Capturing My Son Would Have Punctured Movement: Burhan’s Father

The Kashmir unrest would have fizzled out if his son was captured alive, Burhan Wani’s father tells David Devadas.

5 min read
Hindi Female

Kashmir’s freedom movement would have collapsed if militant commander Burhan Wani had been captured alive, estimates Burhan’s father, Muzaffar Wani. As soon as I raise the point, he agrees with great gusto that the Indian state shot itself in the foot (apne pair pe kulhadi maari) by killing his son.

During an extended chat at his home in Sharifabad near Tral on Wednesday, the elder Wani spoke of his sons and of the situation in Kashmir. He was categorical that capturing Burhan alive would have had the opposite effect: instead of pushing Kashmiri sentiment to an unprecedented high (as killing him has done), it would have punctured it, perhaps irreparably.

Agar usko unhohne zinda pakda hota, toh yeh jo aaj ki tehreek hai na - khatam hui hoti. Iss ka iss waqt 80 per cent downfall hua hota (today’s movement would have been finished if they had caught him alive. It would have fallen by 80 percent.)
Muzaffar Wani, Burhan’s father

“Iss ka up-rise hua uske shaheed hone se. Bahut dhakka laga hota. Jo humne tees saal mei gain kiya tha, woh hum kho dete agar use zinda pakadte. …yeh tehreek zameen mei dhas jaati (It got a fillip from his death. We would have lost what we had gained in 30 years if they had caught him alive.…this movement would have sunk to the ground.)”

The Kashmir unrest would have fizzled out if his son was captured alive, Burhan Wani’s father tells David Devadas.
Burhan’s father (centre) is overwhelmed by the Valley’s response to the death of his son. (Photo: David Devadas/ The Quint)

Avoiding the Hassle of Prosecuting a Militant

The forces were evidently determined to get Burhan in the weeks before he was killed. Muzaffar Wani says they raided his house thrice during ramzaan in June. The 22-year-old Burhan was killed by a special police team in a hamlet near Kokernag on 8 July. Most versions say he did not have more than a pistol on him. Some eyewitnesses claim that he did not fire.

The less-than-bright lot who run such dens of bureaucracy as the Home Ministry, the Defence Ministry and what passes for an intelligence set-up have approved vast sums for prominent militants such as Burhan to be killed. They do not like the bother of prosecuting a captured militant.

Burhan’s killing put paid to the speculation that had sometimes centred on how easily he seemed to be able to move around the Valley, and make himself seen and heard on the internet and through mobile telephony.

His father says he is proud that Burhan took bullets in his chest. If he had been shot in the leg and caught alive, people would still have said he surrendered. By killing him, “they did great damage to themselves …they don’t have brains,” he remarks about government strategists – stretching the word great.

The Kashmir unrest would have fizzled out if his son was captured alive, Burhan Wani’s father tells David Devadas.
Muzaffar Ahmad Wani, Burhan’s father at his home in Sharifabad near Tral, Kashmir. (Photo: David Devadas/ The Quint)

A Proud Father

Indeed, the Valley has seen vigorous protests ever since Burhan was killed. They are being organised on a wide scale. Most of the participants are teenagers and pre-teens. 

Burhan’s father takes the view that no other leader of the separatist movement or of militancy would draw so many to his funeral as Burhan did, or cause such a frenzied round of protests and agitations. People could identify with Burhan, and were fans of the handsome young man, he says.

He is clearly proud of his boy, though neighbours who knew him before note deep sadness in his eyes.


Neighbourhood Hero

The family’s memories of the young man give valuable insights into what made Burhan such an exceptionally popular symbol of Kashmiri aspirations. They say Burhan scored very high in exams, and was a leader on the sports field. Even at 15, he captained a neighbourhood cricket team that included men a decade older than him.

Burhan clearly remains a very great hero to his younger brother who, at 15, is as old as Burhan was when he left home to become a militant. Even though he was seven years older, Burhan would wrestle with him playfully on the bed, or play cricket for four or five hours on the lawn. “Just he and I,” he tells me quietly as we sit on a ledge at the edge of that lawn facing the large, neat, two-storey house. It is almost as if the teenager quietly holds onto the special bond that was entirely his – even as he watches his personal hero become a public icon for even those who never knew him.

The family is amazed to hear from visitors who have streamed in over the past month that Burhan had roamed far and wide while he was underground. They say he had been to Wadwan, a remote valley between Kishtwar and Kargil, and as far as Bandipora and Baramulla, north of the Valley.

The Kashmir unrest would have fizzled out if his son was captured alive, Burhan Wani’s father tells David Devadas.
A placard outside Burhan Wani’s residence in Tral, Kashmir. (Photo: David Devadas/ The Quint)

Hero Among Disillusioned People

The young man was evidently dynamic, a born leader, and one who did not try to parley his field strength to gain power and position.

Muzaffar tells me Burhan told his mother that he wanted to be Kashmir’s last martyr, so that his death could lead to freedom. This is the sort of image of this young man that has caused such a titanic surge.

That Burhan was not just willing to die but waited implacably for it at the peak of his life has energised a people that are sick to the gut of what Burhan’s father calls “makaar (duplicitous) leaders.” He is evidently alluding to those who have been propped by a quarter-century of misguided and sleazy ‘intelligence’ work.

Part of the current tragedy of India is cynical irresponsibility and unaccountability: those who failed to see the importance of capturing Burhan alive do not take responsibility for their part in causing the current mayhem.

(The writer is a Kashmir-based author and journalist. He can be reached at @david_devadas)

Also read:
Misguided Nationalism: How the Government Lost the Plot in Kashmir
Did BJP’s Hindutva Agenda Stifle Peacemaking in Kashmir?

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