'I will avenge this beating': Burhan was face of new-age militancy in Kashmir

'I will avenge this beating': Burhan was face of new-age militancy in Kashmir

Born to a well-off Jamaat-e-Islami family, six of his cousins, according to local residents, were killed in action by forces as he (Burhan) grew up in the South Kashmir area—known as hotbed of militancy—over the years.

In the narrow alleys of volatile Tral township in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, Burhan Muzaffar Wani—the leader of new-age militancy in Kashmir who died on Friday evening—was not any ordinary boy. He was different. He was sharp.

Born to a well-off Jamaat-e-Islami family, six of his cousins, according to local residents, were killed in action by forces as he (Burhan) grew up in the South Kashmir area—known as hotbed of militancy—over the years.

 Burhan did not cross over to Pakistan for the arms training, but right from his childhood, his militant cousins—who fought against the forces from time to time—must have given him a glimpse of what the militants’ life and activities are all about, the residents say.

The boys with whom Burhan grew up remember him as a ‘jolly character’, a loving boy, an ace-cricketer.

On the run for the past six years, the 21-year-old Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander headed the new group of militants and carried a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head. He was a “hardcore militant” who infused a “fresh lease of life into the otherwise waning militancy” in Kashmir and recruited at least 100 youths in these years, a police official said and quickly added: “He catalyzed his recruitments through social media.”

In the summer of 2010, Burhan (then 15 years old) along with his brother and a friend were on a red-and-white Yamaha FZ bike when a group of cops from Special Operations Group (SOG) of J&K police stopped them and asked them to buy cigarettes for them, a friend of Burhan—who was part of the bike ride—told Greater Kashmir.

“It was our routine to go up and down on the streets of Tral. Khalid (Burhan’s brother) loved his bike like anything. Khalid went to get cigarettes for the SOG men. When he returned and we started to leave, the policemen and the paramilitary forces pounced on us. Khalid fell unconscious while Burhan and I escaped. They damaged the bike. At a distance from the policemen, Burhan shouted: ‘I will avenge this beating’.”

Friends close to Burhan in school say he was only “looking for the right moment” to join the militants after the incident.

Six months later, Burhan, then Class X student, left his home and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen ranks.

Burhan came from a wealthy, educated family of Tral. His father Muzaffar Ahmad is a school principal, his mother Maimoona Muzaffar a science postgraduate who now teaches Quran to local kids in Shareefabad Mohalla of Tral.

Burhan’s brother Khalid—killed by Army in April last year when he reportedly went to meet Burhan in the forests—was a postgraduate in commerce, and his two other siblings are school-goers.

Once, Burhan Wani released his video where he and his associates together cracked jokes without an iota of fear, rattling the entire security establishment in Jammu and Kashmir.

“It was unusual. No one could even believe that militants are coming out openly, unveiling their masks unlike the past when they would hide their faces. It threw a challenge to the security grid. It certainly motivated youth into militancy,” a police official told Greater Kashmir.

In August last year, the young militant commander addressed people directly and talked about Khilafat. His videos were uploaded on Facebook pages and would within minutes go viral.

In a recent video, the 21-year-old commander urged youth to join his outfit and asked the Kashmir police to “shun their fight against the militants.” “We want to send a message to the people of Kashmir, especially youth, that they should come and join us,” Burhan said, while being flanked by two of his associties in military fatigues. A Kalashnikov, a pistol and a Quran were neatly arranged in front of him.

Burhan’s father has been all praise for his son. “People are naming their boys after my son. I haven’t seen my son for six years. People are taking care of my son—in last six years, that means 2190 days or we can say 5,000 meals. People provided him all the support. People are looking after him. It means Burhan has support,” Muzafar Wani told this correspondent in April this year.