Dead or alive, Burhan Wani dominated Kashmir in 2016

Burhan Wani and his two colleagues Sartaj Ahmed and Parvaiz Ahmed were killed in south Kashmir’s Verinag on July 8

A for AK-47. B for Burhan. C for Curfew. This is the kind of phonics that many kindergarten kids learned during the unrest in Kashmir this summer. Almost six months after Hizbul commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed, he continues to rule the Kashmiri minds if not necessarily hearts.

Recently, Belaag a Srinagar-based Urdu magazine sought public opinion on “who and why from J&K” should figure on the cover page of its special edition of the year 2016. “Response for Burhan was phenomenal. He topped the feedback to be followed by Mehbooba Mufti but for her negatives,” Belaag Editor, Tariq Ali Mir told InUth.

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The poster boy of new militancy, who kept security agencies on tenterhooks for six years – Burhan – and his two colleagues Sartaj Ahmed and Parvaiz Ahmed were killed in south Kashmir’s Kokernag on July 8. The killings triggered longest-ever agitation, still on in Kashmir. Over 90 persons were killed and more than 15,000 were wounded during the unrest.

Soon after Burhan’s killing, the then Additional Director General of Police SM Sahai told media persons that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was aware of the operation that neutralized Burhan.

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However, Mehbooba said on July 28: “Security agencies say they suspected three militants were hiding without knowing who they were. Had I known about him (Burhan), I would have given him a second chance in the wake of ongoing economic activity, improving the situation and booming tourism.”

But then, why would the government give a second chance to a most wanted militant? Her statement was largely questioned. Critics asked if the low-cadre militants are killed indiscriminately, and not given a chance to surrender only because their death won’t risk peace and economic prosperity.

Her party colleague and MP Muzaffar Hussain Beg dropped another bombshell saying: “The operation that took Burhan Wani was in contravention with the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court suggesting the killing was extra-judicial.” However, in an another statement, Beg reiterated that “some police officials” killed Burhan to destabilise Mehbooba’s government.

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Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was apprehensive about fallouts of the killing. “Mark my words – Burhan’s ability to recruit into militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media,” he tweeted. At least 40 more youth joined militancy within first three months of Omar’s tweet.

There’s another interesting version about Burhan. SSP, Baramulla Imtiyaz Hussain who has been on the forefront of counter-insurgency operations claims that Burhan never attacked security forces. “The truth is, despite all his ‘virtual bravado’, despite being a poster boy, he could not carry out a single action against security forces,” Imtiyaz had posted on Facebook.

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While the government attributes the new age militancy to indoctrination, no one ever probed as to what indoctrinated Burhan. According to media reports, the course of his life changed in 2010 when he, his brother and another friend riding on a bike were stopped by police for cigarettes. However, the trio was rather thrashed. While they managed to flee, Burhan shouted: “I will avenge this.”

That winter, Burhan, a schoolboy, left home to pick up arms.

Many like slain Hizbul commander Basit Rasool, a 21-year-old B-Tech student who was killed in a recent encounter, followed Burhan’s path. Basit had joined militancy during the peak of 2016 unrest, when nursery kids could be heard chanting: A for AK- 47, B for Burhan!