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The State in India believes this is another phase of militancy in Kashmir. And this shall also pass.

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IPRI # 79, 10 July 2020

Friday Backgrounder
J&K: Four years after Burhan Wani

  D Suba Chandran


Facts on the ground
8 July has meaning for contemporary Kashmir. According to the Tribune, "partial to complete shut down” was observed in many parts of Kashmir on 8 July 2020. It read: "In Srinagar, shops mostly remained shut. The private traffic, however, plied normally. The attendance of employees in government offices was not affected due to the shutdown. In south Kashmir, a complete shutdown was observed, and security was strengthened to avert any protest.” (Kashmir shuts down on Burhan Wani’s 4th death anniversary, The Tribune, 8 July 2020)

Four years ago, on 8 July Burhan Wani, then in his early 20s was killed by the security forces in Kokernag in Anantnag district in South Kashmir. Following his death, there was a spontaneous outpour across the Valley during July-August 2016, in which more than 80 people in the Kashmir Valley were killed. It is believed, the killing of Burhan Wani triggered other youths to join militancy subsequently. 

Last week, three militants were shot dead in Tral, notorious for militancy in Pulwama district. A stronghold of the Hizbul, Tral is also the home of Burhan Wani. With the killing of these three militants, reports claim, that Tral is free of militants for the first time since the militancy has begun in the 1980s.

On 8 July 2020, in Bandipore in north Kashmir, three members of the BJP were killed in front of their home/shop, next to the police station. One of them – Waseem Bari, was a member of the State BJP executive committee and the other two of his relatives (father and brother). The Resistance Front (comprising of the Lashkar, Jaish and the Hizbul) has taken responsibility for the attack.

Focus Questions in the background
Four years later, what is Burhan Wani’s legacy? Why did he become a face of militancy in J&K?
Burhan Wani undoubtedly is a household name today in Kashmir Valley. Hardly there would be a Kashmiri teen in the Valley, who would not know about Wani and not admire him. 

The Kashmiri youth admire him for multiple reasons. First, he was seen as someone who stood up against New Delhi. He became an attraction, for the cause he stood for – Kashmiri nationalism and anti-Indian. It is unfortunate; today, both have become synonymous amongst most of the Kashmiri youth.

Second, a section within the above admire him for the means he adopted to pursue the cause. It was this section that picked up the guns and decided to fight the security forces as a strategy to achieve their cause.

Third, a section whether in J&K or in Sri Lanka or in Palestine, always romanticize violence. Neither the cause nor the means are important. One of the reasons for the Leftwing radical groups to receive a steady stream of youths from joining them is the glorification of violence and the public romance associated with the same. By the time the reality dawns, they are either too deep into the process or get neutralized. After a late realization, a section manages to escape, as has been the case with the ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

What does the Burhan Wani appeal amongst the youth mean?
First, Burhan Wani and many other youths who followed him during and after his killing highlight the new face of separatism in J&K – the youths, especially the teens and those in the 20s. 

The recent retirement of Geelani also underline the passing of the old generation, and its immediate follow up – the Mirwaiz Farooqs, Yasin Maliks and Syed Salahuddins. The emergence of Burhan Wani means, the separatism in Kashmir valley has seeped into the third generation Kashmiri.

Second, Burhan Wani’s appeal amongst the youths also highlights the failure of the mainstream “Kashmiri” political parties – the National Conference led by the Abdullahs and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) now led by Mehbooba Mufti. 

Third, it also reflects the failure of separatist politics led by the Hurriyat Conference. The youths do not need a call by Geelani, or a hartal calendar by the Hurriyat.

Finally, it also represents the nature of separatism amongst the youths – leaderless.

Where does the State stand on Burhan Wani?
The State in India believes this is another phase of militancy in Kashmir. And this shall also pass.

Second, the State believes, based on the history of militancy in the Kashmir valley, it would be able to get the upper hand. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the militancy unfolded, and the youths picked up the guns, the State was at the receiving end during the initial years. And by the mid-1990s, the attrition rate improved that favoured the State during the next few years, before leading to the demise of militancy. Perhaps, the State believes that this process has already started. Until now, more than 140 militants have been killed in 2020 alone.

Third, the State believes a strong and security lockdown will tire the youths; and during this phase, if the militant casualty increases, it would reduce the attraction towards militancy. In simple language, as more Wanis get killed in the militancy, there would be less Wanis joining it.

Perhaps, the State believes removing militants would remove militancy. Both history and geography in South Asia would tell a different tale.


Also in the series:

J&K: Omar Abdullah complains, there is no space for mainstream leaders. Should there be one?, 31 July 2020

J&K: After the Hurriyat, is the PDP relevant in Kashmir politics today?, 24 July 2020

J&K: Four years after Burhan Wani, 10 July 2020

The Rise, Fall and Irrelevance of Geelani. And the Hurriyat, 3 July 2020

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