Chasing Burhan Wani

Burhan Wani

While separatists and the likes of Umar Khalid stand in support of Burhan Wani, the security establishment is heaving a sigh of relief after his killing which many see as a prized catch. Tensions in the valley have been on the rise and there were nearly 20,000 who took part in the last rites of the militant.

Six years ago, when he was 15, Wani left home to take up arms against the Indian state after his brother was allegedly assaulted by securitymen in 2010. Since then, the government had announced a Rs 10 lakh bounty on his head.

The story of Burhan is legendary in districts of South Kashmir like Pulwama, Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian. Local boys, mostly educated from affluent families, are taking on the might of the Indian state and security forces.

Burhan lived six years as terrorist and he reigned supreme unleashing the worst kind of terror in the ever so tense valley.

He featured in videos and photos posing with weapons and taunting security forces, which were circulated on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Wani was said to be an expert in using social media and delivered strong speeches.

Hailing from a well-off family in Tral in south Kashmir, Burhan’s father ironically is the former head master of a government school in Tral.

Burhan Wani in a short span created a band of 60-70 young locally recruited terrorists. They were well educated and technically proficient to exploit social media for their cause. Many of the flash mobs they instigated to concentrate at encounter sites were mobilized using social media. Tral is notorious for its alienation and use of violence over the last 26 years.

The tech-savvy Wani rattled the Indian security establishment with his brazen display of fearlessness in videos and photographs.

As the youngest divisional commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, Wani did not cross the Line of Control for training, almost a norm for influential militant leaders in the past.

Burhan was relatively unknown until he shot to iconic fame after his elder brother Khalid was brutally killed by the security forces in April 13, 2015.

Wani’s tech-savvy tactics turned militant-free south Kashmir into a hotbed of militancy.

On Friday, when an operation was launched by security forces in Bamdoora village of Kokernag, Anantnag, nobody had an idea the encounter could turn into a big hit.

The security establishment got a tipoff that three militants were hiding in the area. The operation was launched at 6 pm by the Special Operation Group of the J&K Police, Army’s 19 Rashtriya Rifles battalion and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Much to their surprise, the militants opened fire injuring a policeman. In the initial retaliatory firing one militant was killed. The other two militants, including Burhan, later made a desperate attempt to break the cordon, but were killed.

Weeks ahead of the killing a top aide of Hizbul Mujahideen was captured.

Huge arms and ammunition was recovered from the hideout.

In April last year, another close aide of Wani, Naseer Ahmad Pandit, was gunned down by forces in Shopian.

After a long chase Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed at the age of 22 in an intelligence-driven police operation in Anantnag. A terrorist for a large part of the populace, for young and educated in South Kashmir, he remained the main draw.

It is believed that local kids aged 5 like to play a game. One boy dresses up as Burhan Muzaffar Wani and the other three to four dress up as his associates. The game revolves around how Wani escapes from the clutches of the army.

Perhaps this time in the valley, the script did not work to the favour of the poster boy of Hizbul Mujahideen in the valley. Kashmiris now in their late 20s speaking to media have recalled playing the same game in the 90s.

According to the ministry of external affairs, 14,356 “terrorists” and 2,358 “foreign militants” were killed in Jammu and Kashmir between 1990 and December 2001. 143 militants were active in the Valley this year. Of these 89 were local militants, 60 of them from South Kashmir.

According to popular estimates, 7 lakh to 10 lakh security force personnel patrol the region.

While the government has appealed for peace in the valley, separatists meanwhile continue to agitate over the killing of Wani.

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