he decided, he left his home, took shelter in nearby forests and joined Hizbul Mujahideen. Though all may not agree with Burhans decision but the so called civilized world needs at least to ponder over the reason that forced Burhan to take an extreme step.
Armed rebellion against Indian rule in Kashmir began in 1989, when Kashmiri youth witnessed the drama of elections. When their vote was rigged in 1987 elections, Kashmiri youth, faced with no choice, turned their hopelessness into active aggression. Pakistan added only fuel to the fire which had been already lit by India with her own hands. Subsequently the iron hand response from Indian government allowed the violence to become cyclic. Though from 2008 to 2011 Kashmiris changed their strategy from armed resistance to street protests and other non-violent means. But with further chocked democratic and political space, Burhans of Kashmir are again turning to arms and who knows whether this time there will be any truce or not.
Though many pseudo analysts may falsely attribute the new development in Kashmir to unemployment, radicalisation, external interference etc but the fact remains that the unfulfilled political aspirations, lack of a sense of freedom, chocked political space, rights violations and repression by Indian security forces who enjoy impunity under special laws and above all the lingering Kashmir conflict, are the most important reasons for the Kashmiri youth to turn to arms again.
GOI in general and the state government in particular is doing almost nothing to engage Kashmiri politicians and look for a political solution of Kashmir, or at least win the hearts of people here (particularly youth). Instead new and continuous provocations are only adding to the problem.
The world too is equally criminal with regard to the plight of Kashmir. The criminal silence of world community over the sufferings of Kashmiris reflect the inhumanness of global community and its failure to promote peace by facilitating conflict resolution. Such a world scenario has again made Kashmiri youth to believe that they cant rely on the justice system of biased world and have to take pragmatic steps on their own for the resolution of Kashmir. Thus not just India but world too forced people like Burhan to leave the so called civilized world and be an outlaw.
Though many times in past, Indian government has claimed their commitment to resolve Kashmir issue with dialogue, but Kashmiris have seen such aimless dialogues since 1947. Such dialogues are seen as hypocritical, strategic and aimed only to buy time and linger the dispute. And now in the absence of any serious dialogue process with Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists, the hope for a peaceful solution of Kashmir issue has faded significantly. A major section of youth in Kashmir, hopeless with status quo, has turned towards armed struggle as an option to push India to negotiating table. Thus Burhan phenomenon should be an eye opener for Indian government and policy makers. A paradigm shift from military control of Kashmir to political and peaceful solution of Kashmir is a necessity.
To bring Burhans of Kashmir back to their homes and not let the phenomenon to get cyclic, there is the need of conflict resolution and empowering people, (particularly youth) by strengthening democratic institutions, providing political space, justice and equality and most importantly letting the people to live with dignity and honour.
A place where oppression and humiliation has become order of the day and talking about justice is crime, meaning of the name Burhan Muzaffar Wani changes into The Robin Hood of Kashmir.
Author is an M.Phil Psychology and has previously worked as Psychologist for Action Aid International, Medicins Sans Frontieres and J&K Police. He can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org
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