July 2016 News

Kashmir On Edge As Forces Kill Most Wanted Hizb Commander

8 July 2016

Srinagar: The cult of Burhan Muzaffar Wani has been halted in the tracks. The 22-year-old most wanted Hizbul Mujahideen commander, who redefined the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, was killed along with two of his associates in an encounter at Waibombdora village in Dooru-Verinag-Kokarnag area of South Kashmir's Anantnag district. 'Yes, he (Burhan) has been killed,' Syed Javid Mujtaba Gillani, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Zone told dna. 'It is a big success. He was killed in a house in a built-up area.' Tech savvy Hizbul poster boy, Burhan liked to be photographed and used the social media to reach out to people. Flaunting a trim beard, Burhan, like any other youth, had a penchant for trendy clothes. Burhan often used to post his pictures on Facebook, in neatly done army fatigues flaunting AK 47, with pouch laced with ammunition and grenades. And when in civvies, his dress code would be a t-shirt and jeans. Hailing from Sharifabad area of Tral in south Kashmir, nicknamed Kandahar owing to the huge militant infestation, Burhan, son of a retired school principal, emerged the face of new-age militancy in the valley since he took to arms in 2010. Carrying Rs 10 lakh bounty on his head, Burhan was instrumental in reviving homegrown militancy and unlike his predecessors did not shy away from releasing videos exhorting youth to take up the arms. According to intelligence sources, nearly 120 local boys in south Kashmir have taken up arms since Burhan took to militancy. Most of them were highly educated, who dropped out of the school and college to join Burhan group. One of them was Mohommad Ishaq, a brilliant student who was nicknamed Newton for his abilities. But he too fell to the security forces' bullets in March this year. Call it a Burhan factor, Kashmiri militants for the first time surpassed the foreigners in the valley given his appeal and use of social media. Locals said Burhan joined the militancy in 2010 to avenge the 'humiliation', after he, his brother and friend were beaten up by special operation group of J&K police and the CRPF in the summer of 2010 for no reason. Incidentally, Burhan had passed class X with 90% marks that year and wanted to be a doctor. But after he was beaten up, he decided to take up arms instead to avenge the humiliation. He ran away from home and went on to become one of the most wanted militant commanders of the valley. A thinking militant, Burhan had a Robinhood image who used to keep the security forces on tenterhooks. He released videos at will and tried to connect with the people. On June 7 he released a 6.17-minute video and reached out to the Hindu pilgrims, assuring them of incident-free Amarnath yatra, which started on July 2. Days later, he released another video featuring him and his associates playing cricket. 'He was master of psychological warfare. He tried to pin us down by using social media. Though we blocked his pages, they sprung up under new names,' said a police officer. Such was his cult figure like status, Burhan was even compared to Shah Feasal, and the first Kashmiri to top IAS in 2010, for being one of the icons that Kashmir had produced. 'He was from a well to do family with every luxury at his disposal. Yet, he chose to be a militant. His sister was one of the toppers of class XII. His mother teaches Quran to kids,' said his close relative. Last year, Burhan's brother Khalid Muzaffar was gunned down when he walked into the ambush of security forces in Tral area. Sources said Khalid had gone to serve food to his brother when he was killed. 'Yet it did not deter him. Even his father said he wanted to see his son Shaheed achieve martyrdom rather than captured alive,' said a Tral resident. Meanwhile, tension gripped Kashmir with people coming out on the roads to protest the killing of Burhan. Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani has called for general strike on Saturday while radical women outfit Duktaran-e-Milat has called for three days' hartal. 'We are assessing the situation,' IGP Gillani told dna. Burhan's father Muzaffar Ahmad Wani too responded to the news of his son's death. 'I am happy that he has been martyred. I wanted him to see as a martyr or a victor,' he told mediapersons here.