Report: Scenes From an Angry Kashmiri Chowk
9th July, 2016
After two days of Eid celebrations in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, when civilians had started their New Year with hopes for better times and were slowly getting back to their usual routine, a news suddenly confronted them. While I was munching on my evening snack, my roommate screamed with a stroke of panic “aap ko pata hai Burhan Wani ka encounter ho gaya” and immediately we looked out of the window and found young men on the road unanimously chanting ‘azaadi’. I kept quiet for a few minutes, as I clearly remembered that in the afternoon we were having a serious discussion on Mujahideen and its new face, Burhan Wani.
Burhan was a resident in the Tral area of Pulwama, south Kashmir. A 15 year old Burhan had joined the militancy after he and his brother, Khalid Muzaffar Wani, were assaulted by the State forces in his hometown. He fled from his home on October 16, 2010 and was made a member of Hizbul Mujahideen in 2011. Khalid was killed last April in an encounter by the forces when he had gone to meet Burhan. In 2013, Burhan was involved in the killing of four Rashtriya Rifles men in his hometown; though he hadn’t directly participated in any attack since then, he remained attached with the militant group and also influenced the Kashmiri youth to take up arms through his videos and photographs widely shared on social media.
Soon after the encounter, where two other close associates – Sartaj Ahmad Sheikh and Pervaiz Ahmad Lashkari – were also killed, several protests broke out in Kashmir. Several parts of the valley, including areas of South Kashmir and Srinagar are under curfew-like situation. The Board examination which was scheduled for today and the UGC-NET examination scheduled for tomorrow have been postponed. The city has come to a halt.
As I stepped outside my place, around 10:20 at night, I saw another side of Kashmir altogether. The lady who stays downstairs was in a corner silently weeping and as I tried to comfort her, she looked right through my eyes with an expression so lost. With heavy hearts and loud screaming, all were rushing to the Hyderpora Chowk (the locality where I stay) to smash the army booth and the traffic signals with stones. To my surprise, I saw that none of the stone pelters were wearing masks; maybe they are no longer scared of revealing their identities. As I took my phone out tactically to capture the raucous situation, all the locals infringed a kind of terror on me “tod dengey yeh log phone, andaar karo”. The man next door asked me to keep my identity card near me for my safety. Though I was feeling scared with the approaching situation, I stood right there with them to witness every bit of the protest, the slogans and their emotions. Mothers were sobbing, fathers heartbroken and the young generation losing their cool.
However, it came in the national news as ‘India’s most wanted terrorist is killed’; but my question goes right at you, was he a ‘terrorist’? How do you define terrorism? Once in a seminar, I heard a speaker saying “One person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist” and now I know exactly what they meant. Burhan was fighting for his land and his people like the way the Indian government is fighting for her land, but not her people. Both ultimately took refuge to arms and guns, and are dealing with the situation with violence. One of my friends from Kolkata exclaimed today “if you are attacking on army and police, you will get killed, so it’s fair”. Is it fair? Since the 1989 insurgency, State actors have been abducting civilians, torturing them, destroying their faces and producing them as foreign militants. Parents are losing their sons, women are losing their husbands, children are losing their fathers and families are losing their only bread winners. How is it fair? How is it justified sitting in some faraway lands boasting about the fact “Kashmir humari taaj hai”? And what about the Kashmiris? What about their lives? Their wants? Their democracy? Their Right to Self Determination? Like Burhan, they are losing one after another, but Burhan is not dead. Burhan is an inspiration for others. Death can never scare Kashmiris; for them it gives birth to a new hope. Last evening many more Burhans took birth in this valley. Today when I woke up, I came across the news that 8 youths have been martyred in day long clashes, but again the question arises, how many Burhans will you kill till you stop killing them?