The calm demeanour of the summer in Kashmir was already experiencing low-intensity tides due to the government’s efforts to hamper peace by bringing up controversial issues like Sainik or Pandit colonies which they knew would evoke an abrupt and rash reaction from the people.
The PDP was already being criticised for committing a political blunder for the second time by choosing to ally with the BJP. The unholy alliance as it is called had already raised temperatures in Kashmir, and the Mehbooba Mufti government was still reluctant to push back its initiatives which were aimed at further weakening the already bruised autonomy status of Jammu and Kashmir. The tide was still feeble, and the people were not that up-in-arms against the policies of the government, but there was a feeling that the situation was as fragile as it could be.
South Kashmir had already become the hotbed of militancy since Burhan Wani took over as commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen. The huge rush of people that were seen attending the funerals of the militants that were killed in several encounters before the Burhan Wani episode happened had already raised alarm bells in the political circles of New Delhi. The reason being pretty obvious, New Delhi didn’t wish to witness a repeat of the ’90s era, but New Delhi has a habit of taking things to such extent that there is no way out later on. The time to reset things back was over. Burhan Wani was not just a 10-letter name, it had become a phenomenon.
Breaking News: Burhan Wani, the poster boy of militancy in Kashmir, was dead. This news spread like wildfire throughout the valley and then consequently slogans in awe of Burhan resonated throughout the valley. The Mehbooba Mufti government was anticipating the response to be to a certain extent but what it had to witness the next day when Burhan was laid to rest was unprecedented. Burhan’s funeral had a mammoth gathering of over 100,000 people. Burhan Wani had set the tone for a mass uprising, but the question that struck immediately in everyone’s mind was who would lead the rebellion?
The different factions of Hurriyat have always had their share of differences. They had come together under the banner of All Parties Hurriyat Conference somewhere back in 2000 and then split again but the Hurriyat, which enjoys more support than the civilian government in Kashmir was finding its space shrinking in the recent years. The people were literally fed-up with the old tactics of ‘hartals’ and ‘chalos‘ of the Hurriyat. The Hurriyat found an opportunity to take control of the uprising and lead what many thought would be a leaderless agitation.
The reaction to Burhan’s killing was spontaneous. The Hurriyat did announce a three-day shutdown on the day of Burhan’s killing itself, but that would have been the case even if Hurriyat would not have entered the scene. The Hurriyat continued with its hartal-chalo policy for five long months and the people duly obliged with whatever the join resistance leadership mentioned in their weekly protest calendars.
The Kashmir issue found a global mention again after being sidelined for almost six years. New Delhi had managed to convince the world that the people of Kashmir are finding their space within the boundaries of the Indian constitution, but the Burhan aftermath again reminded the world that the Kashmir issue is still as alive as it was seven decades ago.
Nawaz Sharif’s speech in the United Nations, columns and editorials in acclaimed newspapers like the New York Times, the Guardian and especially the work of the local artists like Masood Hussain and Ali Saffudin who through their paintings and revolutionary songs awakened a new spirit in the freedom loving people of Kashmir.
The people of the valley through their spirit and conviction showed to the world that Kashmir would never get bogged down by the petty tactics of New Delhi. New Delhi tried every trick in the book, but the end result was that Kashmiris relentlessly opposed the brutal crackdown on their human rights. The mainstream parties and certain elements are today gaining confidence, telling the masses that we achieved nothing and the Hurriyat has to submit itself to an ‘audit’. No doubt that Hurriyat is also answerable for the policies it adopted but this uprising was all about the masses; the Hurriyat had a supporting role. The Hurriyat might have failed, but the people didn’t fail. The human loss that accompanied the courageous revolt was saddening, but we did not lose hope, and that is the biggest positive thing we achieved from this mass uprising.