“He has gone to Allah,” Muzaffar Wani, the father of Burhan Wani, said before switching off his phone. Muzaffar was a proud father – a very proud one – when I met him at his village home in south Kashmir in October last year.
In that meeting, we had discussed how his son, a brilliant student, had given up the comfort of his classroom and chosen to become a gun-wielding militant. The conversation is worth recalling.
So what is the main motto of Burhan and young boys like him?
Freedom from India. It’s not only his motto but everybody else’s. Even mine. Look at the current incident of beef ban where a truck driver was lynched in Jammu only because he was a Kashmiri, a Muslim. This has happened so many times before also. Beef is halal for us (Muslims), we sacrifice it, and they have banned it.
But isn’t it hard to win against the might of Indian Army? The insurgency is now 26 years old.
Yes, it’s very hard. Everyone knows it. It is a hard task, but a Muslim has his faith in God. He knows if he dies in the path of God, he goes to God. In our religion, whosoever dies because of the oppression from India, or by an Indian bullet, doesn’t die. He goes from this world to the other world (as promised in the Quran); there will be no disease in that world, no oppression. This is what our Islam tells. That’s why Muslims don’t fear that. We prefer dying with honour rather than living a life of shame under oppression.
You know Burhan will be killed one day… That is the outcome of the path he has chosen.
Yes, I do get a bit disturbed, but our Islam says that God, Quran and the Prophet are bigger than anything, even bigger and more important than our sons. It’s not the other way round. If our God is not happy with us then we don’t need our sons. Our God should be happy with us even if my son’s or my sacrifice is needed for that.
Watch | An interview with Burhan Wani’s father
Funerals of militants have been drawing huge crowds. In anticipation, the local police are making elaborate arrangements. “All roads leading to his village Sharifabad in Tral will be blocked,’’ one senior officer from the Jammu and Kashmir police said.
“But it is not only the funeral that we need to worry about. He had fired the imagination of the Kashmiri youth and we will have to watch out for those who might want to step into his shoes.”
Sixty percent of the Valley’s population is below the age of 30 and the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP government has not succeeded in engaging with the youth.
The demographic bulge comprising the youth is hyperactive on social media and the army has been flagging its concerns on the issue.
What the army and the police do not say on record is the fact that the spike in the number of Kashmiri youth knocking on the doors of militant outfits is directly linked to the fact that the PDP, once known for its soft separatist agenda, has now joined hands with the BJP, who Kashmiris see as a threat to their very identity protected under Article 370.
Wani’s killing in an encounter will prise open the insecurities and fuel the deep sense of alienation that has grown under the current government. His funeral is only the first step in a new chapter that will be written in Kashmir.