Burhan Muzaffar Wani has taken the Kashmiris a step closer to freedom. Even two years after his martyrdom on July 8, 2016, Wani’s ghost still haunts the Indian troops occupying Kashmir. The silence in the held region on the morning of July 8 was really eerie. The presence of security forces across the disputed valley was unusually high. Troops were posted in every nook and cranny. In particular, the Tral area that houses the residence of the 22-year-old martyr gave the impression of a military camp. Internet services were suspended, strict checking of vehicles was going on and restrictions on movement were in place. All measures were to make sure no protests broke out.
Wani’s martyrdom two years back led to a massive wave of protests in the valley that lasted about six months, leaving nearly a hundred dead and 15,000 injured. Hundreds of the injured were blinded by pellet guns. During the widespread unrest, security forces and police stations were attacked, internet services remained suspended, buses and trains came to a standstill and highways were shut down. Such was the uprising that curfew restrictions remained in place for 53 days at a stretch — a rarity in the Kashmir freedom struggle.
Wani infused a new spirit in the freedom movement. He joined the armed struggle at the age of 15 and soon became popular as a Hizbul Mujahideen commander. He used the latest technology to promote the Kashmir cause on social media turning into an icon with the Kashmiri boys. A martyred Wani exerts even greater influence on the Kashmiri youth. The day they killed Wani was the day they produced more and more Wanis. Now there is no dearth of households in Kashmir that don’t have a Wani. ‘Burhan our role model’, ‘Burhan still in our hearts’, ‘I am Burhan too’ are the slogans that now fill the air quite too often. Wani T-shirts are a symbol of defiance among the Kashmir youths who don it too proudly, too bravely.
Compared to great freedom leaders, Wani has — through his life and death — forced the Kashmir conflict back on the international agenda after years of obscurity.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2018.
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