It is said that the Truth will always be on the side of the Oppressed. A clear personification of this quote by the legendary human rights activist Malcolm X is that even after the full power (both hard and soft) of the Indian BJP regime was expended to ensure the erasure of the legacy of this 22-year-old young man. The people of both Occupied and Free Kashmir hold Burhan Wani as the very symbol of their resistance against an incredibly brutal and absolute occupation, injustice and tyranny.
Burhan Wani was just a young adult, at the stage of life when most of his age-fellows were starting university education, when he was brutally killed by a team of at least 40 special operations forces of the Indian military, assigned to the Kashmiri occupation forces. Burhan was murdered alongside two of his colleagues in an Indian military operation that lasted more than 24 hours after their party arrived in the Kokernag area of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) to recruit activists to protest against an illegal Indian occupation.
This right to protest has been given to them by numerous United Nations resolutions that recognize IOK as a disputed territory subject to the plebiscite of the people of Kashmir. So that they may decide for themselves what they want their future and their land to look like.
The United Nations also gives the indigenous people of a territory (the Kashmiris) the right to use any means necessary, including armed resistance against occupying invaders (the Indians). Over the past 75 years, numerous brave and courageous Indian freedom fighters have arisen from the ranks of the fierce Kashmiri people to fight against their occupiers. Burhan was one such man. At the very young age of 22, he made the entire BJP-RSS regime tremble, fearing to lose their death-grip on the Kashmir valley. Some say that Burhan Wani was single-handedly responsible for molding the freedom resistance in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir into a youth-oriented movement.
When a resistance has gone on for over half a century, there comes a time when the mantle of the fight must be passed on from one generation to another. Kashmiris are no stranger to this. And Burhan was the face and symbol of this transition. A clever student in his school-going years, with a sharp wit and a physique to match, Burhan’s earliest memory of the so-called Indian state was when some Indian soldiers beat him up, along with his brother Khalid and a friend for no fault of theirs, after the kids refused to purchase cigarettes for them.
Burhan Wani used social-media as a tool of potent information-warfare leveraging a mix of ideology, religion, and a deep-rooted sense of persecution that every Kashmiri has in order to open up the revolutionary movement. He recognized the rise of forceful Hindu nationalism affected how Kashmiri Muslims viewed the Indian state and reshaped their Kashmiri Muslim identity. He also wielded unforeseen love and influence in the local populace, attracting numerous young adults into the cause.
All of this, of course, was too much for the occupying Indian state to endure. They could never see a strong Kashmiri leader from amongst the masses to rise up, as this would threaten their illegal occupation and ideology of Hindu supremacy and racial superiority, and much like the Nazis of the third Reich, hatched a plan to crush this boom in activism and resistance against their occupation. So, they put a bounty of a million rupees on Burhan Wani’s head.
This, of course, was futile as no Kashmiri ever stepped forward to even give any information on where Burhan Wani was. The truth was that Burhan travelled town to town, village to village, spreading his message amongst the scared masses of Kashmiri people that has only seen Indian state-terrorism and violence for so long. ‘Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris; we are fighting for our basic right of freedom and self-determination’, he maintained in his video messages. He knew that the communal polarization in India and the violence targeting Muslims are widely discussed in Kashmiri homes.
After a social media post showing Burhan with 10 other freedom fighters went viral across the region on social media, the Indian state again pulled out a page from their fascism handbook and banned social media in the valley, both as a way of stopping Burhan’s message spreading as well as stopping ordinary Kashmiris from telling horrific tales of Indian state violence to the outside world. This tactic has been used time and time again in the valley.
On the 7th of July 2016, Indian occupation forces finally found Burhan and began an operation that Burhan and his two other companions resisted for over 24 hours until they were finally murdered by overwhelming Indian military force consisting of over 50 men. With Burhan’s killing, the situation in Kashmir entered a period of “amplified instability”. At Wani’s funeral, an estimated 200,000 people came to mourn him, some of them from remote parts of the valley. Forty back-to-back funeral prayers were offered as well as a 21-gun salute by militants.
Protesters started demonstrating against his killing, and continuous incidents of stone-pelting have been reported since the news of his death. The reaction to his death was unimaginable to the Indians. Hundreds of protests erupted throughout the valley with ordinary men, women and children of all social backgrounds and ages coming out to record their protest against the killing of their national leader. The reaction to Burhan Wani’s killing is known as the 2016 Kashmir uprising, which consisted of hundreds of protests across at least 10 districts in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
The Indian government responded with overwhelming and deadly force indiscriminately, killing over 300 Kashmiri civilians and injuring over 20,000 people, arresting, and detaining almost 10,000 Kashmiris which were mostly young boys, banning all cellular coverage, blanket curfews, using pellet guns to permanently blind Kashmiris and basically turning the valley into an open jail for millions of Kashmiris. Many international organizations termed the uprising as Kashmir’s Intifada.
What the Indians failed to understand was the Kashmiri independence was an idea. One individual may die; but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives. We are told to remember the idea, and not the man. Because a man can fail. He can be caught and killed. But even years and years later, his idea can change the world. Bombs and guns do not make a revolution. The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting-stone of ideas.
The protests culminated in Kashmiri social and business leaders calling for a region-wide blackout and shutdown to show civil disobedience. This continued from the second week of July until late October. On Pakistan’s Independence Day, flags of Pakistan were hoisted at many places across Kashmir and pro-Pakistan rallies were carried out, with dozens of people reported injured when security personnel tried to disperse them.
Kashmiri Freedom leader Asiya Andrabi was injured along with many other protesters while leading a women-only rally in Tral when security personnel lobbed teargas shells to disperse them. Bodies of small children that had been detained by Indian security and occupation forces started showing up in streams riddled with pellets from Indian guns.
The Indian paramilitary fired up to 3,800 cartridges between July and August, each containing 450 metallic balls, totaling up to 1.7 million pellets. Amnesty International accused Indian security forces were using “arbitrary and excessive force” to deal with the protests in Kashmir. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Indian authorities to credibly and impartially investigate the use of lethal force in Kashmir, which India refused.
The people of Kashmir continue to pay strong tribute to the life and legacy of Burhan Wani for his selfless contribution and sacrifice in the struggle of the Kashmiris to attain their inalienable right to self-determination. He became the face of the Kashmiri independence movement.
We once again urge the Government of India to desist from indiscriminate use of force and relentless targeting of Kashmiris especially the youth. We also urge the international community to play its due role for a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.