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Burhan Wani

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Burhan Wani
Burhan Wani.jpg
Born 1994[1]
Dadasara, Tral, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Died 8 July 2016 (aged 21[2] or 22[3])
Bumdoora, Kokernag, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Buried Tral, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Allegiance Hizbul Mujahideen (2011–2016)[4][5][6]
Activity years 2010–2016
Rank Commander
Battles/wars

Kashmir conflict

Burhan Muzaffar Wani was the commander of a Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen.[7] He became popular and appealing among some Kashmiris due to his activity on social media and actions of militancy against India in the Kashmir.[8] He was killed in an encounter with the Indian security forces on 8 July 2016 at the age of 22 which made him a folk hero in Kashmir.[7][9]

Widespread protests erupted in the Kashmir valley after Wani's death, causing 2016 unrest in the valley for nearly half a year,[10] in which more than 96 people died[11][12][13][14][15] while over 15,000 civilians and more than 4,000 security personnel were injured.[16][17] The violence which erupted after his death was described as the worst unrest in the region since the 2010 Kashmir unrest,[18][19] with Kashmir being placed under 53 consecutive days of curfews imposed by authorities that was lifted from all parts of the region on 31 August 2016.[20][21][22]

Biography

Burhan was born in Dadsara village of Tral area of Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir to Muzaffar Ahmad Wani, a principal of a higher secondary school and Maimoona Muzaffar, a postgraduate of science who teaches the 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.[23][24][25][26]

Burhan left his home on 16 October 2010 and became a militant at the age of 15. He had reportedly decided to join the militancy due to an incident in which security personnel beat him up, along with his friend Khalid, according to his father and his friend who claimed to have been accompanying him when the incident occurred. He joined Hizbul Mujahideen in 2011, and was popular on social media.[7][25][27]

Khalid was killed by the Indian Army on 13 April 2015 when he had gone along with three friends to meet his brother. The army claimed that Khalid was a militant sympathizer who had taken his friends to get them recruited and was killed in an encounter by the security forces.[28] The three friends of Khalid were arrested by the army. The Jammu and Kashmir police could not confirm or deny whether he and his friends had joined militancy. His father and residents of his home village rejected that he was a militant, claiming that his body did not bear any bullet wounds and he was tortured because he was the brother of a militant.[29] In 2013 Burhan Wani was in a gunfight with security forces, and images erroneously stating that he had been killed went viral, boosting his notability.[30]

Government of India had announced Rs 1 million bounty for finding Burhan. He was known for posting videos on social media which were popular in Kashmir.[31] A picture of him sitting along with 10 other militants was uploaded on Facebook on 1 July 2015 and quickly went viral.[25] In one of his videos he appealed youth to join Hizbul Mujahideen and is considered to have recruited at least 30 young boys from South Kashmir.[32]

In a video released in June 2016, he assured the Amarnath pilgrims that they would not be attacked by the militants.[33] In addition, he also threatened to attack Sainik colonies because of his belief that it was an attempt to change the demography of the valley comparable to Israeli tactics in Palestine. He opposed separate colonies for Kashmiri Pandits saying that they can come live on their own land but an "Israel-like" situation won't be allowed in Kashmir. He threatened that more attacks will take place against "men in uniform" and also warned the police of the state to stay out of their way.[33] Burhani Wani was said to have inspired several Kashmiris to join militant groups.[34] Although no attack has ever been traced back to him, he is believed to have masterminded several of them.[26]

Death

Burhan was killed in a planned/coincidental operation on 8 July 2016 along with two other militants, later identified as Sartaj Ahmad Sheikh and Pervaiz Ahmad Lashkari. He and his accomplices 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.[35][36][37] It was revealed later by security forces that the operation had actually begun on 7 June when Burhan, along with his accomplices, had come to Kokernag in order to procure weapons.[38] 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.[39] 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.[40][41]

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 Burhan was killed in an exchange of fire between security personnel and the militants.[35][36][37]

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.[42] He is believed to have been succeeded by Sabzar Bhat.[43][44]

Reaction

A large crowd attended his funeral on 9 July. The crowd was earlier estimated to number 200,000 and was described as the largest ever gathering by reporters.[45][46][47] However, a footage from an army drone revealed that the crowd only numbered 12,000 – 15,000. The last rite prayers were also performed in absentia in all major towns of Kashmir.[48] His body wrapped in the flag of Pakistan was buried next to that of his brother Khalid in Tral.[24] Militants were also present at his funeral and offered him a three-volley salute.[49]

After the news of his death spread, violent protests erupted in some areas of Kashmir Valley.[50] Separatist leaders called for shutdown in Kashmir which was repeatedly extended before being called off in February 2017.[36][51] Police stations and security forces were attacked by mobs. Stone pelting was reported from many parts in Kashmir[52][53] including upon transit camps of Kashmiri Pandits. Internet services along with train services have been suspended and the national highway were shut down. The Amarnath pilgrimage was repeatedly resumed and suspended due to the unrest.[54][55][56][57][58] 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.[59][60] 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.[2] Curfew was imposed in all districts of Kashmir on 15 July and mobile phone networks were suspended.[61] The curfew was lifted from all parts on 31 August 2016.[20][21][22] More than 90 people died in the unrest[11][12][13][14] and over 15,000 civilians were injured.[16] Indian security forces reportedly used assault rifles to open fire on protestors.[62] Over 4,000 security personnel were also injured during the unrest.[17]

Peoples Democratic Party leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig alleged that the standard operating procedure had not been followed during the encounter involving Burhan and his accomplices. Baig demanded that a commission be appointed to probe Wani's killing.[63] Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh rebuffed the demand stating that it was an anti-terrorist operation and there was no need for an inquiry.[64]

A day after his 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 as compared to when he was alive.[65] On 12 July, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a statement expressed "shock" over the killing of Burhan Wani[66] which was criticised by the Indian government.[67] 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.[68] Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized the media alleging it was portraying the slain Wani as a "hero".[69] 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".[70] 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".[71]

His family was given ex-gratia in December 2016 for the controversial killing of his older brother. This led to protest by opposition parties[72] as well as Bharatiya Janta Party.[73]

Legacy

In July 2017, Pakistani newspaper Pakistan Today praised Wani and compared his death to the death of Che Guevara, citing "History repeats itself".[74]

On the Independence Day of Pakistan in August 2017, Wani was featured on a special train named Azadi Train which was organised by Pakistan Railways in the memory of country's national heroes.[75]

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. The militants in the photos 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. Apart from one, all the militants in this photograph have been killed in operations carried out by Indian security forces in the region.[76]

See also

References

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External links