Burhan Muzaffar Wani, also known as Burhan Wani, was the commander of Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen whose social media campaign had an outreach among a section of Kashmiri Muslim youth. He was killed in an encounter with the Indian security forces on 8 July 2016.
Burhan was born in Dadsara village of Tral area of Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir to Muzafar Ahmad Wani, a principal of a higher secondary school. He fled from his home on 16 October 2010 and joined separatist militant groups at the age of 15. He was made a member by Hizbul Mujahideen in 2011 due to his popularity on social media. His elder brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani was killed by the Indian Army on April 13, 2015 when he had gone along with three friends to meet his brother. The army claimed that Khalid was a militant sympathizer who had taken his friends to get them recruited and was killed in an encounter by the security forces. The three friends of Khalid were arrested by the army. The Jammu & Kashmir police couldn’t confirm or deny whether he and his friends had joined militancy.
His father and residents of his home village rejected that he was a militant, claiming that his body didn’t bear any bullet wounds and he was tortured because he was the brother of a militant. Government of India had announced Rs 1 million bounty for finding Burhan. He was known for posting videos on social media which found some appeal in the younger Muslim population of Kashmir. In one of his videos he appealed youth to join Hizbul Mujahideen and is considered to have recruited at least 30 young boys from South Kashmir. In a video released in June 2016, he assured the Amarnath pilgrims that they won’t be attacked by the militants. In addition, he also threatened to attack Sainik colonies because of his belief that it was an attempt to change the demography of the valley. He also opposed sepearate colonies for Kashmiri Pandits saying that they can come live on their own land but an “Israel-like” situation won’t be allowed in Kashmir. He threatened that more attacks will take place against “men in uniform” and also warned the police of the state to stay out of their way. Police consider Burhani’s videos to have had some appeal among the Muslim youth of Kashmir.
Burhan was killed in an encounter on July 8, 2016 along with two other fighters later identified as Sartaj Ahmad Sheikh and Pervaiz Ahmad Lashkari. He and his accomplices were killed in Bundoora village of Kokernag, by a joint team after being cornered by Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and 19 Rashtriya Rifles. During the operation, the security forces faced resistance from locals who resorted to stone-pelting. The encounter began at 4:30 p.m. and ended at 6:15 p.m. The militants were hiding in a house during the operation and started firing on the troops conducting search operations. All three were killed in the ensuing encounter. Jammu & Kashmir Police’s Director General K. Rajendra confirmed that Burhan was killed in an exchange of fire between security personnel and the militants.
After the news of his death spread, protests erupted in some areas of Kashmir Valley. Curfew was imposed in some places in South Kashmir during the night and internet services in many areas were cut. Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik called for a strike to protest against the killing of Wani. Violent clashes broke out in repsonse to the killing on 9 July in some areas. 11 people have died so far and over 200 people have been injured in the clashes. 96 security personnel have been injured in the clashes as well. Over 20 police stations were attacked by mobs who also stole the weapons from the stations and fired upon the security forces.
A Bhartiya Janata Party office in Kulgam was also vandalised. Stone pelting was reported from many parts in Kashmir. Stone-pelting upon transit camps of Kashmiri Pandits was also reported. Train services and the pilgrimage to Amarnath Temple were temporarily suspended. All vehicular traffic was suspended on the Srinagar Jammu National Highway in light of the situation. Lakhs of people attended Burhan’s funeral according to some estimates. Militants were also present at his funeral and offered him a 21-gun salute. His body wrapped in the flag of Pakistan was buried next to that of his brother Khalid in Tral.