Dadasara, Tral, Jammu and Kashmir
|Died||8 July 2016 (aged 21 or 22)|
Bumdoora, Kokernag, Jammu and Kashmir
Tral, Jammu and Kashmir
|Allegiance||Hizbul Mujahideen (2011–2016)|
Burhan Muzaffar Wani was a commander of the militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen, active in Kashmir. He wielded massive popularity among the local populace through social media presence, and helped in conveying a more youth-oriented image of militancy in Kashmir, recruiting numerous foot-soldiers to the cause.
Burhan Wani was actively sought after by Indian security forces with a hefty bounty being imposed on his head, and was finally killed on 8 July 2016 in a shootout. The killing sparked massive protests across the Kashmir Valley in what became the worst span of unrest in the region since 2010. As a result, Kashmir was placed under 53 consecutive days of curfew, which was only fully lifted on 31 August 2016. In entirety, the protests resulted in the deaths of more than 96 people and injuries to over 15,000 civilians and 4,000 security personnel.
Burhan Wani was born in Dadsara village of Tral area in Pulwama district, Jammu and Kashmir to Muzaffar Ahmad Wani, principal of a government higher secondary school and Maimoona Muzaffar, a postgraduate of science who taught Quran in her village. He had four siblings, including his elder brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani, sister Iram Muzaffar and two younger brothers, one of whom is Naveed Alam. TraI has been a perpetual hot-bed of hardliner separatist insurgency.
Burhan Wani planned to be a doctor and had obtained more than 90% marks in his Class 8 exam but left his home on 16 October 2010, ten days before his secondary exam and enrolled for the militant cause at about an age of 15, joining Hizbul Mujahideen. His family claims that the root of his disillusion with Indian state apparatus laid in an incident in the last summer, whence state police allegedly beat him up, along with his brother Khalid and a friend for no fault of theirs, after asking them to purchase cigarettes for them. Burhan's cousins were already involved with the militant movement since about 2008, and had joined Hizbul Mujahideen in 2010.
Burhan Wani used social-media as a tool of potent information-warfare[a] leveraging "a clever mix of ideology, religion and a deep sense of persecution" in chaste Kashmiri to romanticize the militant movement and wielded unforeseen influence in the local populace as a poster-boy, attracting numerous young adults into the cause. He oft-elaborated about the idea of India being entirely incompatible with Islam thus mandating a destruction at any cost, and aimed of unfurling the flag of Islam on Delhi's Red Fort. In 2013 Burhan's notability as a mujahid was further boosted, after he was erroneously described as being killed, across social media.
There was a remarkable increase in the anti-India rhetoric of Burhan's speeches, after his brother Khalid was killed by the Indian Army on 13 April 2015 when he went to meet him (Burhan), along with three friends. The army claimed that Khalid was a militant sympathizer who had taken his friends to get them recruited and was subsequently killed in an encounter. The family of Khalid however alleged that he died in custody, claiming that his body showed no bullet wounds but clinical signs of physical torture. The three friends of Khalid meanwhile escaped but ran into an army cordon, where they alleged being tortured before being rescued by the state police.
In August 2015, the state government imposed a bounty of ₹1 million on Burhan's head. A Facebook post about a month back showing Burhan along with 10 other militants in militant attire with heavy arms had gone viral in Kashmir. The videos however continued, with him urging people to take up arms against the state and refusing to collaborate with Indian elements. Police have often approached the judiciary, for enacting bans on social networking pages that disseminated Burhan's messages. In a video released in June 2016, he assured the Amarnath pilgrims of a safe passage but had threatened to attack proposed resettlement colonies for Kashmiri Pandits, in opposition to an Israel-like solution, and colonies for armed forces. He also urged the state-police to stay out of their way, threatening to attack all security forces. Although no attack has ever been traced back to him, he is believed to have masterminded several of them.
Burhan Wani was killed in an anti insurgency operation on 8 July 2016 along with two other militants, later identified as Sartaj Ahmad Sheikh and Pervaiz Ahmad Lashkari. He and his companions were killed in Bumdoora village in Kokernag area by a joint team of the special operations group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and 19 Rashtriya Rifles. Security forces later stated that the operation had actually begun on 7 June when Burhan, along with his companions, had come to Kokernag in order to procure weapons. Some army and police officials later said that the security forces had received intelligence regarding the presence of Sheikh but did not know Wani too was present along with him. The state's Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Kumar Singh also stated that the security forces were unaware of his presence and would have given him a chance had they known about his presence there.
