The Burhan phenomenon
Kashmir was still celebrating Eid when Burhan Wani encounter appeared on the scene. The last 27 years have witnessed similar scenes thereby diminishing our level of shock towards them. Except this time it was Burhan who was a familiar sight on social media openly challenging the might of India's forces stationed in Kashmir. There was a big price tag on his arrest. He did not cover his face and was seen loaded with weapons on the full view of video cameras. In a way Burhan and his friends with their spotlight disclosures on electronic media made themselves vulnerable targets even so they were seen to be invincible to raise their popularity status to extreme heights.
In the end they were overcome and they fell to the bullets of the forces. Burhan was not seen as a threat in combat or implicated in any militancy operation, even though he was made a suspect behind killing of Sarpachs in Tral and local policemen. Burhan and his team worked as icons of resistance as upright looking young men with a personality that made an impression on his generation of educated youth. His video messages had a great impact on all in general and youth in particular.
Burhan became a phenomenon that throws a question. What future lay in front of our youth? It is natural for young minds to absorb ambient knowledge and influence their formative years. In Kashmir what passed down through generations was disillusionment amidst which a ray of hope appears with such events. The phenomenon in public prompted questions inquiring about not only genesis of conflict they are wrapped in and adversarial relationships but also awareness of right to self-determination. In their real world it translates into an image seeking freedom of choice.
It was the first time that over two hundred thousand mourners turned out on the funeral of a militant. A political analyst would read a referendum in that massive show of humanity. That was before he was eulogized in Pakistan by leaders in Muzafarabad and by Nawaz Sherif who called him a leader and seemed to hide behind emotions. On the fourth day of his death Burhan brought even greater numbers of people to his prayers.
Burhan turned into a phenomenon more so when the national TV stations opened a debate on him. It was a worrying trend and a matter of great concern as described by most participants in the debates. Omar Abdullah's tweet that Burhan will function from his grave added meaning to this phenomenon.
In this un-nerving development, what appears most singular is political skullduggery in the mainstream camps. Everyone expresses concern and empathy over 37 deaths, injuries of hundreds of people, but the most outstanding feature of this response has been an absence of a statement addressing the core issue. From the office of the Prime Minister down to the local politicians appeals are made directed at people of Kashmir to somehow stop loss of precious lives and gruesome injuries. These pleas are aimed at the very people they admit are at the receiving end. They advise them in sermons that nothing has been achieved any time in the past and somehow they must keep peace and stop their boys from violence so they are not killed. Political points are made by opposition parties making more appeals to people to calm down. What about those who use force to calm people down.
There is an international dimension to this phenomenon. No country which is a signatory to the Charter (1945) can afford to ignore institutional killings of its civilians. It spills into international domain. NDTV repeated the Soldiers remark 'my countrymen' about those laid in hospitals and graveyards buried by their parents that was appreciated. 'My countrymen' will also need to be heard through open discourse, written and informed consent about their future, segmental referendums held, self-determination offered. Those are the soothing words that will bring peace and an end to this phenomenon. Not crocodile tears !