Decoding Burhan Wani and Kashmir Unrest

It has been just few days since Indian security forces eliminated top terrorist recruiter Burhan Wani. Valiant efforts are already well under way to romanticise and rationalise the Hizbul Mujaheedin commander’s crimes and provide a narrative of victimhood to justify the widespread turbulence in Kashmir that has left 50 people dead so far and over 3000 injured.

Who Was Burhan Wani?

The glorification of Wani, the 22-year-old tech savvy terrorist, is on at full swing. He is being projected as a larger-than-life figure who inspired thousands of oppressed local Kashmiri youths to intifada against the oppressive Indian state using social media tools. In this avatar, Wani wasn’t the terrorist who roamed around with a Rs 10 lakh bounty over his head, having dropped out from school at 15 and becoming a delinquent with a string of police cases against his name; he wasn’t instrumental in brainwashing many local boys to take up the gun by glamorising terror through social media; he wasn’t the Hizbul commander who released videos warning of attacks if colonies for Sainiks and Kashmiri Pandits were set up in the Valley; he wasn’t the terrorist involved in the 2013 killing of four Rashtriya Rifles men in Buchoo Baala area in his hometown Tral; he wasn’t the terrorist to warn the J&K Police of more attacks; he wasn’t even the first Kashmiri militant to spring the idea of a Khilafat, an Islamic State, through a Facebook video which became wildly popular. No, Burhan Wani wasn’t any of these.

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In the sanitised yet glamorised version of Wani, he was just an armed rebel with strikingly good looks, a Che Guevara prototype if you like, who came from an affluent family and wouldn’t have gone into terrorism had it not been for the Indian army’s torturous and sadistic ways. Stress was laid on how his father Muzaffar Ahmad Wani, who teaches mathematics, is the principal of a higher secondary school while his mother Maimoona Muzaffar is a postgraduate and how his brother was wronged by security forces.

Eleven protesters were killed and over 120 persons, including 96 security personnel, were injured, as violent street protests erupted across the Kashmir valley just after militant commander Burhan Wani was killed in a joint operation by security forces. The Government clamped curfew in large parts of Kashmir and the Amarnath yatra has been suspended. The State also requested for 30 paramilitary companies from the Centre to control the situation. While phone services were snapped in large parts of south Kashmir, internet services remained suspended across the Kashmir Valley. All examinations and interviews have been cancelled and railway services suspended.

Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir

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The insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir or the Kashmiri Insurgency is a conflict between various Kashmiri separatists and nationalists sometimes known as “ultras” (extremists), and the Government of India. Few groups favour Kashmir accession to Pakistan, while others seek Kashmir’s complete independence. Since 2002, skirmishes with the local insurgents have constituted the main conflict in the Kashmir region. The conflict in Jammu and Kashmir has strong Islamist elements among the insurgents, with many of the “ultras” identifying with Jihadist movements and supported by such.The roots of the conflict between the Kashmiri insurgents and the Indian Government are tied to a dispute over local autonomy. Thousands of people have died during fighting between insurgents and the government as well as thousands of civilians who have died as a result of being targeted by the various armed groups.

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 Humanitarian abuses

After insurgency started in Kashmir valley because of above reasons in late 1980s, Indian troops entered in Kashmir valley to control the insurgency. Some analysts have suggested that the number of Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir is close to 600,000 although estimates vary and the Indian government refuses to release official figures.These troops have engaged in widespread humanitarian abuses and have engaged in extrajudicial killings. In October 2010, Army Chief Gen VK Singh stated in an interview that over 95% of the allegations of human rights violations proved to be false and had apparently been levelled with the “ulterior motive of maligning the armed forces”. Giving details, he said 988 allegations against the Army personnel in Jammu and Kashmir were received since 1994. Out of these 965 cases were investigated and 940 were found false, accounting for 95.2 percent.

ISI’s role

The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence has allegedly encouraged and aided the Kashmir independence movement through an insurgency due to its dispute on the legitimacy of Indian rule in Kashmir, with the insurgency as an easy way to keep Indian troops distracted and cause international condemnation of India.

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Former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf in Oct 2014 said during TV interview, “We have source (in Kashmir) besides the (Pakistan) army…People in Kashmir are fighting against (India). We just need to incite them.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI), an American government intelligence agency, in their first ever open acknowledgement in 2011 in US Court said that Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI) sponsors terrorism in Kashmir and it oversees terrorist separatist groups in Kashmir.

Present Day

Curfew has been imposed in entire Srinagar district, Anantnag town, Shopian town, Baramulla town, Awantipora and Pampore towns of Pulwama district. In rest of the Valley, severe restrictions have been imposed on the movement of the people. The separatists, who are holding protests in the Valley, had called on the people to assemble at Eidgah in old city for paying tributes to those killed in security forces action over the past 34 days during violent protests against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani last month.

Srinagar: Security jawans chashing away stone throwing youths during a clash in Srinagar on Thursday. PTI Photo by S Irfan (PTI7_14_2016_000262B)

Normal life remained affected in the Valley for the 35th consecutive day due to the curbs imposed by the authorities and the separatist sponsored strike. Schools, colleges, business establishments, petrol pumps and private offices remained closed while public transport remained off the roads. As many as 55 persons, including two police personnel, were killed and several thousand others injured in the clashes between protesters and security forces. Mobile internet services continued to remain snapped in the entire Valley.

 

Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti,  has appealed the people specially the  youth to  help restore  peace in the valley . She also  expressed deep grief  over the death of youth during protests at various places in Kashmir valley and appealed the people to remain calm . The bigger problem is New Delhi still isn’t seeing the new normal in Kashmir. You can probably bet that once the intensity of the stone throwing comes down, it will be time for New Delhi, the real somnambulist, to go back to sleep all over again.

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