Burhan Wani’s father talks of ‘sacrifice’, but asks Kashmiris to show restraint
For several years, Muzaffar Wani, a middle-aged school headmaster, lived an ordinary life in Sharifabad village of South Kashmir. But an encounter on July 8 catapulted the school principal to an exalted position in the Valley. Today, he is known as ‘Burhan Wani’s father’, as the man who ‘sacrificed’ two sons for the sake of Kashmir’s ‘azadi’.
The death of the Hizbul Mujahideen poster boy, who had fired the imagination of young Kashmiris, has sparked an outrage so intense the Valley has been on the boil for over 40 days. Hundreds of youth have taken over the highways and by-lanes, and it is difficult to venture into South Kashmir. Burhan holds sway even after his death and the slogan everywhere is: ‘Tera bhai mera bhai, Burhan bhai, Burhan bhai’.
The only way to make it to his home in Tral’s Sharifabad village — and get a full sense of the fury that is sweeping the Valley — is by leaving Srinagar at the crack of dawn. We steal out of the city at 5am, long before the security forces are deployed, long before the stone-pelters are back on the streets. There are two security camps on the way to the village, but we are not stopped.
Muzaffar Wani, Burhan’s father, is awake and not surprised to see us. We had met him a year earlier and discussed the possibility of his son’s death. The father knew his son’s body would come home one day; that outcome was ensured after he made an appearance on Facebook, wielding an assault rifle.
“Islam says that God, Quran and Prophet are bigger than anything, even bigger and more important than our sons,” he had said then. “Our God should be happy with us even if my son’s or my sacrifice is needed for that.”
But, what now, now that the son was dead? Will he step in and lead the protesters who refuse to leave the roads? Will the headmaster don the role of a leader and try and defuse the tensions, now that the youth are looking at him for direction?
Muzaffar Wani concedes that groups of people have been visiting him, asking him to become a rallying point, but says he’s happy being ‘Burhan’s father’. Surprisingly, he does issue an appeal, saying, “Burhan is not alone. The entire Valley is with him. My son has been killed, but don’t throw stones. I appeal to the youth not to pelt stones. They are no match in the face of guns (of security forces).”
Like other Kashmiris, he feels this is the time to voice their demand for azadi. “My dead son has left the movement for azadi to the others. It is important to talk. Dialogue is the only way forward or they will prove once again that they are only interested in our land and not in us Kashmiris,’’ he says.
At the graveyard in Sharifabad, angry villagers gather and raise slogans. Danish Bhat, a 21-year-old college student, is now a full-time protester. “Aren’t you scared you might be killed or blinded by pellets?’’ His answer is prompt, “We’ve lost all fear now. Even if I don’t leave home, the security forces will come get us. That’s the story of Kashmir.’’ Muzaffar Wani, who has been listening to the conversation, says, “Our generation feared guns. This generation doesn’t. Give them a gun and they’ll disappear into the mountains and train as militants like my son did.”
As protests continue unabated, keeping the Valley in a tight grasp for over six weeks, officials from the CRPF and the army too are clear that the current phase of unrest is very different. As one army officer said, “The youth are fearless. They’re not scared of coming right up to the gates of our fortified camps to protest.’’
In the absence of an olive branch from the governments in Delhi and Srinagar, the volatile street has been left to men in uniform and they are discovering that the spark lit by Burhan’s elimination has spread to all parts of the Valley.
Sharifabad is now only the village in which Burhan was born and buried. The movement has moved beyond the village and well beyond the grasp of the Wanis.