Burhan Wani’s death has lent a new lease of life to the struggle for independence in Kashmir. He is alive not only in a religious sense, because a martyr does not die according to the Muslim faith, but also symbolically. It seems he knew that he was treading a dangerous road that could truncate his life anytime sooner. Perhaps it was this permutation that led him to record a video, which became viral on social media a few days after his death. The clip showed Wani and his accomplice with rifles in their hands, humming a Kashmiri folk song, the lyrics of the song were: “You will miss me, o mother, when I will be buried under the earth.”
Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander, may have gone under the soil with his body wrapped in a Pakistani flag, but his mission to galvanise a new struggle to liberate Kashmir from the haughty hold of the Indian aggression lives on. July 8, 2017, was Burhan Wani’s first death anniversary. Not a single day has passed since then where Kashmir has not descended into a new chaos. Wani brought the struggle for independence out from the woods into the middle of the ring. He chose social media to highlight the barbarism that India had unleashed on the Kashmiris since eons. The social-media warriors, as Wani and his companions were called, have now swelled in ranks. So far, in the first six months of 2017, 29 young Kashmiris have joined Wani’s brigade, last year, the toll had reached 88. Unlike their predecessors, this new breed of warriors has an embedded fearlessness to fight up front. They reveal their identity through social media, becoming vulnerable to arrests, torture, and killing. For almost five months, following Wani’s death, Kashmir was in the grip of a series of curfews and shutdowns. Protestors were fired at with pellets that injured and blinded a good number of Kashmiris. Women were humiliated on streets. Children were molested. No one was spared. Human shields were used by the Indian police force to dispel the attacking crowd. Kashmir’s industry has almost crashed, and with insurgency ramping up in response to India’s mindless response to Kashmir issue, it already seems a long drawn out war.
Barkha Dutt, a veteran journalist from India, was told by an injured police officer from Srinagar that: “They hate us…they talk to us about Azadi; we talk to them about law and order.” The overriding desire among the Kashmiris is that of Independence. Families are divided; if one brother is a police officer another relative is fighting against him to avenge the state’s rule. Parents wake up to find their young boys missing who either volunteer themselves to the Mujahideen or are picked up by the security forces.
The new wave of insurgency in Kashmir is marked by fearlessness. Protestors are no longer scared of tear gas shells. Even women have been found surrounding posts of individual police officers and snatching their weapons.
Instead of finding a solution, India is making matters worse by painting the struggle for independence as an extension of terrorism that has engulfed the region already. This new approach has three advantages for India. One, it would give India a leverage to clamp down on insurgency with complete disregard for human rights. Two, India could blame Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir under the guise of supporting the Kashmiri struggle for independence. Three, it would help India shift the focus of the international community from seeking resolution of the Kashmir issue according to the United Nation’s resolution. India managed to extract a similar policy statement from the Trump administration. On the eve of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit, the Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin was declared a global terrorist by the US. The designation vindicated India’s long held position that cross border terrorism perpetrated by Kashmiri groups based in Pakistan were behind the unrest in Kashmir. It might also have reinforced US’s position that terrorism is still Pakistan’s favourite proxy mechanism to influence its enemies.
A week long protest from July 7 to 13 would be held to commemorate what the freedom fighters called ‘State martyr’s Day. The Indian government has shut down the internet and has placed a heavy contingent of police in Tral, Wani’s hometown, to quell the protest. Wani’s father could not visit his son’s grave due to cordoning off of his home by the police force.
Just like anywhere in Kashmir, BJP has become extremely intolerant of the presence of Muslims in India. The lynching of Muslims over eating beef is just a tip of the iceberg. From forced conversions to molestation of Muslim women, many tactics have been used excessively as a harassment tool against the community. Kashmir has not been spared of RSS influence either. It nearly lynched (independent MLA) Engineer Rashid on the accusation that he had hosted a beef party in Srinagar to oppose the beef ban in the state.
Wani’s death anniversary commemoration has reinforced the reality that the state has lost the battle in Kashmir both offline and online. Therefore brutalisation is the only thing that works for the government – but for how long? With the new breed of fighters, Kashmir is in for a never-ending freedom struggle.