According to police officials, the security forces faced resistance from locals who resorted to stone-pelting. The encounter began at 4:30 p.m. and ended at 6:15 p.m. The militants were hiding in a house during the operation and started firing on the troops conducting search operations. All three were killed in the ensuing encounter. Jammu and Kashmir Police's Director General K. Rajendra confirmed that Wani was killed in an exchange of fire between security personnel and the militants.
The local residents denied awareness of Wani's presence in the village. According to them, the police arrived around noon and said that they were combing the area in preparation for an inauguration by the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. They cordoned off the area by 4 p.m. and took positions around the house where Burhan and his associates were present. When the militants tried to come out and escape, they were shot down. After their death, hundreds of villagers came out mourning the death and clashed with the police, CRPF and attacked army camps in the area. He is believed to have been succeeded by Sabzar Bhat.
A large crowd attended his funeral on 9 July. The crowd was estimated to number 200,000 and was described by reporters as the largest ever gathering. The last rite prayers were also performed in absentia in all major towns of Kashmir. His body wrapped in the flag of Pakistan was buried next to that of his brother Khalid in Tral. Militants were also present at his funeral and offered him a three-volley salute.
After the news of his death spread, violent protests erupted in some areas of Kashmir Valley. Separatist leaders called for shutdown in Kashmir which was repeatedly extended before being called off in February 2017. Police stations and security forces were attacked by mobs. Stone pelting was reported from many parts in Kashmir, including upon transit camps of Kashmiri Pandits. Internet services along with train services were suspended and the national highway was shut down. The Amarnath pilgrimage was repeatedly resumed and suspended due to the unrest. More than 200 Kashmiri Pandit employees fled the transit camps during night time on 12 July due to the attacks by protesters on the camps. The house where Burhan was killed was set ablaze by a mob on suspicion that its residents had tipped-off the security forces about Burhan. Curfew was imposed in all districts of Kashmir on 15 July and mobile phone networks were suspended. The curfew was lifted from all parts on 31 August 2016. More than 90 people died in the unrest and over 15,000 civilians were injured. Indian security forces reportedly used assault rifles to open fire on protestors. Over 4,000 security personnel were also injured during the unrest.
Peoples Democratic Party leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig alleged that the standard operating procedure had not been followed during the encounter involving Wani and his accomplices. Baig demanded that a commission be appointed to probe Wani's killing. Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh refused, stating that it was an anti-terrorist operation and there was no need for an inquiry.
A day after Wani's death former Chief Minister of state Omar Abdullah said that his killing had made him the new icon of the disaffected section of the Kashmiri society and further warned that more Kashmiris will join the militancy after his death. On 12 July, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a statement expressed "shock" over the killing of Burhan Wani which was criticised by the Indian government. Sharif called Wani a "martyr" on 15 July. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs in response criticized Pakistan for "glorifying" terrorists belonging to proscribed terrorist organisations. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised the media alleging it was portraying the slain Wani as a hero. Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi during meeting with UN officials raised the killing of Wani describing it as an "assassination of a Kashmiri youth leader". During his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on 21 September, Sharif described Burhan Wani as a "young leader" who had emerged as a symbol of the latest "Kashmiri Intifada".
His family was allowed to be given ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 4 lakh by the Jammu and Kashmir government in December 2016 for the controversial killing of his older brother Khalid. This led to protest by opposition parties as well as Bharatiya Janta Party. Chief Minister Mufti denied on 18 January 2017 that any compensation has been paid.
Burhan Wani had released a group photo on 1 July 2015 of himself seated with 10 other militants, all armed and dressed in army fatigues, which went viral. The militants in the photo included Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, Waseem Malla, Naseer Ahmad Pandit, Ishfaq Hameed, Tariq Ahmad Pandit, Afaaquallah Bhat, Adil Ahmad Khanday, Saddam Padder, Waseem Ahmad Shah and Anees. All of the militants in the photograph have been killed apart from Tariq who surrendered, in May 2016.
- Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir
- UN mediation of Kashmir
- 2010 Kashmir unrest
- 2009 Shopian rape and murder case
- 2016 Kashmir unrest
- Kashmir conflict
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