The killing of Burhan Wani in South Kashmir has seen an uptick in the protests against the Indian army and the Indian Government, with over 50,000 people congregating to mourn his death and join his funeral procession. But what galvanized these youths from the South Kashmir to take to the streets?
In a video uploaded on the YouTube this June, Wani threatened the viewers saying that “action” shall be taken against them, should they try to promote the “Indian” laws. The rage does not end here. Wani further urged Kashmiris to inform Burhan and his associates about the “movements and whereabouts” of the Indian army, instead of “siding with the India authorities”. The comments section of the YouTube video aptly epitomizes the spiraling unrest in Kashmir, representing the yawning gap between knowledge and empathy that exists between people from within the valley and outside it.
The possible reason behind a lot of young Kashmiris associating with Wani’s separatist view stems from the fact that a lot these people finally found a face and name they could identify with. What the rest of the country sees as terrorism, took the concrete form of “rebellion” with Burhan’s face championing the cause. The ministry of external affairs compiled data stating that out of the 143 active militants in the valley this year, 89 were local militants, with 60 of them from South Kashmir.
One of the possible reasons for the success and huge presence of Hizbul Mujaideen in the South Kashmir is social media. Wani and his cohorts used social media to project their armed struggle against the Indian army, using pictures where the members of Hizbul pose with their gunds, training with their weapons, and the like. The impact of these posts is that these posts and videos have made these local militants recognizable faces, reaching to the masses and motivating them.
Military experts and Indian political scientists point out to the “mainstream political mobilization” of South Kashmir as the primary reason behind it serving as a fertile ground for the rise of militancy. The region has served as a strong hold for the PDP for the past two decades. But the palpable anger exists in the locals over the PDP’s tie up with the central Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). This has fueled into a disillusionment in the locals. With a section of youth “losing faith in the political system, and the hope of finding representation in the mainstream politics of the valley”, they are tempted to pick up arms and weapons.
This week also saw the separatist Kashmiri groups demonstrate outside the premises of India’s mission to the United Nations, demanding the intervention of the international body in the Kashmir issue. These protests also witnessed slogans being shouted in support of the Hizbul commander. With Pakistan wanting the west and UN to intervene into the matter, the issue will only end up being more complicated than ever.