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Burhan Wani – The man and his mission

Burhan Wani – The man and his mission

The death of a young ‘hero’?

On the 8th of July, Burhan Muzaffar Wani died in the Valley of Kashmir. Thousands poured out on the streets to commemorate his services to the movement that he had come to symbolize of late. The relative calm of the region was shattered with curfews, killings and allegations of human rights abuses. His father was proud for the services his son had offered in the name of their faith, convinced that he would go to Heaven. Amidst all this, the romantic ideals of a young boy, just off his teens began to shake up the youth of the entire country, both in and beyond India.
There is a lot of unrest in the Kashmir Valley recently, especially in the aftermath of the death, nay execution of Burhan. All of this is not unexpected in any way. In fact, this was foreseen. Even his glorification, his elevation to the status of a martyr in the service of Islam does not come as a surprise to me.
Threats to the Indians - In the service of Islam and the establishment of a free Islamic Riyasat in Kashmir

There is a section of the media and a significant portion of the population in India and abroad who are unaware of the stakes in this conflict between the Indian State and the ‘Kashmiris’. The various op-eds, pundits, the Left and the Right, along with the barely existing Center have all joined in the fray, trying to get some share of the limelight. Almost all of them strongly steer clear of the main issues. Issues like who was this young man? Why did he take up a gun at the age of 15? Why are his parents so proud of his sacrifice in the name of faith? There are many questions that lurk around but find no expression. Self-censorship works its way and we are reduced to accepting the simplistic narrative that Wani was either a terrorist or a freedom fighter – depending on the side you are on. Neither is actually true. But first I must make a few clear points and bust some myths.

First is that there is no freedom movement in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. The state has roughly three regions – namely Jammu, the Kashmir valley and Ladakh. Jammu and Ladakh are Hindu and Buddhist dominated, and even in the worst days of the Kashmir ‘intifada’, there was no movement to secede from the Union of India. The ‘movement’ is restricted to a few districts of the Kashmir valley, which is now devoid of all minorities barring minor exceptions. The infamous Islamic slogans are well known and though censored, are written extensively about. I will not go through all of them here, nor will I justify my reduction of the movement in the Kashmir valley to mere Islamic separatism. This post is about Burhan and his mission. I will lay him bare about a week after his death, so that you can yourself draw your own conclusions.

The Mission

Burhan Muzzaffar Wani was born in Tral, Jammu and Kashmir and at the time of his death was aged either 21 or 22. Though he has been compared to the freedom fighters of India like Bhagat Singh and revolutionaries like Che Gueavara, the man himself refuses to be categorized in similar shells as per our convenience. So I will present to you his words, his tweets, his posts – that should inform you about his intentions and whether such lofty comparisons are worth the effort or not.
Wani joined the Hizb-ul Mujahedeen in 2010 or 2011 and at the time of his death was a Commander and the most prominent face of the militant factions in the Valley. To understand his psyche, it is necessary to understand what Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen stands for.

The HuM was established in 1989 by a local school teacher named Muhammad Ahsan Dar, with significant backing of Pakistani agencies (namely ISI) and staffed almost entirely by Kashmiri Muslims from both sides of the border. In 1990, he declared his organization as the military arm of the prestigious and existing Jamaat e Islami – present all over the subcontinent, including India. The present supreme commander of the HuM is Sayeed Salahudeen, also a Kashmiri born in Baramulla in 1946. Like most of his predecessors, he is well educated, having studied Political Science in the University of Kashmir. His father worked in the Indian Postal Department. He was influenced by the Jamaat while he was in the University and became a hardline preacher in a madrasa instead of pursuing his cherished dream of becoming a civil servant. As a preacher, he extolled the virtues of Islam and Islamic Law, urging women to cover themselves entirely in burqa. All of his children are well educated and established in Indian Jammu and Kashmir.
The mission of HuM was simple – eliminate Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir and go for a merger with Pakistan. They maintain a significant online presence, based in Pakistan. They even have their own website which they use to disseminate their points of view. They are, relatively well articulated and to a first time reader without the interest to cross verify points, quite convincing. You can check them out here.

Of course, as the Amir of an Islamist organization, the position of non-Muslims in Jammu And Kashmir State has remained vague in the articles by HuM leaders and propagandists. But their regular atrocities on Kashmiri Hindus and pledge to keep Kashmir Muslim lends support to the view that they are not all that different from the Taliban when it comes to establishing a proper Islamic state in the Valley.

His Jihad

Let’s now look at Burhan. He was popular among the internet savvy youth because he maintained a solid presence there, posting pics, tweets, and making Facebook posts and so on. He earned hundreds and thousands of fans, inspiring many to join the armed struggle. Let’s see the content of what he posted.

