As the mortal remains of the poster boy of new age militancy were laid to rest at his native village in south Kashmirs Tral on July 9, thousands of mourners who braved the restrictions imposed by the government, to attend his funeral, voiced pro-freedom slogans.
Burhan Muzaffar Wani, who kept the security forces on tenterhooks for six long years, was finally killed by them on July 8 along with two of his accomplices. It brought an end to the hunt for one of the most wanted militants, active since 2010, when a new breed of young and educated militants started to emerge in Kashmir.
His native town at the foot of the Pirpanjal range witnessed a massive rush of people since Friday evening, when the news of his killing in an encounter at Kokernag was confirmed.
Mourners from all age groups, including women, children and elderly, kept pouring in from all directions, in vehicles, and on foot; to catch the last glimpse of their hero.
Finally at around 3pm, his mortal remains were laid to rest while some masked militants gave him a gun salute, something typical of the early 1990s when militancy was at its peak in the Valley.
Though Burhans body vanished in mounds of earth, which mourners jostled to pour into his grave, the sea of people declined to recede for hours.
Till sundown, the graveyard awaited decongestion as mourners kept leaving the venue, slowly, being guided by local villagers, who “regulated the people’s traffic, lest any stampede took place.
The volunteers even served refreshment including tahri, a traditional haldi-rice and fruits to the mourners. Octogenarian Abdul Sattar said it was biggest ever funeral he witnessed after that of Kashmirs tallest leader Sheikh Muhammed Abdullah. Sattar had left his home at midnight to make it to the funeral.
Burhan (21) is dead and buried. But will his death solve any purpose?
Well, the bloodbath on the day of his funeral that claimed at least 15 lives and left around 200 people, including security force personnel wounded, hints at a festering crisis.
As of now, though the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed grief over the killings, the government looks unnerved. The reason? It has banked on spymaster and additional director general of police SM Sahai, who earlier as the Inspector General of Police of Kashmir in multiple stints brought the situation under control during such crises.
Though Sahai is not into active policing, as he heads the intelligence wing of the state police, he addressed a joint press conference, with IGP Kashmir range SJM Geelani.
His presence was enough to convey that IGP Geelani, despite having taken credit for killing Burhan, was unable to defend his position over the bloodbath.
Addressing reporters, Sahai said the situation was tense and that several police stations had been torched by mobs, and that three cops were missing. In an advisory, he appealed to the parents to ask the youth to be indoors.
Later in the evening, however, more pro-Burhan and pro-freedom sloganeering could be heard, even from the mosque loudspeakers, while teargas shelling on the nearby street hindered filing of this story.
Interestingly, even though the government attributes the revival of militancy to indoctrination, no one ever addressed this core issue, at least in Burhans case.
The course of his life, according to media reports, changed in 2010 when he, his brother and another friend, who was riding a bike, were stopped by the police and asked to get cigarettes. In return, the trio was thrashed. While managing to run for cover, Burhan shouted: I will avenge this. That winter, Burhan left home to emerge as a militant whose death has put Kashmir on the boil.
While the security forces have won the bounty, a top cop has dropped a bombshell.
Senior superintendent of police, Baramulla, Imtiyaz Hussain, who has been on the forefront of counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir for over a decade, claimed that Burhan never attacked the security forces.
The truth is, despite all his virtual bravado, despite being a poster boy, he could not carry out a single action against security forces… !!! His life #glamorised by #media power, and his death celebrated in same way… by people who just stand on sidelines, and cheer gleefully … Let #Truth be told, His life was a #waste… one more man sacrificed for a #futile cause… he is not the first, he wont be the last!!!, Imtiyaz posted on his Facebook account triggering a massive debate, which went viral despite the suspension of mobile internet in the Valley.
Imtiyaz, who enjoys the title of Khakee Fidayeen, accorded to him by a national magazine for his role in combating militancy, stood by his statement, when this author pointed out to him that the police say at least one dozen cases stand registered against Burhan. He (Burhan) hasn’t fired even a single bullet. He would use others, the official responded.
What if Burhan was caught alive and given a chance to live and fight for his cause through alternative means? A question will always remain.
Well, whether or not his arrest would have served any purpose, his death has put Kashmir on the edge.
Its typical story. A militant killed, a legend born as his mourners say Burhan will always live in their hearts.
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