Burhan Muzaffar Wani, the top most Hizbul Mujahideen commander, and face of new age militancy in Kashmir was killed in an encounter with security forces on Friday at Bumdoora, Kukernag in the south Kashmir district of Anantnag. This brings to an end the relentless campaign by Burhan to glamourise militancy in Kashmir. But it could possibly spur more youth to follow his tracks as has been witnessed after top commanders were killed.
J&K police chief K. Rajendra confirmed that Burhan was killed in an exchange of fire between security personnel and militants. He said he was trapped in Bumdoora village by a joint team of police and army. "He has been killed along with two of his associates today," said IGP Javeed Geelani on Friday.
Burhan joined the militant outfit in 2010 when he was only 15 years of age. His family and neighbours said he was driven to extreme after Special Operation Group of police and CRPF beat him, his elder brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani and friend Anayat Ahmed in the summer of 2010 without any reason. Khalid fainted but Burhan and Anayat managed to run away. Burhan, while fleeing, shouted, "I will take revenge for this," says Rafiq Ahmed (named changed), Khalid's friend.
After the incident, Burhan joined Hizbul Mujahideen. That year he had scored over 90 per cent marks in Class X. He quickly adapted to life on the run and became one of the most prominent militants in Kashmir, dodging death many times. Security forces say he was a thinking militant and used social media, Facebook, and videos clips to great effect. The tech-savvy ‘poster boy’ militant commander used social media to woo and recruit educated youth into militancy.
Muzaffar Wani, his father, a government school principal, lives with his wife, daughter and younger son at Shareefabad, Tral in Pulwama. Burhan's older brother, Khalid, who was pursuing his masters degree was killed by the army in April last year at Kamla forests in Tral on April 13 when he was holding a secret meeting with Burhan and other Hizbul militants.
"Shaeed gachen, magar raten gachnus ne (Let him become a martyr, but not a prisoner)," Muzaffar told THE WEEK last year. When asked why he felt so, he replied, "Azaab karnus (They will torture him)." Muzaffar's apparent preference to 'martyrdom' over Burhan's arrest stems from the torture marks Khalid's body bore.
"I looked at every inch of his body, from toe to head, and there was no bullet mark on his body," He said. "He was tortured. All his teeth had been damaged, his nose was broken and his forehead and skull too were broken, perhaps by gun butts." Muzaffar accused the army of killing his son in custody. But police said he was an over ground worker (OGW) of Hizbul.
"Khalid was good in studies, but he (Burhan) was brilliant," Muzaffar said without any remorse. He said he wanted Burhan to become a doctor and treat patients for free. "But Burhan thought this would create an impression that he was not a good doctor. He (Burhan) told me we will quietly return the fee of the people who are needy," recalled Muzaffar with a smile.
But the dreams are not going to come true. Burhan ended up as a militant. And now, after being on the run for seven years, he has been shot dead.
"After Burhan joined militancy, I would imagine a procession walking towards our house carrying his body," Muzaffar told THE WEEK in an earlier interview. Today, his fears have come true. Burhan burst on the scene at a time when Kashmir's young generation, born and raised in conflict, are trying to emulate Shah Faisal, the first Kashmiri to top IAS in 2010. But Burhan was scripting a completely different story. He was shepherding the herd in a different direction. A rebellion motivated by a sense of persecution bordering humiliation and Islam.
The Hizbul commander, in a video message, had threatened attacks on proposed separate colonies for Sainiks and Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. He had also issued fresh threats at J&K police.
Burhan's killing is seen as a major blow to militants in Kashmir across all ranks and groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba. Security officials say that he had emerged after he used social media to lure young and educated boys in south Kashmir into militants folds.
An official said he understood the power of social media and regularly posted photographs and messages, including videos, glamourising militancy with deadly effect. The police and other security agencies were finding it hard to counter his charm offensive on the social media.
During his seven-year hide-and-seek with security forces, Burhan avoided direct contact with journalists.