First, his twitter handle – it is aptly named @Gazi Burhan. So, let’s analyze the working of this ‘romantic hero’ who fought only to free his motherland. What does Gazi mean? The word itself is an Arabic word meaning a warrior who takes part in Islamic or religious warfare and actually wins against his non-Muslim opponent. (Merriam Webster Dictionary, 2016) The full list of tweets is no longer possible because the account has been suspended, but there are other websites who had curated the content before. Check this out for some of the tweets of this ‘holy’ warrior, or as he would have called himself – a Mujahid. Some of the quotes I am putting here verbatim, just to make my point.

‘Voting in Kashmir-like situation haraam in Islam’

‘Kashmiri children playing with guns in solidarity with our mujahideen fighting with indian brutal occupiers pic.twitter.com/6JugShilaq’

‘There is only One solution Gun solution Gun Solution pic.twitter.com/CuU4NiVeCf’

‘May Allah accept their Shahadat and grant them highest place in Jannat ul Firdaus,,Aameen Yaa Rubb.’

‘Aye Hind Tuje Mitna Hai….Tuje Hum Mitaa Hi Denge….TeRe Hi Asl Se Hum…
TeRa Wajood Mitta Denge….Inshi AllaH….’

‘Encounter Update
5 Indian dogs Army soldiers injured during ongoing encounter in Machil sector in North Kashmir's Kupwara’

‘This Year India has sent more than three Lakh Beggars to Occupied Territories of Kashmir. Most Of them R Non-Muslims’ (Satyavijayi, 2016)

His facebook handle has also since been deactivated. Some of his videos have found place on Youtube. They are here. Please do keep in mind that his primary objective in making these videos was to appeal to the fence sitting Kashmiri Muslim youth to join him. If he appears to be reasonable, moderate and rational, it is because that is the image he wants to paint. Or rather wanted to paint. He himself pledged to attack Kashmiri Hindu colonies in the Valley, adding that they can however return safely to their ancestral homes (which have either been burnt down or occupied by their Muslim neighbors)! In fact, right after his death, the ‘innocent’ stone pelters of the valley attacked the Kashmiri Hindus, that all that was left of them in several colonies. (Outlook India, 2016) 200 Kashmiri Hindus, also called Pandits were forced to run for their lives – for the crime of following a faith that the Kashmiri Muslim youth do not approve of.

Before some comfortable conclusions are made, let’s dispel some myths here as well. He was not struck by poverty. He came from a family where his mother was a doctor and his father, a principal of a school. He himself was well educated and was by all accounts, quite meritorious. So the picture that comes in front of you is that a wronged young man took to guns to avenge his brother’s torture in the hands of the Indian Army. Nor was his turning to militancy a product of laborious introspection. He took to guns at the age of 15. Yes, the time when children play cricket, this boy played with Kalashnikovs. And his father’s reaction is telling. In fact while answering a reporter before his son’s death he stated this – ‘One who is Muslim knows that when he fights in jihad, he goes to Allah, he does not die. This is in our religion. It does make it difficult to know that my son may be shot to death. But Islam teaches us that most important is our religion, Allah, Quran and the importance of the son comes later.’ (translation mine)
You can watch the whole video here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGi9eK-MPFo

Coming to grips

This is of course just the tip of the ice berg. With the limited means at my disposal, and the information blackout that is now imposed in the northernmost part of India – it is well-nigh impossible to know more. But even with this limited information, certain things do become clear. One is that the movement is entirely religious in nature, and not political. The comparison between the atheist Bhagat Singh who fought for freedom of the land from imperialists without any sectarian motive and Burhan is ridiculous and dishonest. The comparison with Che is far more correct, if you replace the bourgeois with the non-Muslims and the proletariat with the Kashmiri Muslims and you can mold Burhan in the garb of an Islamic revolutionary. In any case, there is a need to know the man – especially among the non-Muslim youth of our country as well as abroad. We need to go beyond superficial explanations provided by the State, the Right or the Left and look and investigate ourselves, taking help of primary sources as far as possible. The Truth does come in many shades, but lest our own vision gets colored by vested interests, we ourselves need to check them with our eyes. Only then can we understand and prepare for the threats that are multiplying in the various corners of the Globe – from France, Bangladesh, India to USA to England to the Middle East and so on. We need to know the strength in the conviction of the unknown men we call as ‘terrorists’. Only then can be build a narrative against them, and break down the very ideology that inspires them. That should be the objective of the free world. If it wants to remain free, that is.

Selected References

Merriam Webster Dictionary. (2016, July 17). Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ghazi
Outlook India. (2016, July 17). Retrieved from http://www.outlookindia.com/newswire/story/pandits-leave-valley-threaten-not-to-join-jobs-in-kashmir/946544
Satyavijayi. (2016, July 11). Retrieved from http://satyavijayi.com/shocking-these-10-anti-india-tweets-by-burhan-wani-will-boil-blood-of-any-indian/


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